ISLAMABAD, Jan 7: Heavy weight bureaucrats get membership of the Islamabad Club easily but pay the heavy membership fee from own pocket.

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) paid the Rs1 million fee from its funds for the ‘private membership’ of its chairman, Dr Javaid R. Leghari.

That flowed from a decision taken by the HEC at its meeting on October 12, 2009 that its chairman needed “a safer place like Islamabad Club” because “in the prevailing law and order situation in the country private hotels are not risk-free” for conducting meetings with foreign delegations.

“Therefore, the HEC may arrange membership for its officers and bear the expenditure incurred on initial membership of Islamabad Club,” the decision said identifying the officers as “chairperson, the executive director, member (O&P) and two nominated members of HEC”.

Documents available with Dawn show that the club conveyed to the HEC that its chairman could be granted membership for a registration fee of Rs5,000 and membership fee of Rs600,000.

But in December 2009 the Islamabad Club informed the HEC that the membership “will be given to Dr Javaid R. Leghari as an individual and not to his designation of HEC chairman.

According to a member of the Islamabad Club membership awarding committee, though an officer’s position counts, the membership is awarded only in his personal capacity.

“If the deputy commissioner of Islamabad is made a member of the club it is because of his office but the fee is to be paid by the individual and not by his department,” he explained.

Official communications show that the Islamabad Club had made it clear to the HEC that Dr Leghari’s membership will be for life time and that his successor in the office will have to seek the club’s membership afresh.

An official in the know of things told Dawn that while Higher Education Commission took time to pursue the membership of Dr Leghari, the Islamabad Club informed it in March 2010 that it had increased its membership fee from Rs600,000 to Rs1 million.

“We at the HEC had to draw funds from consultative-based Research and Survey Project and the Contribution and Subscription Fund of the HEC to pay the fee and the accounts and audit officials approved it in accordance with the decision taken by the HEC at its 20th meeting in October 2009,” disclosed other sources.

They said Dr Leghari is currently being paid Rs600,000 per month as salary by the federal government, and in addition Rs120,000 as house rent and Rs60,000 for utilities.

Asked about his usage of HEC funds, the former HEC chairman Dr Attaur Rehman said: “I never used any HEC funds from any head on my person. I already had Islamabad Club membership when I was made the chairman of HEC in 2002.”

“Any money taken from state should be accounted for and properly audited,” he told Dawn.

Despite many calls, and text messages, HEC chairman Dr Leghari did not respond to requests for his comments. Neither was the official spokesman for Higher Education Commission available for comments.

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