—Reuters Photo

KARACHI: The Sindh government has not yet spent even a single penny from the Rs1.15 billion it has received from the Central Zakat Fund in addition to the Rs2.5 billion allocated by Sindh for the reconstruction of houses damaged or destroyed in the 2010 floods, said Sindh Zakat and Ushr Minister Sajid Jokhio on Monday.

Mr Jokhio, struggling to answer supplementary questions during the question hour of the Sindh Assembly session, looked completely out of his depth as he fumbled through a bunch of papers placed before him but did not offer any satisfactory answer until the chief minister, who was present in the house for some other business, rose in his seat in aid of his cabinet member.

Monday’s session began more than three hours behind schedule as only a few members had arrived in the assembly hall. A large number of them were busy at a meeting being presided over by the chief minister to discuss a resolution of the NPP’s Masroor Jatoi relating to a proposed amendment to the constitution about the creation of new provinces. The session started soon after the Zuhar azan was sounded at around 1pm.

When the question hour, which was related to the Zakat and Ushr Department, did begin, five initial questions were not taken up as the movers — the MQM’s Moin Peerzada and Heer Ismail Soho — were not present in the assembly and no one else wanted to ask the question on their behalf.

Arif Jatoi of the NPP, who had asked one of the questions taken up, did not ask any supplementary question, apparently conscious of the three-hour lost time, and to let another Jatoi’s resolution to be taken up.

The whole question hour was completed in 10 to 15 minutes, an unusual happening in the house, where daily the entire question hour is consumed by three to four questions and never all questions mentioned in the order of the day could be answered.

Responding to a question asked by Nusrat Seher Abbasi of the PML-F about the funds provided for the rehabilitation of flood victims and construction of houses for them, Mr Jokhio in a written answer said the central Zakat council had provided Rs1.15 billion for the flood affected and that the government of Sindh had been planning to use the amount on the construction of houses for flood affected families in the province. The Sindh Zakat Council was working out modalities for the construction of houses.

He had no answer to a supplementary question asked by Ms Abbasi, who wanted to know the cause of the delay saying the floods had occurred in 2010 and no house had been built even in 2012.

Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, seeing the minister utterly confused, came to his rescue and said the unprecedented floods in 2010 had caused colossal damage, particularly on the right bank of the Indus. He said as a large number of people had lost their homes, either destroyed or damaged, the government had planned to build houses for them.

He said Sindh also had Rs2.5 billion for the houses and when Rs1.15 billion was received from the central Zakat fund, the Sindh government also added its share to the amount for the purpose.

He said that keeping in view the number of people affected and houses destroyed, it would not be possible to build houses for all the affected. To handle the issue in a transparent manner, a committee had been formed which would address the issue. The step was taken to ensure transparency and to preempt allegations of nepotism and favouritism, he added.

The CM agreed that around a couple of years had passed since the floods hit the province and, asking the flood victims to be patient, said that soon the houses would be constructed and handed over to affected people. He remarked: “Rome was not built in one day”. He said the federal government had also promised to provide funds for the houses, but the money had not yet been provided to Sindh yet.