EXCLUSIVE: ACE Probes Alleged Corruption Of Former LDA Chief, Chief Town Planner Worth Rs110m

EXCLUSIVE: ACE Probes Alleged Corruption Of Former LDA Chief, Chief Town Planner Worth Rs110m
The Punjab Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) has initiated an inquiry against the former Lahore Development Authority (LDA) Director General Aamir Ahmed Khan for allegedly taking a bribe worth Rs110 million for appointing Chief Town Planner (CTP) Shakeel Anjum Minhas to key positions after his retirement, The Friday Times has learnt.

Sources privy to this development confirmed to The Friday Times that the first summons as part of the investigation had been issued to the former LDA chief. Meanwhile, a second notice has been issued to CTP Shakeel Anjum Minhas, who, officials said, has yet to submit details of assets or record a statement.

The two former LDA officials have been asked to appear before ACE Lahore Region-A Assistant Director Investigation-I to record their statements. Meanwhile, summons have also been issued for LDA directors Salman Mehfooz and Ali Nusrat.

"Minas appeared before AD Investigation-I ACE on June 7, 2023, but has been asked to reappear along with a performa containing asset details and his official statement on June 9, but he did not show," a senior ACE official told The Friday Times.

They maintained that fresh summons have been issued, asking him to appear before the body on July 3, 2023. Moreover, he has been asked to bring records of cases dealt with by the grievances committee for Gulberg and Johar Towns for a year. ACE officials said they wanted to see how many grievance cases were addressed, apart from the fact-finding report of Asaduz Zaman Dogar of CTP and other relevant documents.

What is the accusation?

A senior ACE official on the investigation team claimed that CTP Minhas allegedly bribed Aamir with Rs110 million for re-employment after he retired in December 2022.

"Initial investigations show that Rs50 million were allegedly given in advance, and there was an agreement on the remaining sum," sources from ACE said.

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Curiously, the Punjab chief secretary suspended a notification for appointing Minhas.

However, Minhas obtained a stay order from the court and managed to get appointed to the lucrative post of CTP in LDA.

How did Aamir Ahmed Khan, CTP Minhas operate?

Sources in ACE told The Friday Times that allegedly, the former LDA director general and CTP Minhas used to accept direct and indirect bribes to approve plans for high-rise buildings in all zones, especially in Gulberg, Johar Town and the Pine Avenue scheme, among others.

During their tenure, they allegedly oversaw the construction of illegal commercial buildings in all zones of Lahore, ranging from
1 to 6.

"CTP Minhas and his accomplices allegedly made sure to stop all the deputy directors and assistant directors from taking action against those illegally built buildings [which they had okayed for construction after taking alleged bribes]," they said.

"More details are likely to surface once we extend the scope of investigation and cases are lodged against the suspects and their accomplices," the officials said.

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Apart from taking bribes to approve construction plans, these former LDA officials allegedly also took bribes for making lucrative appointments.

"They were taking bribes from deputy directors and assistant directors for postings in lucrative zones, especially Gulberg and Johar Town," they said, suggesting that they suspect that several LDA directors, including Salman Mehfooz and Ali Nusrat, were appointed in this manner.

ACE officials further claimed that a fact-finding report prepared by CTP Asaduz Zaman Dogar found that Town Planning Deputy Director Hammad was somehow involved. But Minhas blocked further work on the fact-finding report.

The ACE official further said that they want to check the list of cases lodged with the grievance committee for the past year, especially cases lodged for Gulberg and Johar Town, along with reviewing original files and minutes of meetings to learn more about the extent of the operation and gather evidence.

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Another official stated that they would also check for discrepancies in the area development zones approved and the rates applied as per ADCR.

What happens now?

ACE officials said that per their standard operating procedures, once three notices have been served to the accused and they fail to submit satisfactory replies, a first information report (FIR) will be registered against them and their accomplices based on evidence collected.

Who is Amir Ahmed Khan?

Aamir Ahmed Khan arrived in the LDA in May 2014, during former LDA chief Ahad Khan Cheema's tenure as a basic pay scale grade 17 officer on deputation. He was appointed as the director of land acquisition in the department then.

However, it was in August 2022 when Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) President Parvez Elahi briefly took over as Punjab's chief minister.

Aamir remained as the LDA chief until the caretaker provincial government removed him in March 2023.

The writer is a senior correspondent at The Friday Times with a focus on politics, economy and militancy.