Opposition leaders lavished billions on themselves under security, camp office expenses: Murad Saeed

Updated July 16, 2019

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Special Assistant to Prime Minister for Information Firdous Ashiq Awan (C), Federal Minister for Communications Murad Saeed (R), and Adviser to Prime Minister for Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam (L) addressing a press conference in Islamabad on Tuesday. — APP
Special Assistant to Prime Minister for Information Firdous Ashiq Awan (C), Federal Minister for Communications Murad Saeed (R), and Adviser to Prime Minister for Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam (L) addressing a press conference in Islamabad on Tuesday. — APP

Minister for Communications and Postal Services Murad Saeed on Tuesday slammed the "kingly" spending of national wealth by past public office holders on the pretext of setting up camp offices, security arrangements and entertainment.

Before he began discussing the figures, Saeed said that it was important to provide the context under which such lavish expenditures were made.

"In Thar, as seen in the report submitted to the Supreme Court, each year, there are more than 500 children who are dying due to hunger and poverty. The health conditions are such in the chief minister's constituency, that one is hard pressed to find an ambulance to carry the injured to a hospital when a blast occurs.

"The availability of clean drinking water is an issue most prominent in Sindh and Punjab. Data from State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) shows that Sindh is the most poverty-stricken province followed by South Punjab," he said as he set the stage to provide the contrast which followed.

"We will begin with Yousuf Raza Gillani. He had five camp offices, three in Lahore and two in Multan and he spent Rs245 million on these."

"We then move on to Zardari, who has proved very bhari (costly) for the nation. His two camp offices — one in Larkana where he has a house, and one in Naudero — as well as his security arrangements resulted in the wastage of over Rs3.164 billion of tax payers' money over 2013-2018 when he was not even president of the country."

He said that Zardari had had 246 cars on the pretext of security in 2015, whereas in 2016 he had fled the country, in 2017 he had 164 cars, and in 2018 he had 158 cars.

Saeed said that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had wasted $460,000 on a single visit to the United States in 2015 and spent 327,000 pounds from the public exchequer on his treatment in the United Kingdom.

Similarly, over Rs4,310m from the public kitty was spent to provide security to a disqualified Nawaz Sharif in Riawind when it was declared a camp office by former Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif.

Saeed said Shehbaz had spent Rs8.726bn on his security as chief minister. He also wasted Rs1.3bn by using the special plane of prime minster 526 times, despite having his own helicopter.

Former president Mamnoon Hussain, he said, spent Rs303m on the security of his camp office in Karachi.

On the contrary, the minister said, Prime Minister Imran Khan would save the public's money by staying in the Pakistan embassy during his forthcoming visit to the United States.

Likewise, he said the security expenditure of the Punjab chief minister had also been reduced by 86 per cent and travel expenses by 60 per cent after Usman Buzdar took charge of the office last year.

Ban on plastic bags in Islamabad

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam then took the floor to brief the media on the progress made regarding the prime minister's Clean and Green Pakistan initiative and to announce a new policy on the use of plastic bans.

"Plantation for the monsoon season is about to begin at the end of the month and we have set a target of planting 140 million trees," he announced.

"And the cabinet has made an important decision today," he continued.

"It pertains to the plastic shopping bag, which has become a nuisance for us all. 80 per cent drains are blocked owing to this menace; flooding in urban areas, and the spread of disease can also be attributed to this. And it is such a thing which does not decompose for 1000 years.

"So, to put a stop to this, the cabinet has accorded approval for a law under which plastic bags will be banned, beginning August 14, in Islamabad and its adjoining territories," he said, adding that Islamabad was just the beginning and other cities would soon follow.

Aslam underscored the fact that the legislation had been devised after thoroughly studying global models implemented to end plastic bag use.

"This [ban on plastic bags] has been practiced earlier — in 1994, 1995, 2001 and 2013 but could not help to achieve the set targets due to lacunas in the legislation. However, this time we have taken the initiative from the federal capital and will whole-heartedly enforce the law to get rid of plastic bags," the adviser vowed.

While stating the salient features of the Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO) approved, he said this was the model being adopted across the world.

"It will enable authorities to impose a fine of Rs50,000 to Rs0.5 million on the manufacturers of plastic bags, the traders of polythene or plastic bags would be fined Rs10,000 to Rs5m, and people found using it would have to pay a fine of Rs 5000," he revealed.

The magnitude of the fine has been kept high so that a deterrence can be developed in the people against its use, he added.

In 1990, he said, 10 million bags were used per year in the country which had now reached to 55 billion bags per year.

The adviser pointed out that the current population of the country was over 220 million where every individual was using 275 to 300 plastic bags per year.

"These bags are then submerged under the soil and dumped into the drains which consequently get into the sea. A global study revealed that if plastic bags are not avoided for use till 2050, then more plastic bags would be found in the sea instead of fish," he said, to highlight the gravity of the situation.

"We [the ministry of climate change] are also offering alternates for plastic bags — cotton bags and recyclable, reusable polypropylene plastic bag (which is biodegradable and decomposable)," he said, adding, "The ministry has made 100,000 such bags which will be distributed free among the masses across the ICT."