PAC halts plot allotment to bureaucrats

ISLAMABADIn a charged meeting on Thursday, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) directed the government to immediately cease the allotment of plots to bureaucrats and journalists as the practice begets the plague of ‘plot politics’ in the country.

Headed by Chairman Nadeem Afzal Chan, the PAC meeting released some stringent directions. It instructed both the housing ministry and the Capital Development Authority to stop land allotments until the PAC submitted a detailed report on the issue.

The committee has already announced that the policy of giving two plots to grade-22 officers will be revisited.

The committee also sought a list of plots allocated to some influential journalists. According to Chan, there are authentic reports that some journalists have obtained many private plots in the posh sectors of Islamabad, while dozens have occupied official residences at nominal rent.

He further revealed that some representatives of the media community had requested that the landholdings of journalists be included in the committee’s investigations.

The PAC has already reprimanded bureaucrats, Supreme Court judges, and military generals for using their influence to obtain plots. However, so far, the General Headquarters is resisting requests to disclose the names of generals who have been given plots.

According to a list prepared by the housing ministry, so far 204 grade-22 bureaucrats and 21 judges of the apex court (some of them sitting) have obtained one or more than one plot. As per policy, grade-22 bureaucrats are entitled to two 600 square yard plots in posh locations, for which the government exchequer doles out Rs1 billion every year. The PAC has already declared that this policy of plot allotment is discriminatory, and stands in violation to Article 25 of the Constitution.

The committee’s condemnation has been met with frantic efforts by bureaucrats to secure their properties.  According to Chan, there are reports that many bureaucrats have started liquidating their plots.  As a result, the committee has also directed the concerned ministries and departments to stop engaging in plot transactions with bureaucrats.

“The PAC will announce its decision on the policy of giving plots to the officials next week,” said Chan. The committee has ordered the housing ministry to ensure that the bureaucrats vacate official residences if they already own personal homes, and pay due rent if they occupied more than one official residence.

Several government officials have rented out their personal homes, while occupying official residences. Some of them had even rented out their homes to the government.