ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has used his discretionary powers for initiating gas supply schemes in constituencies of around 100 parliamentarians including federal ministers by doling out Rs27 billion worth of development funds.
With the launch of these schemes, the government has lifted the moratorium on new gas connections imposed during the tenure of previous Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government because of acute gas shortage.
Most of these projects are being implemented in Punjab, which are believed to be aimed at winning the support of voters in general elections next year.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak has also got benefit of the easing of restrictions and has received funds for the provision of gas to different towns in his constituency in Abbottabad district.
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While using his discretionary powers, the prime minister has ignored an order of the apex court. During PPP’s rule, when Raja Pervaiz Ashraf was the prime minister, the court had ruled that the constitution did not allow allocation of funds to MNAs, MPAs and notables at the sole discretion of prime minister and chief minister of a province.
The current government had gone to the Supreme Court, seeking a review of the decision, but the court rejected the request.
Officials in the Cabinet Division revealed that the government had constituted a committee, headed by Hamza Sharif and comprising Captain (Retired) Safdar, Jam Kamal Khan and Dr Darshan to examine various directives of the prime minister and the current Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP).
Following recommendations of the committee, the premier approved the release of funds for many gas supply schemes including those which were put on hold during the tenure of former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf.
According to officials, the government is now trying to give legal cover to the prime minister’s directives by seeking ex-post facto approval of the projects.
Most of the new gas supply schemes have been given the green light for constituencies of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)’s key members.
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A major beneficiary is Capital Administration and Development Division Minister Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, who has received Rs2.5 billion for his NA-49 constituency.
Other major beneficiary is Captain Safdar, who has received Rs2.3 billion for gas supply in his NA-21 constituency. National Assembly Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi has got Rs1.4 billion indirect and Rs1.1 billion direct funding for NA-18 constituency in Abbottabad district.
Chaudhry Bilal Ahmed Virk, who heads the National Assembly Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Resources, has been given Rs2.7 billion for gas connection in various localities in NA-136, Sheikhupura district. Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman has got Rs770 million for NA-24, Dera Ismail Khan.
Minister of Human Rights Kamran Michael has received Rs4 million for gas supply in Sheikhupura.
Other beneficiaries include Minister of Water and Power Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Minister of Defence Production Rana Tanveer Hussain, Federal Minister of Housing and Works Akram Khan Durrani, Minister of Population Welfare Punjab Begum Zakia Shahnawaz, Federal Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmed, Minister of Kashmir Affairs Muhammad Barjees Tahir, State Minister of Water and Power Abid Sher Ali, Secretary Syed Saqlain Shah Bukhari, Standing Committee on Human Rights Chairman Babar Nawaz Khan, Talal Chaudhry, Baleeghur Rehman and Saira Afzal Tarar.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 24th, 2017.
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