Bail for 11 officials accused in Benazir Bhutto park overcharging scam
The director for parks and ten other officials were granted bail in a case worth roughly Rs500 million for overcharging while building the Benazir Bhutto park at Boat Basin. On Monday, Justice Faisal Arab of the High Court of Sindh granted them protective bail for Rs100,000 each for 15 days in the case that was registered by the Sindh Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE). According to anti-corruption officials the park’s initial cost was Rs870 million but this was bumped up to Rs1.5 billion. The investigation has been going on for over a month. Barrister Farogh Naseem argued that while the court’s Nazir was looking into the statements, anti-corruption officials had booked the men in haste, ignoring that the case was in court. He said that anti-corruption officials had been demanding money but when the men had refused, the FIR was registered even though the investigations were still underway. The officials are Liaquat Ali Qaimkhani, Abdul Rasheed, Ameer Buksh, Musheer Ahmed, Rao Muhammad Amjad, Iftikhar Ahmed Khan, Raheel Akbar Khan, Muhammad Iftikharullah Khan, Khawaja Arif Nadeem, Muhammad Shamim and Shahid Hussain. They were booked in FIR No. 9/2012 registered under sections 217, 218, 409, 420, 468, 471 read with different sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Javed Baloch of the ACE put the estimated alleged corruption between Rs400 million and Rs500 million. The main allegations relate to how these parks officials bought the fountains and trees and made ‘fake entries’ in the documents. Baloch claims that there are also problems with the rates at which the items were bought. “We have a very strong case, we have collected all the rates for every item and compared them with the rates they have on file,” said Baloch. “Even the tender meant to be given to the lowest bidder was given to the highest bidder.” It doesn’t help that Baloch claims that “records” have gone missing, stalling the investigation. For his part, Liaquat Qaimkhani, who is the main suspect, maintains that the case was just “pressure” being built to “defame him”. He told The Express Tribune that the record of the park’s development was shown to the court’s nazir (the court official who serves processes, acts as treasurer, and performs other similar duties) when the inquiry was initiated. “I personally went on a tour with him,” he said while refuting Baloch’s claim that the records have gone missing. He said that the record was rather handed over to the investigators “within the hour”. The park’s accounts were audited by the auditor-general and the government looked into and approved the financial summaries for the project, Qaimkhani claims as his main defence.