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ISLAMABAD: Federal Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan on Monday categorically refuted the allegation of having any links with the housing societies from which the government acquired land for the Rawalpindi Ring Road (RRR) project.

Addressing a press conference, the minister said neither he nor any member of his family have anything to do with the Ring Road alignment.

“I want to make it clear that we did not have land on either side of the Ring Road, nor we ever bought it, nor did my family form a society, nor they are shareholders, nor we have any financial interest,” he said, adding that he will leave politics for life, if it is proved that even one marla from the starting to end point [of the RRR] belongs to him, his brother, his son, or any member of his family.

The minister said his family has been in politics for the last five decades. He said politics is neither a means of livelihood nor recognition for him. The opposition could not accuse me of any financial misconduct, the minister said. Opposition keeps on doing politics for financial gain, he further added.

Sarwar said Ring Road connects my two National Assembly constituencies and also three more constituencies in Islamabad. This is one of the most important projects of national interest. Rawalpindi Ring Road has been needed for decades, he added.

Opposition parties have been in power for 35 years now but they never worked on this. Credit goes to the PTI and will be completed in 2023, the minister added.

The minister said he would issue a defamation notice to the person who had levelled allegations against him and challenged him to prove that land acquired for the project was ever taken, sold or kept by him.

His press conference came after the allegation made by the PML-N deputy secretary Attaullah Tarar that both Bokhari and Khan had got huge financial benefits through the ring road project because their lands were near the project.

We have no connection to the change in the project’s alignment and we have no financial stake in any society, he said, while adding that the alignment has not been changed on our whim.

Khan recalled that an alignment for the project was finalised in 1970, according to which the starting point was near Rawat while the end point was the Thalian Interchange, after which the traffic would emerge on the motorway.

However, the National Highways Authority (NHA) had reservations and said the alignment was not ‘technically feasible,’ he added.

Talking about the inquiry committee that investigated the scam, he said the report finalised by the convener of the committee — the Rawalpindi commissioner — had not been endorsed by two members of the four-person committee who submitted a separate report.

The minister said he would raise the matter in a meeting of the federal cabinet tomorrow and would ask for a ‘re-inquiry.’

He said the Ring Road project had been under consideration for a long time and neither of the two main opposition parties — the PPP and the PML-N — had been able to implement it despite coming to power thrice.

Talking about journalist Imran Khan’s YouTube show, the minister said, he “strongly condemned the implication” that the petroleum portfolio was taken from him due to a scandal and the effort to link him with the RRR project’s alignment.

He said that he had met the prime minister before Eidul Fitr and stressed that the RRR project was a “flagship project” of the PTI and “should not become a victim of controversy and should not be put on pending.”

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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