Plaza demolition case: CMIT recommends action against LDA officials

LAHORE, March 25: The Chief Minister Inspection Team (CMIT) has recommended a stern action under the law as well as initiation of inquires under the Punjab Employees Efficiency, Discipline and Accountability (PEEDA) Act 2006 and departmental action against 31 LDA senior and junior officials allegedly involved in showing criminal negligence in a plaza demolition tragedy that claimed lives of four labourers in September 2011.

Sources told Dawn on Sunday that the inquiry officer, Mr Tahir Yousaf (Member CMIT) in his report, compiled under technical assistance of a senior engineering expert, Prof Zahid Siddiqui of the University of Engineering and Technology (Lahore) has recommended initiation of criminal proceedings under the law as well as an inquiry under PEEDA Act against Chaudhry Muhammad Akram (Chief Town Planner), Muhammad Saeed Akhtar (then Chief Engineer and now Tepa chief engineer), Khalid Mehmood Sheikh (Director Town Planning) and Abdul Razzaq (Director EME).The inquiry officer in his report recommended initiation of inquiry under PEEDA Act against 11 officials — Waseem Ahmed Khan (Chief Metropolitan Planner), Khwaja Javed Aslam (Director Enforcement), Muhammad Nauman Khan (Director Estate Management), Ahmed Nawaz Malik (Director Buildings), Muhammad Latif (Assistant Director Engineering), Azhar Ali (Deputy Director), Muhammad Afraz Akhtar (Town Planning Assistant Director), Aqeel Salman (Assistant Director), Ali Abbas (Assistant Director), Muhammad Zubair (Assistant Director) and Muhammad Nadeem Akhtar Zaidi (Town Planning Director).

The other 16 officials against whom a departmental inquiry has been recommended by the IO are Town Planning Director Muhammad Fahim, Deputy Director (Commercialisation) Muhammad Mustafa Muazam, Deputy Directors (Town Planning) Asad-u-Zaman and Muhammad Fahad Younis, Assistant Directors (Town Planning) Muthair Awan, Tahir Ahmed Qureshi, Muhammad Nafees, Irfan Rana, Ahmed Saeed and Umar Muhammad, Deputy Director (Buildings) Muhammad Iqbal Javaid, Assistant Directors (EME) Hafiz Bilal Afzal Chughtai and Hamza Aslam, Deputy Director (Enforcement) Ali bin Sohail and Assistant Directors (Enforcement) Basit Aziz and Uzair Sohail.

The IO, the sources said, held Chaudhry Muhammad Akram (Chief Town Planner) guilty for not planning the demolition work according to the LDA guidelines. “The type of construction stability of structure during demolition and the required equipment and labour was not assessed properly.”

No written/verbal SOP specific for this job was communicated to the staff. He was also found guilty of providing poor professional judgment of employing labour on already crumbled building likely to collapse any time. Further, he was also among the senior officials who were
demanding use of machinery simultaneously with working of the labour at the top floor of the building.

He planned all of his activities in haste and not conceiving that such an activity required proper planning which further demanded ample time and having not satisfied as to under which authority the operation was executed in haste.

He also absented himself from the scene and thus committed criminal negligence. Action under the relevant provision of law for the criminal negligence and inquiry under PEEDA is recommended against this officer,” the IO states in his finding.

They said the IO in his finding also held Muhammad Saeed Akhar (Chief Engineer) guilty for not assessing the structure stability well in time, especially when he was briefed on the condition of the building on the morning of Sept 23.

“Further, he made poor engineering decision to depute labour on a building that was already on the verge of collapse and encouraged simultaneous use of machinery. He did not make sure that sufficient senior engineering staff remains at site,” the IO states.

Sheikh Khalid Mehmood, Director Town Planning, as a director of the relevant area was also found guilty for not pursuing the case of the building expeditiously until few days before the demolition work. He was also involved in haste and ill-planned demolition activity.

Though he was controlling officer of the area, he paid less attention to the demolition work and left the site at 12:15pm on pretext of court hearing the same day.

Further, he did not brief properly on the plan of demolition to the authority few days before the incident. “He further acted in an irresponsible manner for not coming to the site in the morning as he could have managed his visit to the site in the morning before attending the court which started functioning at 8am.

“Action under the relevant provision of law for the criminal negligence and an inquiry under PEEDA is hereby recommended against the officer,” the IO states.

The IO, the sources said, said Abdul Razzaq (Director EME) was found to be the senior team member who decided to employee labour on top floor of danger ous building and to sought machinery to carry out work at the same time.

He also absented himself from the scene and thus committed criminal negligence. Action under the relevant provision of law for the criminal negligence and inquiry under PEEDA is recommended against the officer.

Sources said the IO had also discussed in brief about the negligence of the other officers involved in the incident, recommending action against them.

They said though the IO had already sent his inquiry report/findings to the chief minister, some senior officials in LDA had allegedly managed halting submission of the report to the chief minister.

CMIT member and inquiry officer Tahir Yousaf confirmed the action against the aforementioned officials and said: “Yes I have completed this inquiry under technical assistance of Prof Zahid Siddiqui and sent the report to the chief minister.”