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ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Housing and Works has discriminated in the provision of residential facilities in Balochistan and the tribal areas, where the need for shelter is at its highest, a Senate committee observed on Thursday.

“Poverty levels are the highest in these two provinces. The committee directs the Ministry of Housing to shift its priorities to Balochistan and [the Federally Administered Tribal Areas] where apartments and housing are a pressing need for low-income groups and the poor,” the chairman of the Senate Committee on Housing and Works, Senator Mir Kabeer Ahmed Mohammad Shahi said.

The committee met to discuss the ministry’s performance and its past, present and future schemes.

Senators learned that since 1999, eight projects have been completed in Islamabad including some that provide residential facilities in I-11, G-11, G-8 and G-7. Another 11 such projects have been completed in Lahore, four have been completed in Karachi and two have been completed in Peshawar. No housing facilities have been provided in Balochistan in the last decade.

Ministry directed to prioritise residential facilities in Balochistan, tribal areas

More than 2,100 apartments were built in the capital under these projects. More than 1,600 apartments were built and handed over to residents in Lahore, more than 1,200 were constructed in Karachi and 216 were constructed in Peshawar.

The housing ministry told senators that one apartment complex was planned for Balochistan in 2008 but it did not go further because people did not show an interest in the development project. The government of Balochistan had provided 86 acres for the apartment blocks for free.

Housing and Works Secretary Dr Imran Zeb Khan told the committee that the project was not viable 10 years ago.

“The location was far away from Quetta in Kuchlak, where 10 years ago people did not show interest,” he said.

The committee was also told that an estimated Rs42 billion worth of residential projects were planned under the 2017-18 Public Sector Development Programme; Rs15.6bn were allocated and less than Rs7bn released.

Just seven out of 83 projects had been completed. Most of the projects could not pick up or were left incomplete because of a lack of funding.

Three projects were unfunded in the 2018-19 fiscal year, while funding for the ongoing and still incomplete four projects has not yet been released.

The housing and works secretary urged the committee to direct the Ministry of Finance to release funding to complete ongoing works.

The committee chairman directed the housing ministry to provide much-needed accommodation in Kuchlak, near Quetta, and also directed the finance ministry “to release funds for housing facilities in apartments”.

“We also direct the Ministry of Housing to consider Balochistan and Fata on priority basis for all housing projects in the future,” Senator Shahi said.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2018