LAHORE/LAYYAH, July 28: A judicial magistrate on Saturday handed over Punjab Livestock Department’s director-general Dr Muhammad Irfan Zahid and 12 other officials to Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) on four-day physical remand.
They were accused of misappropriating at least Rs478 million allocated for a milk processing plant at Layyah. The investigating officer of ACE produced the accused before the court of magistrate Mian Manzoor Husain and sought their physical custody for interrogation.
The counsel for the accused, however, opposed the remand request and argued that the Punjab government implicated the livestock DG and other directors in the case on mala fide intention. He said the charges against the accused were baseless and fabricated.
After hearing the arguments, the magistrate allowed four-day remand of the accused to ACE.
On Friday, the ACE had taken into custody 12 officials and chief executive officer of Idara-i-Kisan.
Former chief minister Pervaiz Elahi on the request of then MPA Fazal Husain Sumra had issued a directive for the establishment of a milk processing plant at Layyah. The project was a joint venture of the Punjab government and Idara-i-Kisan in which the government had to provide 80 per cent funds and 20 per cent by Idara-i-Kisan, manufacturer of a pasteurised milk.
The project was designed to enhance milk production in four districts -- Layyah, Jhang Muzaffargarh and Dera Ghazi Khan -- of southern Punjab. The Punjab government had given Rs478 million funds provided by an international donor and Idara-i-Kisan was to make a share of Rs120 million along with the managerial control and to implement the project.
The project included establishment of two feed mills, two bull farms for the assimilation and production of better breed of cows and buffaloes in these four districts. More than 300 chillers were to be established to collect milk produced from the area.
Veterinary assistants, veterinary kits, animal shackle for the treatment of cattle and artificial assimilation kits were also to be provided to 200 artificial assimilators to produce better breed of milk producing animals in these districts. But all these facilities were completed ‘on paper’. However, the Idara with the connivance of livestock and dairy development department officials embezzled the funds.
The ‘culprits’ have the backing of local sitting members of provincial assembly.
The corruption in the project was first reported by Dawn some three years back on which an inquiry was started. The Chief Minister’s Inspection Team, University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences vice chancellor and the local administration officials inquired the matter and gave a clean chit to the influential officials of the Idara and livestock department.
On the special report of Minister for Agriculture and Dairy Development Ahmed Ali Aulakh, who belongs to Layyah district, the chief minister ordered a high level inquiry and the ACE DG was assigned the task.
After preliminary inquiry, the ACE booked DG Dr Irfan Zahid, director (sheep and goat farming) Dr Mansoor Ahmed, Dr Abdul Rauf, Idara CEO Ameeruddin Bukhari, district livestock officers of Layyah, Jhang, Muzaffargarh and Dera Ghazi Khan along with other officials of the department.
When contacted, Agriculture Minister Malik Ahmed Ali Aulakh said the government would not spare any official involved in the embezzlement of public money. He said six secretaries of livestock department, who were creating hindrance in the probe, had also been transferred.