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Issue No 16, Nov 4-10, 2002 | ISSN:1684-2075 | satribune.com

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The Rs 25 Billion Golf Course Scandal in Lahore

Why is the Railways Minister concealing the facts?

By Shahwar Faryal

ISLAMABAD: One hundred and Fifty acres of prime Canal Road land in Dharampura, Lahore is being mysteriously turned into a Golf Course for Railway Executives under the controversial Railways Minister, Javed Ashraf Qazi, and not a soul has been told why and how he has been allowed by General Pervez Musharraf to bring the entire government into disrepute.

The Golf Course will be part of the Railway Officers Colony, a privilege which no other group in the country has ever enjoyed. Basically 95 per cent of the poor and hard pressed Railways employees would also not be eligible to even enter the Golf Course which will stay a private and privileged resort for the country’s elite.

The circumstances under which the contract for the Golf Course and the Officers Colony has been awarded has generated a lot of suspicion and doubt and not even a respected person like former Finance Minister, Dr Mubashir Hasan, has been provided any detail about the prime land being converted into an entertainment resort for a few officials.

The Railway authorities claim that they are going to get a Licensing Fee of US $2.5 million besides an extra amount of Rs 15 million as “annual rental” for next 49 years, which shows the land has been leased out for the next 49 years.

But nothing more about the deal, secretly done by Javed Ashraf Qazi, is known. Dr Mubashir Hasan has been banging his head against a brick wall to get some more details because as a Lahori resident he is more concerned about his city’s future. He has been stonewalled.

His first attempt was to write to the Railways authorities seeking details about the deal. Click to Read his Letter Page1 | Page2 No one answered. He waited and waited and then he wrote to the Public Accounts Committee to seek details.

The PAC of Mr H. U. Beg sent a routine query to the Railway authorities but the arrogant and headstrong Javed Ashraf Qazi refused to share any information until the matter was raised by some members at a PAC meeting on Railways.

To the utter shock of every body the Railways Chairman said the project was “a national security matter” and no details could be given “because the Press will make a scandal out of it.” So he was actually hiding a scandal.

Dr Mubashir Hasan, in his letter to Secretary Railways Division, Government of Pakistan, had asked some simple questions to ascertain whether the project met the normal standards of transparency and whether equal opportunity was afforded to every body interested.

His questions included:

- The terms drawn by the Railways for pre-qualification of the firms;
- The names of the firms, which were eventually pre-qualified;
- Terms laid down in bid documents on which prices were invited from pre-qualified firms;
- Names of the firms which submitted their bids with the amounts offered by them.
- He sought clarification whether the land measuring 50 acres, presently under Railway Officers Canal Bank Colony, was also part of the original bid document.
- He also wanted to know if tenders were invited on international basis if the intention was to get foreign firms.
- He also demanded a copy of the final documents of the Lease Deed signed with the Malaysian firms.

Dr. Mubashir’s questions were very pertinent as such a huge deal which would yield a Licensing Fee of $2.5 million needed to pass through very stringent Transparency tests and had proper international bidding being done, much more revenues could have been generated.

But the since an ex-ISI chief was handling the matter under a military government, who could question the intentions or honesty of the project managers who thought they were above and beyond any accountability.

Now the whole scandal has erupted into the face of Javed Ashraf Qazi and his attitude and behaviour has raised a million more questions about the Lahore Golf Course than he would have imagined.


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