Corporate crimes are not new in Pakistan, rather not a shocking news in this world. It happens everywhere. Considering the hype of Ashiana Housing Scheme scandal and involvement of Shehbaz Sharif in it, it is important to understand what the fuss is about
The Blindfolded Dilemma
Usually, the projects are initiated that values the human’s life, but the motives are rather blurred, and the intentions are the worst form of the very definition of masquerading approach. It is a myopic illusion which a layman perceives as a good gesture for the welfare of people, and Ashiana Housing Scheme is no exception. Like all other corporate crimes, this housing scheme used the same goodwill gesture veiling the capitalist agenda. An agenda to entertain the interest of the businessman and loot the taxpayer’s money. Ashiana Housing Scheme is not something new in the news, the only difference is that earlier in 2010, it was something that people looked up to, and now, it is obviously a shameful and disgraceful act committed by the very people we elected and term currently being used is “Ashiana Housing Scheme Scandal“.
Suzy Kassem defines such crimes as,
“Any system that values profit over human life is a very dangerous one indeed. Simply put, it lacks values, and such a system will eventually collapse once its true light is discovered by the masses. Though some say that capitalism is a modern system, corruption has been the source for the demise of every great civilization.”
Background of Ashiana Housing Scheme
It might seam difficult to understand the whole game, but let’s try to tease out the details in a simplistic manner. The Ashiana Housing scheme was a step by Punjab government and Shehbaz Sharif, the then CM of Punjab, was a proud announcer of this project that aimed at facilitating those marginalized or lower-middle class people to buy house for themselves at relatively cheap price. “Ashiana” by word means shelter, and government portrayed its objective to provide a modest and urban accommodation to the people desperate to secure the peaceful life of their families. The developmental project started in different cities of the Punjab, including Lahore, where it launched two different schemes: Ashiana-e-Quaid and Ashiana-e-Iqbal. The case of corruption and misuse of authorities was claimed by NAB (National Accountability Bureau) over the latter project – Ashiana-e-Iqbal.
Who are accused in Ashiana Housing Scheme Scandal?
Before proceeding to who did what let’s recall the prominent figures accused in Ashiana Housing Scheme scandal:
- Shehbaz Sharif, the former numerous times CM of Punjab, and currently the opposition leader of the prestigious parliament house.
- Ahad Cheema, The grade-19 PAS officer, the former director general of the Lahore Development Authority, as well as the head of Punjab’s two power companies.
- Fawad Hasan Fawad, the senior bureaucrat and the former principal secretary to the ex-PM Nawaz Shareef.
What is the Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Scheme Case? A Timeline Review
Although, nothing of the scandals evoked in other similar projects until Ashiyana-e-Iqbal. The hiccups in the proper execution of this project as well as the bumpy journey that still needs to be covered led to the accusations and scandalization of Ashiyana-e-Iqbal housing scheme. The main element of this case is the shift in contracts and the utilization of excessive resources that makes no sense. For instance, as per the quotation of Nespak, a private and reputable engineering consultant company, the overall cost was estimated at around PKR 35 million. However, it did not win the bid, which led to the consumption of around PKR 192 million in the execution of the project in 2016, which after 3 years has still not been materialized. Construction is almost completed prior to two years from now, yet the owners were kept on a waiting list. Sickening, isn’t it?
Dismantling the Regularities in Bidding and Contract: An Immense Monetary Loss
Firstly, the discrepancy in the bidding occurred; once it finished, the contract was breached by the government that caused delay. Therefore, one of the main reasons for such a delay was the assignment of contract and then corresponding cancellation. The winner of the bid was Chaudhry Latif and Sons who were provided an advance unreturning payment of around PKR 70 million – it is a mobilization amount that construction contracts require to start off with the project once started. It is essential as the company has to gather contractors and other related resources to hit off the mapping of the plan and corresponding advance payments to the hiring of contractors etc. Well, a huge amount still, isn’t it? Because, Nespak quoted a sum of PKR 35 million only.
What’s the Big a Deal in out of it?
After that, the government cancelled the project, and as per NAB, it was due to the abuse of authority by Fawad, because NAB inquired that he issued notices to the Punjab Land Development Company in a illegal way to abort the contract with Chaudhry Latif and Sons and assign it to Lahore Casa Developers, a proxy group of Paragon City Private Limited. The cancellation of contract caused another PKR 5.9 million loss, as the government had to pay the fine to the company for illegally cancelling the contract. Anyways, for assigning the project to a considerably higher bid to the Lahore Casa Developer and transacting the amount of PKR 30 million to the Paragon Housing Society’s bank account, Cheema received 32 kanal of land.
Why ShEhbaz Sharif is arrested?
Now, you might be wondering, what’s the stake of ShEhbaz Sharif in all this situation. Well, he signed the order to assign the contract of Ashiana-e-Iqbal to the Lahore Casa Developers, a category-4 company, which is even eligible as per the terms. Hence, Shehbaz Sharif becomes the center image of all this case.
All in all, the case is in court, and still everyone are accusers, not culprits. Let’s see what court decides based on the evidences received. Perhaps, it can be political victimization as Bilawal Bhutto said, because the democratic governments have long faced corruption charges for their destabilization. On the other hand, it can be true that what happened is just right and accurate story. In anyways, lets cross our fingers and wait for the court’s judgement. If it turns out as a bogus case, then I hope victimization should be stopped immediately. Otherwise, let our history record that we stood against corruption – the only way we can save ourselves from the shame and future repercussions and implications.