Faisal Ali Ghumman
LAHORE: Where is ‘Shahbaz Speed’ now-a-days is a million dollar question people in bureaucratic, political and ordinary circles seem asking each other. Whether it is a fear of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB)’s ongoing hunt to trace corruption in mega developmental projects in Punjab or it is the reluctance being shown by the officers of the Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) who are angry over the arrest of former Director General Lahore Development Authority Ahad Khan Cheema.
Cheema’s extension in physical remand, his three months suspension from service by the Establishment Division Islamabad somehow endorses the gravity of the situation, increasing frustration among ‘corrupt’ bureaucrats and PML-N government’s weakening writ over power.
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This writer has been recently alerted by people from power corridors that the senior officers especially belong to PAS in different provincial departments have slowed down the speed of clearing procedural documentation and release of funds for bigger infrastructure and energy projects in the wake of intensification of NAB investigations into 56 companies and low-cost housing scheme Ashaian-e-Iqbal.
The arrest of four former and sitting officers of the Punjab Land Development Company and LDA on the pointation of Cheema has further shook the nerves of officers who reportedly started following required procedures in the execution of cases apparently to avoid further scandals.
Provincial secretaries and officers in the departments concerned who remained the part of Shahbaz-led major projects are now being called by NAB investigators to inquire about the transparency in execution of different projects.
Recently NAB Lahore questioned secretaries some Najam Shah including and Iftikhar Saho in connection with the Punjab Saaf Pani Company Scandal. The NAB is expected to invite more and more officers in different cases.
The fabrication of documentation, awarding of contracts in violation of merit, and release of funds to blue-eyed contracting firms without formalities apparently to speed up before time completion of projects are some key grey areas the Shahbaz-led government is now facing in NAB inquiries.
The repeated claims of PML-N newly-elected president and Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif that his all projects involving transportation, energy, roads and social sector and carried by a select group of PAS officers are corruption free are apparently proving to be hope against hope (or daydreaming).
The NAB authorities opine that the so far cases being probed by the investigators indicate the fabrication of documents and misuse of authority.
Further expanding the scope of investigations, the NAB has now begun investigating the assets of Cheema’s wife.
The provincial bureaucrats, who earlier protested the arrest of Cheema and passed a resolution against the NAB’s action, held a meeting with the chief minister to record their protest, but they reportedly did not get any relief expect mere promises.
A question arises as to why the civil servants lodged the protest and under what prerequisites of law. When majority of them instead of resisting logically become the part of ‘illegal’ ‘verbal’ orders of the provincial chief executive, then why do they feel uncomfortable over the arrests of their counterparts?
How can the provincial government justify the before time completion of projects when technical experts set a specific time frame for completion? It is very much understood that the extra-ordinary speed in execution of projects if politically motivated always raise fingers on the transparency and grab the attention of anti-watchdog agencies.
Let us come to the conclusion that the governments should carefully utilize the taxpayers’ money to invest on such projects and must follow certain rules to avoid corrupt practices.
The bureaucracy who enjoys perks and privileges on taxpayers’ money have to be extra ordinary careful in official dealings instead of complying orders blindly because they are servants of the nation and not to their political masters.
If some segments of the society believe that the ‘Shehbaz Speed’ in welfare-oriented projects is breeding ‘favourism’ and corruption, then let the NAB investigate the cases by the PML-N government and bureaucrats to wait for the outcome.
The country’s law always allows the accused to clear his/her position. Why are so many hues and cries?