LAHORE: Punjab government’s reluctance to kick-start the construction work of Ring Road Southern Loop-3 (SL-3) project has caused around Rs15 billion loss to the national exchequer, Bol News has learnt.
Reportedly, former Lahore High Court (LHC) chief justice (CJ) Qasim Khan had vacated all the stay orders which were acquired to stop the construction work of SL-3 in March this year. However, Lahore Ring Road Authority (LRRA) had still not been given green light to initiate the project from the provincial government.
“It has been four months since the stay orders had been vacated but the bureaucracy and provincial government are in no mood to initiate the SL-3 project. Even the committee comprising Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat and Punjab chief secretary are helpless and unable to initiate it apparently on the pressure of a property tycoon or in order to facilitate him,” a senior official alleged while speaking to Bol News on the condition of anonymity.
He added that the estimated cost of this project was increasing with every passing day. “In 2018, the cost of SL-3 was expected to be Rs8 billion but the estimated cost increased to Rs10bn in June last year when National Logistics Cell (NLC) signed the Rs10bn agreement in the presence of Prime Minister Imran Khan and now it is approximately Rs15bn.”
According to the official documents, the NLC won the contract in June last year and was supposed to be given the possession of land by the end of December last year.
“The LRRA and NLC reached a concession agreement on June 13 last year, after which LRRA had to provide the land for the construction of SL-3,” the official added.
“Now 17 months have passed since the agreement signing ceremony. What will be the new cost? Who will pay for it?” a senior official asked.
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The senior official added if the provincial government and the bureaucracy continue with the delaying tactics the cost was expected to go up to Rs16-20bn. “That will be a huge loss to the national exchequer,” he said.
When asked why the property tycoon is not in favour of this project, the senior official replied, “SL-3 is an 8km-long project from Raiwind Road to Maraka on Multan Road and the section of the loop would pass through his housing society due to which it will taint the look of his housing society and after the completion of this project it would give an impression as if the society is divided into two parts,” he elaborated.
The senior official claimed that the only reason which could be ascertained for the delay of SL-3 was to accommodate the leading property tycoon, otherwise this project was just an approval away. “If they are not the ultimate beneficiary of this delay then why are they filing cases in courts since 2016 with different names?” the senior official asked.
He further said that the government had already paid for the land which caused a dispute between the LRRA and the property tycoon about two years ago. “In October 2018, former Lahore commissioner Mohammad Mujtaba also carried out an operation to retrieve the land,” he added.
Sources told Bol News that this project was of great importance for the public and approximately 50,000-60,000 commuters were likely to benefit from it daily.
They added that this state-of-the-art project would save the time of commuters as the heavy traffic coming from the south could travel towards Kasur without entering Lahore. “The SL-3 project will also save time for the local commuters travelling between Ferozepur, Raiwind and Multan Roads. But it seems that the property tycoon and his society are more important for the government instead of the public.”
When contacted to inquire about the delay in construction of SL-3, Lahore Commissioner Mohammad Usman said, “I hope you know that I currently do not have the charge of LRRA chairperson.”
The commissioner added: “Since I do not have the charge, I can only push this agenda in the higher echelons in my capacity as commissioner. I have done this in the past too and will pursue it further.”