The government has decided to refer the multibillion-rupee Kachhi Canal scam to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for further probe and punitive action against the people involved in it.
The decision came after the Ministry of Water Resources approached the federal cabinet for reconstitution of an inter-ministerial committee for fixing responsibility for the long-delayed Kachhi Canal project.
Earlier, the Council of Common Interests (CCI), in its meeting held on February 29, 2016, ordered the launch of an inquiry by a committee, headed by Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, former chief justice of Pakistan, into the irregularities and corruption in the Kachhi Canal project. It also called for taking to task the elements involved in the scandal. The committee submitted its report in January 2017 and pointed out serious irregularities and lapses in the planning, design, bidding and execution of the project as causes for the cost and time overrun.
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In response to the report, the CCI directed the then Ministry of Water and Power to implement recommendations of the inquiry report and refer the case to the cabinet for a decision on action that should be taken against the corrupt.
Sources told The Express Tribune that the Ministry of Water and Power requested the Ministry of Planning and the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) to initiate action based on relevant recommendations of the inquiry committee.
Wapda suggested a possible course of action and pointed out that the inquiry report ascribed collective responsibility to the officers who had served over a long period. In the absence of precise determination of loss, damage and corresponding responsibility of each accused, it would be difficult to initiate any proceedings, it said.
Resultantly, Wapda said, there was a need to carry out an additional exercise to quantify the damage caused to the public exchequer as well as review the attribution and apportionment vis-à-vis the delinquent officers named in the report.
With regard to the action required to be taken against the accused, the ministry constituted a committee comprising Senior Joint Secretary (Administration) Dr Amer and Joint Secretary (Imp) Arshid Ali Chaudary to examine the role of the Ministry of Planning including its officers and sections as per findings of the Kachhi Canal committee.
Owing to the transfer of Amer, the case was examined by the joint secretary. A report of the committee stressed that shortcomings could not be attributed to any single person.
On February 16, 2018, the federal cabinet took up the inquiry report for deliberation and decided to constitute a committee, headed by Chaudhry Bashir Virk, then minister for law and justice, and included Syed Javed Ali Shah, then minister for water resources and Zafarullah Khan, then special assistant to the prime minister on law as members.
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They were tasked with examining the matter in detail, determining the respective civil and criminal liabilities of the accused officers and the extent and magnitude of their liabilities in each category as well as preparing a mechanism for implementing recommendations of the inquiry report.
Later, the Ministry of Water Resources requested the minister for law and justice, who was chairman of the committee, for convening a meeting. The minister for law set the committee meeting for May 25, 2018 but it was later postponed due to other pressing parliamentary engagements. No subsequent meeting could be convened till the completion of tenure of the previous government on May 30, 2018.
According to the officials, the Water Resources Division approached the cabinet for constituting the committee afresh. During discussions, it was highlighted that the matter had been pending for a long time without any logical conclusion. Cabinet members were of the view that billions of rupees of public money were utilised without any benefit commensurate to the expenditure and an immediate action was necessary.
The cabinet considered the issue in its meeting held at the end of May this year and decided that the matter should be referred to the FIA for probe and further action as per law.