- Rafique uses his persona but also his political clout to bring the NAB under immense pressure
- Minster wants NAB to throw its ‘Final Investigation in Royal Palm’ into dustbin
- Senator Aitzaz takes up matter with NAB chief
- Royal Palm members want club free of heavy contingent of railway police
By Raza Ruman
(Pakdestiny.com – Exclusive Report) The National Accountability Bureau has ‘refused to succumb’ to the pressure of Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique to “illegally” act against the management of Lahore’s famous Royal Palm Golf and Country Club.
An official source in the NAB told Pak Destiny that Khawaja Saad Rafique after ‘illegally’ seizing the Royal Palm on June 24 with the help of the Railways police approached the NAB and pressured its top officials to re-open the investigation against the club management and three former army generals who were at the helm of the Railways management when an agreement between the Railways and Royal Palm was inked over a decade ago (for establishment of the club).
“Not only the minister used his persona but also his political clout to bring the NAB under immense pressure to go after the club management,” said the official who is privy to the development.
“Initially, a couple of officials of NAB who acted on the minister’s instructions, had issued a notice to the club management in connection with the award of lease of Railways Golf Club Lahore and also ordered the banks concerned to freeze its accounts. However, when this matter was brought to NAB Chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry’s knowledge through the club’s counsel Senator Aitzaz Ahsan, the chairman stopped Rafique’s ‘sympathizers’ in NAB to further act without his (chairman) instruction,” the official said.
The official said the Railways minister thinks that he can only fix the club management through NAB as his or the railways case against it in the court is very weak.
“What Rafique had planned through his illegal act on June 24 was to kill multiple birds with one stone. Isn’t it ironic that despite NAB’s enquiry against Royal Palm which initiated in Jan 2012 the act against Royal Palm only came into motion in June 2016 when Rafique took over the club illegally?” said another source.
He further said the railways minister actually wanted to malign three army Generals at the same time and have a reference filed against them when the environment is very sensitive with regard to ‘civil-military relationship’.
“After the undue pressure from Mr Rafique, the top management feels that any illegal action by it against the club will not only put it (NAB) into great embarrassment because it had already cleared the deal after a thorough investigation in 2013-14. Not only this NAB had also brokered a great commercial deal for the Railways,” the source said, adding the NAB if goes by book will stick to its original finding of its Investigation Report 2014 and not let the project victimized owing to Mr Rafique’s pressure.
NAB Final Investigation Report
According to the NAB’s final investigation report about the officials involved in award of lease of the Railway Golf Club Lahore and others, the bureau concluded:
“The bidding process is found to be transparent in most of the aspects except one issue of increase of lease period. Lease period was not mentioned in the advertisement, however, 33 years was reflected in first approval of working paper. After scrutiny of all available record, statements of witnesses and version of alleged then management of Pakistan Railways, it is concluded that the contract of lease of Golf Club Lahore was awarded after proper advertisement, pre-qualification of firms, bidding process comprising technical and financial proposals, negotiations with the highest bidder and signing of Implementation Contract by both the parties.”
NAB further said the Mainland Husnain Pvt Limited (MHPL), the management of Royal Palm, had offered very beneficial terms, which would definitely increase the railway revenues.
The bureau had recommended that the inquiry against the then railway management may be closed. “The terms of MHPL be implemented immediately and future course be adopted in the light of Supreme Court (verdict) as and when issued in future,” NAB report said.
Senator Aitzaz Ahsan Letter to NAB Chief
Meanwhile, Senator Aitzaz Ahsan has written a letter to NAB Qamar Zaman Chaudhry, requesting him to stop the bureau from acting ‘under the influence’ of Railways Minister Khwaja Saad Rafique in Royal Palm Golf and Country Club case.
“The railway minister has taken personal interest in the eviction of the Mainland Husnain Pvt Limited (MHPL) management from the club, indicating he is ensuring the filing of a reference by NAB against its sponsors and directors. We do not expect NAB to act under the dictations of persons and authorities extraneous to the applicable law and the mala fide intent of Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique,” Mr Ahsan said, addressing the NAB chairman.
Mr Ahsan, who is also a counsel for the club management, alleged the railway minister was openly influencing the course of the NAB process.
Citing NAB’s last month letter which directed the financial institutions in question to “mark caution/lien” on all accounts of the club management, the Senator raised suspicions that the bureau acted under the minister’s influence.
“The allegations against MHPL and our clients have already been investigated at length by NAB and according to its (the bureau’s) final investigation report (2013) placed on record before the Supreme Court the investigation deserves to be closed,” the letter says, adding that NAB itself had encouraged the railway to reach a settlement with MHPL in relation to the dispute relating to the ‘Implementation Agreement’ back in 2011.
“After that, the executive committee of Pakistan Railways in April 2012 had approved a settlement with MHPL regarding the novation of Implementation Agreement, subject only to the consent/approval of the Supreme Court. Given that it remains the position of NAB that Railways should enter into a settlement agreement with MHPL, the freezing of the accounts of MHPL in the interim period is entirely unjustified, therefore, NAB’s letter should be withdrawn,” it pleads.
Relief from LHC
The club management challenged the railway’s action in the Lahore High Court. On July 4, the court allowed the management to run sporting facilities and other services at the club without disturbing the possession of the railway administration.
The club also moved the LHC with a plea that the railway had committed contempt of court by not de-sealing the club’s administrative block and also illegally occupying some offices. On this, the LHC issued notices to the railway authorities and minister Saad Rafique for violation of its previous order. The court ordered them to appear in first week of August.
The Royal Palm has some 3,000 members. They are not happy rather annoyed over the Saad Rafique-led Railways action against the club, suspending their activities. “We want removal of the railways police from the club premises as their presence is not only hampering the activities in the club but also intimidating the club officials. “We want resumption of all healthy activities in the club and we ask Mr Rafique to better concentrate on the railways affairs and let the club be run freely as it is not his and the government property,” says Elisha Khan, a club member, while talking to Pak Destiny. — Pak Destiny