The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Tuesday ordered the recovery of Rs1.9 billion in dues from the Gun and Country Club — a high-end entertainment facility being run without any legal cover. The PAC could not, however, convince authorities to divulge the names of the facility’s owners.
Issues surrounding the encroachment of 72 acres of state land on which the club has been set up have raised their head after almost two years. Earlier, former chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry had taken suo motu notice of the issue, with the last hearing before Chaudhry being held in February 2013.
The Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) that the PAC direct the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to recover rent for the last 13 years — amounting to Rs1.9 billion — and resolve issues surrounding the allotment of land. On Tuesday, the PAC passed the directives only to the extent of recovery of the rent, while the encroachment issue will be discussed on Wednesday (today).
The CDA has been accused of allowing the establishment of the club in 2001 on 72 acres of land without signing any formal lease agreement. Non-transparent procedures were followed to allow the establishment of the facility, according to the audit report.
The Gun Club has been using this land without any formal allotment for the last 13 years, CDA Chairman Maroof Afzal confirmed in the meeting.
The audit objection against Gun and Country Club once again highlighted how state apparatus was manipulated by influential people. The PAC meeting also cast light on a struggle between those who wanting to unveil the faces behind the deal and those holding up the shroud.
PAC members including its chairman Khursheed Shah, and AGP Akhtar Buland Rana could not convince CDA Chairman Maroof Afzal to disclose the names of the owners. The CDA chairman kept deflecting direct questions on who owns the club.
The CDA chairman was trying to protect the wrong deeds of others, observed Khursheed Shah.
On June 18, 2011, the sports ministry had requested the CDA board to execute a lease for the 72 acres, but the apex court took suo motu notice of the issue.
“It is not clear whose interests are served by the Gun Club”, said AGP Rana, who returned to PAC meetings after a gap of five months.
Without disclosing the name, a Cabinet Division additional secretary told the PAC that the land had been taken over by a private party. The CDA chairman said the President of Pakistan was the patron of the elite sporting facility. The affairs of the club are managed by an administrator, who is appointed by the president on an honorary basis, and the managing committee, Afzal added.
The club was originally set up by the Pakistan Army as a shooting range for the event during the SAF Games 2004 held at the same venue, said Afzal.
A representative of the Ministry of Law and Justice said PML-N Member National Assembly Daniyal Aziz was the present administrator of the club.
Meanwhile, on the alleged granting illegal benefits to a contractor, which cost the national kitty Rs165 million, the PAC directed that the case be referred to the National Accountability Bureau for investigation as it suspected that CDA officials were involved. The body also moved for the initiation of an inquiry to uncover the officials responsible for tampering with documents to award a Rs1.7 billion road construction contract to the private firm Ayub and Brothers.
The PAC and the audit department were both also unhappy with the CDA’s general performance. AGP Rana said that due to serious flaws in the CDA’s pre-audit system, AGP department officers would have to perform pre-audit functions.
The PAC also sought a report on the performance of the CDA’s lawyers, Kundi & Kundi Law Associates.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 17th, 2014.
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