The ‘mafia’ in the housing ministry’s closet

Zahid Gishkori April 30, 2010

ISLAMABAD: Government employees struggling for official accommodation in the capital have alleged that there is a mafia working within the housing ministry.

Muhammad Shakeel, a 51-year-old government employee working at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, told The Express Tribune that he has been struggling to get official accommodation for the past 17 years. He alleged that there is a “housing mafia” functioning within the government. “I have tried everything, application after application, but my family still lives in a rented home,” he said.

Another employee of the federal government, who did not wish to be named, tried something else – a bribe – and it worked. “I paid Rs200,000 to a senior official working in the housing ministry,” he told The Express Tribune. “An invisible mafia is working in the ministry ... officials are not allowed to allocate government housing without a price,” he added. Federal Minister for Housing and Works Rehmatullah Kakar told The Express Tribune that this “is a clear violation of the agreement between the government and its employees”.

“All those government employees who have rented their official accommodation to third parties will be prosecuted,” he added. “This is illegal and department heads of these employees will be contacted by the ministry,” Kakar said. A week ago, the National Assembly standing committee on housing expressed serious concerns over the illegal occupation of government plots. However, no significant solutions were prescribed as the ministry was only directed to approach the heads of the departments whose employees were residing in these houses.

“These people do not pay rent, the burden of which falls on the tax payers. “The housing ministry has made several efforts to evict them, but all in vain,” the minister said. A senior employee of the Pakistan Housing Authority (PHA) alleged that some ministry officials received millions of rupees in bribes while allotting 1,558 houses during the last two years.

Earlier reports had mentioned that the ministry’s secretary, Raja Mohammad Abbas, was accused of being involved. However, Managing Director PHA Muhammad Ali Afridi and Mamoona Naeem, an official of the housing ministry, denied all these allegations while speaking to The Express Tribune. There are around 800 suites in Islamabad under the illegal occupation of retired employees, policemen and contractual employees of the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited, all of whom are not entitled to official accommodation, Kakar said.

Moreover, at least 800 plots of government land are illegally owned by non-government servants, the minister said. More than 20,000 employees of the federal government are waiting in line for official accommodation in the capital.

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