ISLAMABAD: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) is allegedly sheltering defaulting tenants in Karachi while barring the authorities from evicting defaulters occupying state property valued at billions of rupees, a top government official revealed on Tuesday during a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
The issue came to light when the director-general of Commercial Audits and Evaluation, Karachi, informed the parliamentary watchdog that EOBI was not recovering millions of rupees in rent from occupants living on its properties.
According to the auditors, the defaulting tenants were owners of famous brands such as All About You, MAC Point, Valor Jeans, M/s Fashion 2000, M/s Kanan, M/s Imran Brothers, M/s Tana Bana, Imran Yousuf and Iqbal Yousuf. The auditors added that chances of recovery were weak due to multiple factors.
The DG and investment adviser of the Employees Old-age Benefit Institution (EOBI), Wahid Khursheed Kunwar, claimed that the MQM's sector in-charges were interfering in the eviction on behalf of the defaulters.
However, Kunwar, who holds the second most senior position at the EOBI, clarified that MQM parliamentarians were not involved. Kunwar said EOBI teams were harassed by MQM party workers during operations, adding that the value of property being occupied by the defaulters was around Rs4.41 billion.
When asked by Rukhsana Bangish of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on who was preventing EOBI officials from shutting down shops belonging to the defaulters, Kunwar said he was unable to divulge details at the meeting.
Turning down Kunwar's pleas, the committee directed the EOBI official to recover the outstanding amount within 15 days and report back to the PAC. "The PAC is not concerned about what is happening in Karachi and who is protecting these people. What it wants is the recovery of the amount," said PAC acting chairperson Yasmeen Rehman, who was chairing the meeting in absence of PAC chairman Nadeem Afzal Chan.
According to a report of the director-general of commercial audits, EOBI officials were equally responsible for the unpaid bills. However, the report did not clarify whether the EOBI was not performing its duties under pressure from political quarters. Interestingly, the departmental accounts committee (DAC) has recommended in the past to have the money written off from the Board of Trustees at EOBI.
In 2009, the Board of Trustees sought a report explaining what had been done to date to get back the money. The DAC had, in its May 2012 meeting, asked the EOBI to recover the money through land revenues, however, no such efforts were made, the report states.
In another DAC meeting held in August 2012, the EOBI did not place the audit objection for consideration of the DAC, signalling the involvement of EOBI officials.