ISLAMABAD: More than a hundred kanals of land belonging to the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development has been retrieved in Islamabad, the Senate Standing Committee on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development was told on Tuesday.

Ministry officials told senators at Parliament Lodges that 102 kanals in Islamabad and 76 in Lahore have been retrieved as part of the government’s campaign to retrieve state land. Officials said the retrieved land will be used for housing projects for overseas Pakistanis and a transparent mechanism will be adopted for the allotments.

The committee also discussed other issues related to overseas Pakistanis, and senators condemned the murder of Prof Javed Bhutto, a renowned Pakistani intellectual and scholar in America. They directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take up the matter with its counterparts in the United States for a detailed inquiry.

Retrieved land to be used for housing projects for expats, Senate body informed

The matter was raised during the meeting by Senator Sassui Palejo, who said it warranted a proper investigation.

The committee also condemned the murder of Pakistani national Shakirullah, who had been imprisoned in India.

Committee chair Senator Hilalur Rehman said the Indian leadership had lost its senses and was trying to divert the people’s attention from the real issues facing India on the political, economic and social side, adding that the treatment of Shakirullah in an Indian jail was highly unfortunate.

He also lauded the security forces, particularly the army and the air force, for their role in the recent standoff between India and Pakistan, adding that the political leadership of the country had shown unity in their ranks and the whole nation stood with one voice for the defence of the country.

Senator Samina Saeed raised the case of land owned by overseas Pakistani Nasir Awan in Gujrat which has been illegally occupied.

She also suggested opening new hospitals for overseas Pakistanis, and was told by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Zulfiqar Bukhari that Sehat Insaf Card schemes are also available. He added that a number of initiatives have been taken by the ministry for the welfare of overseas Pakistanis.

Mr Bukhari also informed the senators of plans the ministry has to use land for the benefit of overseas Pakistanis, as well as other initiatives.

The committee was told that the government is considering legislation to set up separate courts to dispose of cases.

Senator Ayub Afridi proposed a comprehensive policy to address issues facing overseas Pakistanis and introduce policy interventions that address their grievances.

Earlier, the meeting was informed of a public petition on the enhancement of the pension disbursed by the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI). The ministry said that under the law, the pension can only be enhanced on the recommendations of actuaries after an actuarial valuation to be carried out every three years.

To extend immediate relief to the very vulnerable in society, the government has announcement a 10pc increase for EOBI pensioners through the Finance Supplementary (Amendment) Bill 2018, to be funded by the Finance Division. The senators were told that the minimum sum is now Rs6,500 per month.

Published in Dawn, March 6th, 2019