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Construction of Lahore-Faisalabad Road : MPAs demand agreement be made public

LAHORE: Members of the Punjab Assembly have demanded the Punjab government to make public the agreement under which the Lahore-Faisalabad Road was constructed, as the public has to pay heavy taxes for travelling on the road.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MPA Major ® Abdul Rehman Rana from Faisalabad presented a privilege motion during the assembly session on Friday, stating that a private firm had reached an agreement with the Punjab government in 2003 for constructing the Lahore-Faisalabad Road. The agreement was made on a Built-Operate-Transfer (BOT) basis.

Clause: He said a clause preventing the provincial government from challenging or cancelling the agreement and was inserted in the agreement. He said the clause was against the law and the privileges of the members of the House. Rana said the members’ hands had been tied through the clause.

He said a private company could not bar the members of the House from questioning the agreement. He said after hectic efforts, he had managed to learn the clause preventing the government from altering the agreement. Rana read the clause, upon which Speaker Rana Iqbal took notice and said it was a serious matter that required attention.

Rana said the company was charging a huge amount on the road under the head of toll tax.

Overcharging: “There are five toll plazas on the road and the motorists have to pay Rs 100 and truck drivers Rs 900 for travelling on a 114 km long road,” he said, adding that another clause in the agreement prevented it being challenged in a court of law. Law Minister Rana Sanaullah tried to defend the company, saying foreign investment could suffer if the government tried to violate the agreement. He said any company carrying out construction earned from the project according to the BOT.

sRana said there was no foreign investment or company involved in the project. He said the company was local and 65 percent of its shares were owned by the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO). He said the FWO funds were public money. He said around Rs 4 billion were spent on the road’s construction, and the earnings of Rs 80 billion were unjustified. Sanaullah replied by saying the member’s concern about overcharging could be addressed, but the government could not violate the agreement.

“If we violate the agreement, the company could move the High Court or Supreme Court (SC),” the law minister said, adding that the government should be careful in the future while making any agreements. He said the PA was allowed to make laws about the accord.

PML-N MPA Rana Afzal Khan from Faisalabad said whenever he tried to obtain a copy of the agreement, he was told it was a secret document. “No project or agreement involving public money can be secret,” he said.

MPA Alauddin Sheikh said the matter could be taken to court. “The SC has ruled in the Pakistan Steel Mills case that any agreement concerning public interest can be questioned,” Sheikh said.

Deputy Speaker Rana Mashhood Ahmad Khan, who was chairing the session, said no agreement could tie the hands of the assembly members.

The chair formed a committee consisting of Senior Minister Raja Riaz, the law minister, Abdul Rehman Rana and five other MPAs from Faisalabad. He said the committee would submit its report by Wednesday.

Source: Daily Times

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