Sharifs must foot the bill for lavish spending: Saeed

Published: June 24, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Communications and Postal Services Murad Saeed has said bills will be sent to the Sharif family asking them to pay the government billions of rupees illegally spent on their security, fencing of residences, medical expenses and travel.

On the other hand, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari demanded of the National Assembly speaker to issue production orders for two detained members of the National Assembly so that they could represent their people in the budget session.

Speaking during the budget session of the National Assembly on Monday, Federal Minister Saeed said former prime minister Nawaz Sharif claimed that he did not take any salary, but actually his $327,000 medical expenses and travel expenses were paid from the national exchequer in 2016.

“Up to Rs1,000 million of public money was spent by Nawaz on the security and fencing of his Jati Umra residence, while 2,700 policemen were deployed for security of his residence and Rs2,000 million were spent on that account,” said the federal minister. “The Punjab government issued notifications declaring four houses in Model Town, Jati Umra and Defence Housing Authority as camp offices of Shehbaz Sharif.”

Saeed said an M17 helicopter was bought with Rs1,300 million, while Rs340 million was spent to pay for the employees, security, fencing, VVIP flights and entertainment at the four camp offices, adding that bills for all those expenditures would be sent to the Sharif family members.

“The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has come to power after a 22-year struggle and through a democratic process to serve the poor people,” he said.

He said United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote in her book that former prime minister Benazir Bhutto sought help of the US administration for reconciliation with former president Pervez Musharraf.

“Benazir demanded the US administration that her colleagues and her husband Asif Ali Zardari should get immunity against charges of corruption and money laundering. She had also asked how she could become the prime minister again despite the constitutional restriction on the third term and finally asked would Musharraf support her return to Pakistan. ‘She talked to the United States in early October and returned to Pakistan in October 2007’,” said Saeed.

Saeed quoted another incident in which Zardari was in talks with deputy directors of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the national security adviser at a time when US was carrying out drone strikes in tribal areas of Pakistan which destroyed homes and businesses.

“This was the time when Hussain Haqqani who spews hate against Pakistan, was the ambassador in the United States. Zardari told United States ‘collateral damage worries the US but does not worry me’,” said the minister quoting the book. “This was the time when Prime Minister Imran Khan was leading protests and staging sit-ins against drone strikes in North Waziristan.”

The minister said according to WikiLeaks, Zardari told the US ambassador Anne Patterson that “you continue the drone strikes and we will continue our protest in the parliament”.

Murad referred to a taped telephone call made by Benazir to her son Bilawal in which she told him about the jewellery and huge sums of money held by them in fake bank accounts.

Referring to the austerity drive of PM Imran, the minister said the prime minister was not living in the PM House but was living in his home in Bani Gala and bearing his own expenses.

The security wall and fencing of residence of Imran in Bani Gala was paid through party funds, he added.

He said Imran declined a visit to watch the world cup cricket match of Pakistan against South Africa on the invitation of the United Kingdom prime minister as he did not want to waste time and money of the nation.

Saeed said 50% of the children in Sindh were suffering from malnutrition, adding that 250 children in 2019, 450 in 2018, 450 in 2017, 480 in 2016 and 390 in 2015 died of malnutrition.

He said the provincial government claimed to have spent Rs104 billion on provision of water in Sindh, but the people were still not getting clean and safe water.

“Justice Gulzar of the Supreme Court declared Sindh as the most corrupt province and 4,700 schools in the province were found dysfunctional. Teachers and furniture were not available in schools, and hospitals were without ambulances and stretchers. Up to 52% children were out of school in Sindh as all the money was siphoned off through fake bank accounts,” said Saeed.

He reminded that different sections of motorway connecting Islamabad, Lahore, Chakwal, Hafizabad, Pindi Bhatian and Peshawar, airports and buildings of Pakistan Television and Radio Pakistan were mortgaged by previous governments to get loans amounting to billions of dollars.

Saeed said PM Imran had initiated projects of hospitals, schools, universities, sports grounds, electricity and dams in Waziristan and allocated money for rehabilitation of displaced persons and for restoration of businesses and houses.

Under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Barang tunnel would be built to connect Swat with the merged tribal areas, he added.

He said opportunities would be created for skill development of women and 1,122 centres would be set up and funds would be allocated for the construction of roads in erstwhile Fata.

Giving further details, he said shelter homes were built in Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Dera Ismail Khan, Rawalpindi and Islamabad so that labourers coming from small towns for jobs could get food and a place to sleep at night. “Now people with health cards are getting free medical treatment and the government takes responsibility for their health,” he added.

He said under the government’s flagship Ehsaas programme Rs192 billion would be spent to end malnutrition and provide free education to the out-of-school children and Kafalat Centres would be set up in each tehsil to impart skills to widows, who would get assistance of Rs25,000.

The minister also said subsidy of Rs200 billion would be provided to those using less than 300 units of electricity.

Production orders for 2 MNAs

During his speech, Bilawal demanded of the NA speaker to issue production orders for two detained MNAs Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar so that they could represent their people in budget session and vote for the finance bill.

The PPP chairman said only the NA speaker had the power to issue production orders.

“The Speaker is free in his decision and both detained MNAs should not be denied taking part in the budget session and to take part in the budget debate,” he added.

On his demand, Speaker Asad Qaiser said that he had asked for the opinion of the law ministry on the matter.

Bilawal also questioned the decision to ban the lawmakers in the Lower House of Parliament from using the words “selected prime minister” in the National Assembly.

He demanded of the government to avoid political victimisation and not to further fuel the fire.

He spoke on how former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had given Pakistan its Constitution and Quaid-e-Azam talked about parliamentary democracy.

“Quaid-e-Azam made the country free so we are free. If you think that censorship improves anything then you should know that this suppressed frustration will find an outlet. Just hiding your problems doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. These problems will fester and come back to haunt you later.

“This House is responsible for the rights of the people, and we’re their spokespeople,” said Bilawal, stressing to ensure supremacy of parliament. (with additional input from APP)

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