Charity begins at home: In AJK, over 100m embezzled from Zakat fund

Ruling party supporters, MLAs got lion’s share; minister denies own wrongdoing.

Our Correspondent December 14, 2013
Ruling party supporters, MLAs got lion’s share; minister denies own wrongdoing. PHOTO: FILE


As if misappropriation of funds in general was not enough, the Prime Minister’s (PM) office in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) has allegedly started interfering with the charitable Zakat fund, according to sources in the Zakat Department.

The department has also recently received a handwritten letter from Prime Minister Chaudhry Abdul Majeed directing it to provide Rs200,000 to a Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) woman activist, according to the sources, requesting not to be named.

“On the PM’s instructions, Rs50 million from the fund have already been distributed among politicians for their foreign trips and medical treatment. During the last 11 months, funds in excess of Rs8.56 million have been given to former prime ministers, ministers and advisers.”

About Rs3 million, earmarked for the treatment of poor patients, were given to some “financially-sound PPP workers.”

About Rs80 million were distributed among the voters and supporters of the party. Out of these, Rs10 million, though, were given to the needy families, affiliated with the ruling party.

“Besides the unfair distribution of funds meant for medical treatment and dowries for the needy, the premier has disbursed over Rs30 million allegedly to “favourites” without complying with the procedure of selecting beneficiaries, the sources added.

When The Express Tribune contacted Zakat minister Afsar Shahid to comment on the alleged irregularities, he responded that during his tenure, nobody had been given any undue favour or financial support from the Zakat fund. However, he admitted that the chairmen of all ten districts of the state are political appointees and they might have distributed funds on their own or their party’s selection criteria rather than on merit, which, if so, was unfortunate.

The minister said he had distributed fund for dowry of needy person in his constituency purely on merit and in the presence of local officials without taking any political affiliation into consideration. Whereas, he alleged, the other ministers and members of the legislative assembly have distributed the funds for dowry among their political workers and favourites and they should be held accountable.

“I will check the record for the distribution of the zakat fund among political leaders during the last ten years and will make the whole thing public,” the minister said.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 14th, 2013.


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