NAB announces it has launched probe into the project and will fix responsibility on those allegedly involved in corruption
Special Assistant to the P.M. for Overseas Pakistanis Sayed Zulfiqar Bukhari on Monday announced he was resigning from his post pending the results of the ongoing Rawalpindi Ring Road inquiry.
“My prime minister has always said that if a person has been named rightly or wrongly in any inquiry he should cease to hold any public office till his name has been cleared of charges. Owing to the allegations in ongoing Ring Road inquiry I want to set this example by resigning from office until my name is cleared up of any allegations and media’s obnoxious lies,” he said in a posting on Twitter, stressing that he had no involvement in any ongoing real estate project and supported a judicial inquiry to clear his name.
“I’m here to stay in Pakistan and stand united with the prime minister and his vision. I sacrificed my life overseas to come and serve my country, I am ready to face any inquiry,” he added.
Bukhari’s announcement came a few hours after Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan staged a press conference in which he rejected having any role in the Rawalpindi Ring Road and vowed to quit politics if any corruption could be proved against him.
The Rawalpindi Ring Road inquiry revolves around alterations to the original route of the roadway, allegedly to benefit either senior members of the incumbent government or their relatives. Originally designed from Rewat to Turnol via Murat on G.T. Road, the route was later changed to conclude on the Islamabad-Lahore Motorway. Conceived during the tenure of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) in 2016, the changes to the route reportedly took place in 2018 and were re-endorsed in 2021.
On May 16, Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered an inquiry into the project and the case was referred by the Punjab government to the Anti-Corruption Department of Punjab and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for thorough investigations. In a press release, the anti-graft watchdog said its chairman had directed the Rawalpindi office to probe all aspects of the project so that responsibility could be fixed against all those allegedly involved in corruption and corrupt practices and the culprits could be brought to justice as per law.
The PMLN has demanded a judicial probe into the matter, claiming that the original plan envisaged a 26km roadway that had been expanded to 66km by the PTI to benefit “friends” whose properties were located along the new alignment. The opposition party has also alleged that a “transparent” inquiry cannot take place while the incumbent government is in power.
The minutes of a meeting, chaired by P.M. Khan, on the project reveal that he had signed off on acquiring and developing land that would be connected with the Ring Road leading to the Islamabad-Lahore Motorway. In light of this, the PMLN has alleged that the land being acquired belongs to “frontmen” of the prime minister and accused him of malfeasance.
Two separate fact-finding reports—one prepared by the Rawalpindi commissioner and the other by the deputy commissioner and the additional commissioner—were submitted to the prime minister earlier this month. The latter report alleges that the project was realigned with the explicit approval of Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and his finance adviser Salman Shah. The commissioner’s report names some private housing societies that benefit from the realignment.
“Close aide to the prime minister Zulfi Bokhari and federal minister Ghulam Sarwar are direct beneficiaries of the Rawalpindi Ring Road project scam,” PMLN leader Attaullah Tarar has alleged, adding that the government is trying to offload blame to bureaucrats rather than accepting responsibility for its own actions. Thus far, the Punjab government has transferred six bureaucrats over their alleged involvement in the scam.