ISLAMABAD: The Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly was informed on Tuesday that some MQM leaders and workers were behind illegal occupation of property of the Employees Old-Age Benefit Institution in Karachi.
In a rather bold statement made in the committee EOBI Director General Wahid Khurshid Kunwar accused sectors in-charge of MQM of being behind illegal occupation of shops at the EOBI House and other property of the institution in Karachi.
The committee had met under the chairmanship of Nadeem Afzal Gondal to discuss audit report of the EOBI for 2004-2005.
When asked if the MQM leadership was involved or aware of the illegal activity, DG Kunwar said: “Two of my cousins are sitting members of the National Assembly, thus I can say with certainty that only sector in-charge level workers of the party are involved in the crime and not the upper level leadership.”
In reply to a question, the director general said that the current value of the EOBI House in Karachi was about Rs4.4 billion and it was under encroachment.
When stunned PAC members wanted to know how the lower-level MQM workers operated in Karachi, DG Kunwar expressed his inability to share more information on record. He said: “There are so many things which I cannot talk about before the committee.”
“If the EOBI cannot get its illegally occupied property vacated, who else will do that,” Noor Alam of PPP asked. He said it was unfortunate that the government property was being illegally occupied or encroached upon across the country but no-one was ready to take responsibility.
“If you can’t do this, allow my people to go to Karachi and get these shops vacated for the EOBI,” Mr Alam said.
The committee was informed that the EOBI had invested over Rs200 billion mainly in real estate and stock exchange businesses.
PPP’s Rukhsana Bangash asked EOBI officials that if in Karachi “the MQM people didn’t allow you people to collect rent from leased property, what about the rest of the country”.
“The EOBI has an equally bad record in other parts of the country when it comes to management of its assets,” Ms Bangash said.
Ms Yasmin Rehman of PPP said if MQM leaders and workers were involved in illegal occupation of EOBI property or were supporting others to occupy the property its members in the National Assembly should be approached to get the matter resolved.
“It’s everybody’s responsibility; whether you are in the opposition or you sit on treasury benches, to help secure public sector interests for which people have elected and sent us to the parliament house,” Ms Rehman said.
She said she didn’t believe the MQM at the party level had anything to do with the EOBI House, but the matter should be thoroughly investigated at higher level to see why people claiming their association with the MQM were involved in this illegal business.
PML-N leader Khurram Dastagir said if government departments couldn’t take care of their own property who else would do that.
“I am really amazed to know that these audit paras have been pending for the past eight years, and authorities concerned are still simply clueless how to address them,” said Mr Dastagir.
The committee gave EOBI officials a couple of weeks to inform how the issue could be resolved.
Population Census: In reply to a question, the secretary of statistics division, Sohail Ahmad, informed the PAC that his ministry was ready to carry out delayed population census, but a decision to this effect had to be made by the prime minister at a meeting of the Council of Common Interests.
“The finance division has blocked some Rs5 billion for the purpose and it is just a matter of the government taking a decision and the statistics division can put in place required infrastructure which included training of enumerators etc within two to three months,” said Mr Ahmad.
He said that holding timely population census was of critical importance, particularly for economic planning, but unfortunately it couldn’t be done.
The secretary said it was a constitutional requirement to hold census every 10 years and the last exercise was done in 1998 and it had been due since 2008.