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ISLAMABAD: The Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly and Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Syed Khursheed Shah, came under fire during a meeting of the PAC on Thursday for purchasing Rs90 million mobile phones for pilgrims during Haj in 2012 without inviting tenders.

According to an audit report of the ministry of religious affairs for 2012 examined at the meeting, the cellular phones were purchased from pilgrims’ welfare funds in violation of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules.

Mr Shah was given the additional portfolio of the ministry of religious affairs in Dec 2010 after Hamid Saeed Kazmi, the-then religious minister, was sent home by then prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani over his alleged mismanagement in Haj that year. Mr Shah held the office till the end of PPP’s five-year term in 2013.

Mr Shah decided to stay away from the meeting during the scrutiny of the report of his days as the federal minister for religious affairs and PPP leader Syed Naveed Qamar presided over the meeting in his absence.

During the meeting, the question was raised as to who was responsible for the violation of PPRA rules?

Chief of the Awami Muslim League Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad said that availability of mobile phones was not an essential element of Haj ritual and it was done just to mint money.

Secretary of religious affairs ministry said that Mr Shah was the federal minister at that time and the matter was in his knowledge.

Mr Qamar said the matter should be investigated and the PAC asked the ministry of religious affairs to fix responsibility and submit a report to the committee in 30 days.

Published in Dawn, April 29th, 2016