ISLAMABAD: Zulfi Bukhari, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, called on Attorney General (AG) Khalid Jawed Khan on Thursday to discuss issues pertaining to the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI).
Azhar Hameed, the EOBI chairman, also attended the meeting at the AG office in the Supreme Court building.
The apex court is seized with a suo motu case relating to the misuse of EOBI’s funds. Former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had initiated the case in June 2013 on the basis of reports that the EOBI had caused a loss of Rs40 billion to the exchequer by investing heavily in private sector projects without getting approval from its board of trustees.
The government recently raised the EOBI pension to Rs8,500 from Rs6,500 and intends to further increase it gradually, an informed source privy to the meeting told Dawn. But no final decision was made in view of the pending case before the Supreme Court.
Under the EOBI scheme, insured persons are entitled to benefits like old-age pension after retirement, invalidity pension in case of permanent disability and an old-age grant if the insured person attains superannuation.
SC asked to expedite hearing of case about investment of EOBI’s Rs40bn in private sector
The government has been raising the EOBI pension from time to time, but the payees complain that rising prices always negate the increase.
The purpose of Thursday’s meeting, the source said, was to request the apex court to expedite the hearing of the case so that the government could take a decision forthwith about raising pension.
The AG told the media after the meeting that Wednesday’s special briefing on the coronavirus pandemic would make decision-making easy about matters related to public health and the distribution of funds under the Ehsaas programme. The briefing was presided over by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed.
The judges of the Supreme Court were a bit apprehensive, the Attorney General explained, about the mode of disbursement of financial assistance in view of the lockdown. They were worried that the disbursement of funds might remain restricted to those who are well-connected in high places.
But Dr Sania Nishtar, the adviser to the prime minister on Ehsaas programme, assured the special briefing that the distribution of funds would be based on the data provided by Nadra and that every application would go through five stages of verification.
In reply to a question, the AG explained that the job of the proposed “tiger force” would be to pinpoint those deserving people who do not have any access to mobile or internet facility.
Under the Ehsaas programme, 12 million families will be given Rs12,000 each for four months. The programme has added seven million families to the list of the needy over and above the five million who are already beneficiaries of the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP). According to the attorney general, the judges were worried about the impact of closure of out patient departments (OPDs) in hospitals, but the briefing was assured that OPDs would be opened gradually. The judges were also fearful that patients suffering from other ailments like diabetes or cardiac issues might suffer in view of the closure of OPDs, he added.
Referring to concerns about encroachment by other organs of the state into the executive domain, the AG explained that the judiciary felt it had to intervene in the wake of perceptions that the administration was not carrying out its job.
Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2020