Wapda security staff stops wearing army-like uniform after GHQ letter

Umar Cheema
Tuesday, Aug 29, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The security staff of Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) has stopped wearing the army-like uniform after General Headquarters conveyed its concern whereas Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) has started an investigation into the unauthorised purchase of the uniform in bulk without obtaining requisite permission.

The Wapda last made headlines in February this year when portraits of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Lt Gen (R) Sajjad Ghani, the chairman of Wapda, were displayed together at different offices and project sites of the authority. The notification in this respect was, however, withdrawn after this move came under heavy criticism and a new order was issued suggesting only the display of Quaid’s picture.

As for the controversial decision of using the army-like camouflage combat dress (CCD) is concerned, it has been withdrawn on August 23 following a letter from GHQ which refers to the rules suggesting that “the personnel other than armed forces will not wear dress or items of uniform which bear alikeness in any respect to those of military or paramilitary forces.” It is also against the spirit of distinctiveness and sanctity of the armed forces’ uniform, the letter further reads. “Moreover, such practices also pave the way to use/availability of military pattern uniform for terrorists’ activities,” it explained.

Incidentally, the decision of initiating the army-like uniform was conceived and executed by a retired army officer with the consent of Wapda chief, who is also a retired general. It required an NOC from the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defence as wearing such uniform is strictly prohibited. The NOC was not obtained. The bids were invited and two companies filled them.

The one which didn’t bid for the entire uniform was accepted and the other which offered to provide all the items of the uniform were rejected. As many as 5,000 uniforms were ordered. Since the above-mentioned bid didn’t contain shoes, a construction contractor was chosen for the purpose instead of a shoemaker. No tender was floated for the purpose. Around 3500 pairs of shoes were purchased through the construction contractor against the uniform of 5,000. The FIA which is probing the matter initially faced resistance when it went to Wapda office for obtaining the record. The retired army officer, who is at the center of this controversy, is a close confidant of the chairman and this impression further substantiates when read with the details of his induction and the powers granted to him. In September last year, he was appointed DG (Security), a position which was redesignated. Earlier, it was DG (Law). Wapda high-ups justified the redesignation on the ground that since there is a need to deal with the law and order situation hence the post should be converted from law to law & order.

Though the retired army officer was not entitled to any benefit (other than salary) as per appointment letter, he was granted two vehicles (one from Bhasha Dam project and another from Nai Gaj Dam project) along with PSO card of 1,000 litre petrol. He receives rents against his own house and free electricity up to 1100 units. Three rooms allocated to him in Wapda House Upper Mall Colony are apart from this. Neither these rooms can be used by anyone else nor he ever paid for them. They remain vacant as he spends most of the time in Islamabad for which he also claims TA/DA. This is not the end of the story. In the beginning of this year, he was re-appointed a scale higher than before and made GM (Security). Also, he was given the charge of GM (Admin).

Other than looking after the security affairs, he is also responsible for the purchase of security equipment, recruitments, sports, land management, hospital management, building management, legal affairs and transport matters. He is effectively calling the shots like deputy chairman.

Other than the unauthorised purchase of uniforms, the retired officer’s conduct in procurement of 68 bulletproof vehicles had also raised eyebrows. In December 2022, he floated a tender of an estimated amount of Rs2 billion without obtaining a departmental NOC. Five companies filled the tender, but it was cancelled in January to the surprise of bidders.

Meanwhile, heads of different projects (who were in need of these vehicles) were asked to purchase from two other vendors without following any bidding process. Sources close to the retired army official reject the allegations as baseless.

The News sent questions for versions. A Wapda spokesman said the allegations are baseless. However, he admitted that the FIA was conducting an inquiry and added that Wapda had shared its point of view/stance with the FIA in this regard.