PM orders fresh inquiry into Diamer-Bhasha land scam
LAHORE – As the Gilgit Baltistan Commission has failed to probe irregularities in Diamer Bhasha Dam land acquisition process despite the lapse of two years’ period, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has ordered a fresh inquiry into multi-billion rupees scam involving several big names and influential personalities.
Officials in Water & Power Ministry told The Nation that the government of Gilgit Baltistan had constituted a commission back in Jan 2012 to probe wrongdoings in 486 kilometer stretch of barren land identified for Diamar-Bhasha dam construction and which had been declared fertile land to increase the compensation amount for land owners.
The commission was to investigate the case against Gilgit Baltistan revenue department officials, including tahsildars as well as patwaris, who were reported to be involved in dam corruption scandal.
They said that the GB government also sent a reference to the federal government in early 2012 against its Assistant Commissioner Mumtaz Zahid, the main accused, to initiate action against him but all in vain.
Official sources said that before this commission, another investigation committee was also formed in the lead of former home secretary Asif Bilal Lodhi but this body could not make any progress in this regard.
They said some reports were surfaced in Nov 2011 about irregularities in the compensation and land-measurements records of the Dam land, but no one took the notice. Later, the Assistant Land Acquisition Collector of Diamer Bhasha Dam, Zahid Mumtaz, in Dec 2011, reported two irregularities; including conversion of uncultivated land to cultivated of 486 Kanal and fraudulent increase in the size of affected areas of 43 kanals. He had also suggested actions to remove the irregularities, while maintaining that influential people were pressurizing him to point out corruption in acquisition.
However, the GB government only transferred the then Deputy Commissioner of Diamer, Sibtain Ahmed while Assistant Commissioner Zahid Mumtaz was suspended, along with other officials of the Revenue Department, as the accused were ‘involved’ in creating fraudulent records for granting of awards in lieu of land likely to be submerged after the construction of Diamer Dam.
The new inquiry, ordered by the PM Nawaz Sharif, in the lead of Nargis Sethi, Economic Affairs Division secretary, would also probe diversion of funds, allocated for Bhasha Dam, which has also damaged the project. There are allegations that the authorities had diverted funds, allocated for the Diamer-Bhasha project, to other projects like the Katchi Canal, Mangla Raising Project and Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project.
Nargis Sethi will ascertain average cost per acre for the acquisition, original estimate of acquisition and allocation of funds provided to WAPDA so far.
The committee will also find responsible persons for the diversion of Bhasha dam funds, besides examining the present status of land acquisition.