LAHORE: An accountability court on Saturday adjourned Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme scam against Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and others as more prosecution witnesses rejected the allegations of corruption or illegality in the project.

NAB prosecutor Waris Ali Janjua presented the witnesses including Layyah deputy commissioner Khalid Pervez, design specialist Hussain Ahmad, research analyst of LDA Shahid Kamran and Mahmood Ahmad Sulheri.

Pervez said he held the position of LDA director from 2013 to 2015 and signed the implementation agreement of the housing scheme in question. He said no illegality had been committed in the execution of the project.

Sulheri said Nespak had appointed him as a member to a committee formed by the LDA. He said the committee sent the bid evaluation of the project to a steering committee.

Presiding Judge Sajid Ali Awan adjourned further hearing till March 25 for the cross examination of the prosecution witnesses.

Previously, former chief engineer of the LDA Israr Saeed, who was an approver of the NAB also resiled from his earlier statement.

“My previous statement was under duress,” Saeed had said responding to the questions of PM Shehbaz’s counsel during his cross examination.

He claimed that then NAB-Lahore director general Shahzad Saleem, director Muhammad Rafi and case officer Aftab Ahmad had forced him to record a false statement against Shehbaz Sharif.

The NAB alleged that PM Shehbaz and other accused persons caused a huge loss to the national exchequer by awarding the contract of the housing scheme to a company without bidding.

LDA’s former director general Ahad Khan Cheema and former principal secretary to prime minister Fawad Hassan Fawad are also accused in the reference.

The NAB arrested Cheema on Feb 21, 2018, on charges of misusing his authority with criminal intent and awarding Rs14 billion contracts of Ashiana-i-Iqbal scheme. It alleged that Cheema received illegal gratification in the form of 32 kanals of land from the owners of Paragon City Developers in reward for the contract of the housing scheme awarded to its proxy firm namely Bismillah Engineering.

Kamran Kiyani, a brother of former army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kiani, and Nadeem Zia, one of the owners of Paragon City, are also accused in the reference. They have recently joined the investigation after surrendering to the NAB.

BHAGAT SINGH: Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh of the Lahore High Court on Monday will hear a petition by Bhagat Singh Memorial Foundation of Pakistan seeking security for an event to mark 92nd death anniversary of the freedom fighter at Fawara Chowk, Shadman.

Foundation chairman Imtiaz Rasheed Qureshi filed the petition pleading that the government and the police had not decided his applications for the provision of a foolproof security to the event being held on March 23.

The petitioner pleads that every year his foundation observes the death anniversary of the freedom fighter. He says last year the court had also ordered the CCPO to ensure security of the event.

He contends if the respondents are not directed to decide his applications positively and expeditiously, the foundation will suffer an irreparable loss.

He asks the court to issue a direction to the respondents to decide the application for the provision of foolproof security strictly in accordance with law.

Published in Dawn, March 19th, 2023

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