BAHAWALNAGAR: A joint team of Sui gas and local police on Tuesday raided different private housing schemes in Chishtian and took into possession installed pipelines worth Rs2.5 million.
On the other hand, residents lodged a protest against the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited and accused the officials of corruption in the approved projects.
The operation was initiated on the complaint of a citizen from Rahim Yar Khan, Pervaiz Akhtar Malik, on the Prime Minister’s Complaint Portal.
On Sept 16, Malik lodged a complaint, claiming that massive corruption took place in the gas pipeline installment and pipelines were laid illegally in various private housing societies in violation of the approved track. The complainant also accused Bahawalpur SNGPL Regional Manager Malik Bashir of his involvement in corruption.
After an inquiry into the matter, irregularities were found and owner of Jaguar Company Mian Muhammad Sharif Rashid and others were charged in an FIR registered on the complaint of SNGPL on Sept 19 at Chishtian A-Division police station.
After the FIR was registered, the Sui officials went to dig out the illegal pipelines but they met with resistance by the locals. The protesters told the media that the SNGPL officials and the contractor had [allegedly] extorted huge sums as bribe to install the gas pipeline in the societies and said that they would not let them dismantle the pipelines at any cost. The locals alleged that the Sui officials got the FIR filed against the contractor to save their own skin after the scandal surfaced.
After facing resistance, the SNGPL officials came on Tuesday with a large contingent of district police and Elite Force and began the operation to remove the pipelines illegally installed in housing societies. The officials took into custody pipes worth millions and the operation was under way till the filing of the report.
When contacted, Bahawalpur SNGPL in-charge (distribution development) Engineer Shehzad Imran told Dawn that the SNGPL awarded a contract of laying pipelines to approved housing societies in Chishtian on Dec 8, 2017 to Jaguar Company owned by Mian Muhammad Sharif Rashid and others.
However, he said, owing to delay in completing the contract and failure to protect Sui property, and complaints of corruption, the contract was cancelled on July 2, 2019 and the contractor was ordered to return the remaining material to the department. He said the contractor, instead of returning the pipes worth tens of millions, laid them in unapproved private housing societies and streets. On this, he said an FIR was got registered against the contractor in September 2019 for misappropriation of government property and misuse of authority.
In reply to questions, he confirmed that the FIR had been registered after the complaint on the Prime Minister’s Complaint Portal was lodged. But, he said, the matter had been under investigation since December 2018 and the department was pursuing it with the help of different agencies. He said the FIR was lodged after the involvement of the contractor in misappropriation was confirmed by the department. He said during the operation, pipes worth Rs2.5m were recovered.
On the question of involvement of the regional manager and other Sui officials, he said after the contractor and his agents failed to defame and pressurise the department through protests and other tactics, they started levelling baseless allegations of corruption.
Engineer Shahzad said a written application had been sent by the department to FIA and other relevant agencies to carry out investigations into the matter in a transparent manner.
He said total cost of the project was Rs139m and the Jaguar Company was paid Rs19m for pipes installation and material and out of this, Rs2.5m worth of pipes had been recovered during the operation.