ISLAMABAD: The security personnel of the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) have ceased wearing attire resembling military uniforms following an expression of concern from the General Headquarters (GHQ). This development coincides with the initiation of an investigation by the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) into the unauthorized bulk procurement of said uniforms, a move undertaken without obtaining the necessary permissions.
Wapda recently made headlines in February of this year when portraits of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Lt Gen (R) Sajjad Ghani, the chairman of Wapda, were jointly exhibited at various offices and project sites of the authority. However, this arrangement was retracted after encountering substantial criticism. A subsequent directive was issued, suggesting the sole display of Quaid’s picture.
Regarding the contentious decision to adopt army-like camouflage combat attire (CCD), this move was reversed on August 23rd, prompted by a letter from the GHQ. The letter referred to regulations stipulating that “personnel other than armed forces” are prohibited from wearing uniforms or items resembling those of military or paramilitary forces. The letter further emphasized the significance and sanctity of distinct military uniforms and highlighted potential security risks associated with the availability of military-style attire for illicit purposes.
Coincidentally, the decision to introduce the army-like uniform was conceived and executed by a retired army officer with the approval of the Wapda chief, also a retired general. This initiative required clearances from the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defence, as the use of such uniforms is strictly regulated. These clearances were not obtained. Bids were solicited, with two companies submitting proposals.
The bid excluding the complete uniform was accepted, while the bid encompassing all uniform items was rejected. A total of 5,000 uniforms were ordered. Since the chosen bid did not include footwear, a construction contractor was engaged for this purpose, rather than a shoemaker. This procurement was conducted without a formal tender process. Around 3,500 pairs of shoes were procured through the construction contractor for the 5,000 uniforms. The FIA, which is investigating the matter, initially encountered resistance while seeking records at the Wapda office.
The central figure in this controversy, the retired army officer, maintains a close relationship with the chairman, lending credence to the perception of his influence. His appointment as DG (Security) was followed by a redesignation from DG (Law) to accommodate the shift from legal matters to law and order considerations.
Despite the retired officer’s appointment letter specifying limited benefits beyond salary, he was provided two vehicles and a PSO card for 1,000 liters of petrol. Additionally, he enjoys rent allowances for his personal residence, free electricity up to 1100 units, and exclusive use of three rooms in Wapda House Upper Mall Colony. These rooms remain vacant, as the officer spends most of his time in Islamabad, justifying his claims for travel reimbursements.
In the early part of this year, the officer’s position was elevated to GM (Security), and he was also entrusted with GM (Admin) responsibilities. In addition to overseeing security matters, he also holds authority over security equipment procurement, recruitments, sports management, land administration, hospital management, building management, legal affairs, and transportation matters. His influence is akin to that of a deputy chairman.
Beyond the unauthorized uniform procurement, the retired officer’s involvement in the acquisition of 68 bulletproof vehicles raised concerns. A tender worth approximately Rs2 billion was initiated in December 2022 without the requisite departmental clearance. While five companies participated, the tender was unexpectedly canceled in January.
In the meantime, project heads in need of these vehicles were directed to make purchases from two other vendors without adhering to formal bidding procedures. Sources aligned with the retired officer reject these allegations as unsubstantiated.
Upon receiving inquiries, Wapda’s spokesperson dismissed the claims as groundless. However, it was acknowledged that the FIA is conducting an investigation. Wapda has communicated its stance to the FIA regarding the matter.