KARACHI: The Sindh Assem­bly was told on Thursday that the Auqaf department could not carry out rehabilitation and reconstruction of shrines of Sufi saints in the province due to a paucity of funds.

Furnishing a statement and replies to the lawmakers’ written and verbal queries during Question Hour in the house on behalf of Auqaf Minister Sohail Anwar Siyal, Parliamentary Secretary Heer Soho said that the renovation of several dargahs would have been conducted in a timely manner if the federal government had not reduced the share of funds of the province.

Replying to a question asked by Grand Democratic Alliance’s member Arif Mustafa Jatoi, she said that an amount of Rs100 million was allocated in the provincial budget for rehabilitation and reconstruction of shrines, but no funds were released by the finance department during 2018-19.

Responding to a verbal question asked by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf member Saeed Afridi, Ms Soho said that 80 to 90 per cent work on ongoing 32 schemes had been completed.

Replying to another question raised by GDA’s Jatoi, she said that agriculture land of the Auqaf department measuring 189 acres was vacant. She said that the last auction notice for leasing out this land was given in Jan 2017 in the leading newspapers, but no one participated in the bid as the land was barren and short of water.

Responding to a query by GDA member Nusrat Sehar Abbasi, the parliamentary secretary said that the scheme ‘Development, Repair and Renovation of Dargah Sakhi Abdul Wahab Shah Jeelani Hyderabad’ was not completed in the stipulated time by June 2019.

Giving details of the project, she said that the expenditure of Rs97.290m had been incurred up to June 19. “This is [an] ongoing scheme with an approved cost of Rs137.355m and an amount of Rs20m has been allocated in the current fiscal year”, she said.

When Ms Abbasi asked Ms Soho how many engineers were in the Auqaf department, the latter said the question was not related to her written question, advising her to put a fresh question in this regard.

The GDA member did not agree with the parliamentary secretary and told her that there was only one engineer in the Auqaf department, further critiquing Ms Soho that she knew “nothing” as she became the parliamentary secretary only a day ago.

Responding to another question by Ms Abbasi, the parliamentary secretary said that the scheme ‘Up-gradation and extension of Dargah Makhdoom Bilawal’ in Dadu was being executed by the Auqaf department with an estimated cost of Rs41.081m.

She said that a sum of Rs5m was released and utilised during the financial year 2017-18 and a sum of Rs5.995m was allocated for the scheme during the year 2018-2019.

Ms Soho further informed the house that the work of expansion and upgrade was being carried out and 90pc work had been completed.

Raising a verbal question, Ms Abbasi said that the Dargah Makhdoom Bilawal was not under the Auqaf department and asked why such a huge amount was spent on a privately-run shrine.

She said that the Auqaf department could only spend money on the shrines under its control.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2019