MUZAFFARABAD: A decision by the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) government to buy a new luxurious car worth over Rs100 million for President Barrister Sultan Mahmood has drawn flak from the civil society.

According to a services and general administration department (S&GAD) notification, the government had approved provision of an additional grant of Rs102.52 million in FY 2021-22 […] and its advance withdrawal for purchase, including payment of local taxes and transportation charges, of a Mercedes Benz S500 4MATIC Sedan Long (RHD) car for the president.

Interestingly, the notification was issued the same day when four cabinet members had whined in a series of media talks about the “adverse impact” of budget cuts by Islamabad on health, education and infrastructure development-related projects in AJK.

However, the notification triggered a slew of angry comments from people from different walks of life after it went viral on social media.

“While the president is not legally barred from buying an even expensive car, it does not behoove him to do so at a time when his party is crying hoarse about the budget cuts that it says will affect its plans to deliver in productive, social and development sectors,” tweeted Naila Altaf Kayani, a well-known Kashmiri analyst.

Saad Maqsood, a Saudi Arabia-based activist, wrote: “In Pakistan they don’t have money to consume even poison, but from Islamabad to Muzaffarabad, there is no end to the luxuries of the ruling elite.”

Pro-PTI activists called upon party chief Imran Khan to take stock of the situation.

“…. [though] we are PTI supporters but we cannot condone wrongdoings. The PTI government was established for the prosperity of the AJK people, and not for [providing] official protocol [to its leaders]. Khan sahib should take notice,” wrote a Twitterer by the name of KashmirZada.

When contacted, the spokesperson for AJK president Syed Kamal Haider asserted that the summary for the purchase of the new car was initiated during the previous government and as yet they had not seen it.

Interestingly, only two weeks ago the AJK government had approved an additional grant of Rs20.34 million for the purchase of four new 1800cc Toyota Corolla cars for as many former prime ministers of the territory.

The new cars were being purchased for Sardar Yaqoob Khan, Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan, Chaudhry Abdul Majeed and Sardar Abdul Qayyum Niazi. They were supposed to return the old cars in their use after getting the new ones.

Former president Sardar Masood Khan, who is currently Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, and former PM Raja Farooq Haider had already claimed new 1800cc cars at the end of their term in August last year.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2022

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