LAHORE: Prime Minister’s Special Assistant for Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resources Development Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari, also known as Zulfi Bukhari, has claimed that massive corruption found in the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) will be exposed in a month and all corrupt officials brought to book.

He regretted that those at the helm of affairs at the EOBI used it as their “kitchen” and callously utilised funds that belonged to poor workers. “The institution is on the verge of closure and needs a drastic overhaul,” he said, adding that a “white paper” was being prepared.

In order to provide relief to poor workers, he said, he had got Rs3.25 billion approved from the prime minister and decided to increase EOBI pension by raising the government’s contribution from Rs5,250 to Rs6,500. “I commit to strive for raising the pension on a par with the minimum wage of Rs15,000 during this parliament’s tenure,” he vowed.

The special assistant was speaking at a consultation and overview of the social safety nets for workers in Pakistan and recommendations by trade unions organised by the Pakistan Workers Federation (PWF) and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung at a local hotel here on Saturday.

Mr Bukhari said corrupt officials would be removed and investigated and funds recovered. Citing an example, he said the EOBI officials purchased properties at Rs1 billion against the actual price of around Rs300 million.

Referring to the prime minister’s vision of a social welfare state, Mr Bukhari said he had requested the premier to call a Council of Common Interests meeting at the earliest so that a solution could be found to whether the EOBI needed to be devolved or not.

Answering a question about his ministry’s 100-day agenda, Mr Bukhari said it had abolished the National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis, which was an uncalled-for added expense for workers going abroad. The remittances through non-banking channels were being streamlined, he claimed.

He said the government had introduced a bio-metric system to make data available about those going abroad and returning besides their families in Pakistan for providing them better services, including education for their children.

For overseas Pakistanis, he announced launch of mobile apps, Naya Pakistan Calling and Call Sarzameen. He also said that his ministry would be increasing its representatives in certain countries to offer help to Pakistanis languishing in jails.

Responding to a question about the prime minister’s statement on U-turns, Mr Bukhari said the review of a decision meant rectification. “It is arrogant on the part of a leader not to review a decision after further consultations,” he added.

Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development Secretary Muhammad Asif Sheikh, PWF General Secretary Zahoor Awan and other trade union representatives spoke on the occasion.

Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2018

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