ISLAMABAD: The Punjab Youth Festival is under investigation following allegations of widespread embezzlement and corruption, National Accountability Bureau officials told The Nation yesterday. More than four million people took part in a series of events throughout 2014 to promote sports in Pakistan. It was hailed as the world’s largest-ever youth festival.

International athletes and judges from the Guinness Book of World Records were flown in and hosted by the government to boost its prestige. Several records, including the largest-ever number of people to sing a national anthem, were made in the festival. Allegations of widespread embezzlement later overshadowed the success of the festival. Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) leaders claimed officials had wasted millions of rupees and paid suspiciously high prices for thousands of chairs and tracksuits for the participants.

PTI Punjab leader Main Mohammad-ur-Rashid questioned both the economic management of the festival and several of the records which were claimed at it. He said the government had planned to gather 400,000 people to create the world’s largest human flag and bought 200,000 tracksuits to make up the colours. The event was later cancelled and millions of rupees were wasted, he said. Rana Mashood, Minister for Sports and Education Punjab, denied the allegations and said NAB Lahore Bureau had simply taken notice of media reports of the alleged embezzlement. NAB officials contacted the Punjab government and asked for all records relating to the festival as part of a corruption inquiry.

The minister said all records of 400 million rupees spent on the festival had been handed over to the inquiry team. Three other intelligence agencies had also investigated the PYF but found no evidence of any wrongdoing. He said he believed the inquiry was almost complete and that he expected it would reject the allegations.  A senior NAB director contradicted the minister’s claim and said its inquiry has only just started. “We are looking into the affairs of the Punjab Youth Festival but it is at the very initial stage,” he said.

APP adds: An accountability court in Lahore on Wednesday handed over former general manager Marketing and Distribution, National Fertilizer Marketing Ltd (NFML) Kamran Saeed to National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on 15-day physical remand in a Rs 1.6 billion scam. Earlier, the NAB produced Kamran Saeed and nine other accused before Accountability Court-I Judge Abdul Sattar and requested the court to grant physical remand of the accused for investigation. The court accepting the request handed over Kamran Saeed to NAB on 15-day physical remand whereas remand of other accused was extended for another seven days.

The NAB Lahore arrested Kamran Saeed on Tuesday on allegations of forgery, misuse of authority, embezzlement and causing loss to national exchequer. The accused, in connivance with others, managed to sell more than 59,000 metric tons of urea in back dates on rates less than the ones applicable at that time. This act of the accused persons created artificial shortage in the market and caused panic among the farmers. It is pertinent to mention that the accused was currently serving as Division Transport Manager, Pakistan Railways.