EXCLUSIVE: Anti-Corruption Authorities Charge Hammad Azhar With Illegally Constructing Industrial Unit

EXCLUSIVE: Anti-Corruption Authorities Charge Hammad Azhar With Illegally Constructing Industrial Unit

LAHORE: The Punjab Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) has registered an FIR against former federal minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Hammad Azhar for illegally constructing an industrial unit in Ferozewala district without following procedures and obtaining the necessary approvals for its building plan from the appropriate authority, The Friday Times (TFT) has learnt. 

Sources privy to this development confirmed to TFT that on June 6 this year, ACE received a reference from the Sheikhupura deputy commissioner’s office with a request for legal action against AFCO Steel Mills – owned by Hammad Azhar and his father, former Punjab governor Mian Azhar – situated in Mouza Khanpur Nabipur Tehsil of Ferozewala district in Sheikhupura. 

They maintained that the assistant commissioner Ferozewala, vide document number AC/F/537 dated June 7, reported that AFCO Steel Mills is working in Kot Abdul Malik Tehsil of Ferozewala district, over an area measuring 135 kanals and 12 marlas, which is owned by former federal minister Hammad Azhar. 

Commercialisation fee was not paid 

Senior officials from the Sheikhupura district council and the Ferozewala municipal committee confirmed to TFT that the plan or map for this industrial establishment had not been approved, and no commercialisation fee had been paid. 

They added that, as a result, a significant financial loss of millions of rupees has been borne by the national exchequer. Their complaint is the subject of the reference on which the FIR has been filed against Hammad Azhar. 

AFCO steel was 'constructed illegally' 

“It is evident that this industrial unit has been established illegally without the necessary regulatory approval,” a senior official told TFT, adding that it was unlikely the industrial unit could have been constructed without the involvement of powerful government officials at the time. 

Sources familiar with ACE's investigation further stated that officials or people who facilitated the former federal minister, and accommodated him by "going out of the way" and violating the rules and procedures, would also be made part of investigation, and any accomplices or facilitators in these corrupt activities will be "dealt with an iron fist". 

Assistant commissioner Ferozewala recommended an inquiry be conducted into AFCO Steel Mills, as well as into senior government officials involved in its affairs during that period, in order to determine culpability and assign responsibility for this matter. 

The assistant commissioner Ferozewala also recommended that necessary cases be registered against the delinquents under relevant provisions of anti-corruption laws and other applicable rules. 

Accordingly, the Punjab ACE had registered a first information report (FIR) in light of this reference. Well-placed sources have confirmed that former federal minister and PTI leader Hammad Azhar will be arrested soon. 

AFCO Steel received 250 redundant LTC buses 'for peanuts' 

A senior ACE official confirmed to TFT that Hammad Azhar is also the subject of another anti-corruption investigation currently in progress. 

According to the available evidence, 250 redundant buses of the Lahore Transport Company (LTC) were given to Hammad Azhar’s AFCO Steel at a constant rate of Rs 600,000 without measuring or weighing the scrap. "This also constitutes a violation of established rules and procedures, and further investigations are underway to ascertain the full extent and financial value of this corruption scheme" involving Hammad Azhar.

'Nothing but victimisation' 

Speaking exclusively to The Friday Times (TFT), PTI's secretary general for central Punjab Hammad Azhar said that the AFCO Steel Mill had existed on those premises for more than 25 years. "All units inside are constructed after relevant clearances and legal procedures," Hammad asserted.

He added that "no new unit was constructed at this premises after 2018," implying that no construction work took place at his steel mill during his time as a government minister.

Hammad Azhar also categorically stated that he never purchased any buses, claiming that it was "just fake propaganda by PMLN". "We have never purchased any buses from any company ever, including from LTC," he said. 

"This is nothing but victimisation that is going on," Hammad lamented.

The writer is a senior correspondent at The Friday Times with a focus on politics, economy and militancy. He also hosts the Hassan Naqvi Show on Naya Daur.