ISLAMABAD: When it comes to discretionary development spending allocations for elected officials, it pays to be the party chief. A review of government documents by The Express Tribune showed that party chiefs far outspent their backbench colleagues in parliament.
The worst offenders were Fazlur Rahman and Ataur Rahman, the two brothers who lead the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F). Of the Rs2 billion allocated to development projects identified by JUI-F lawmakers between 2008 and 2013, over 70%, or Rs1.4 billion, was spent by these two politicians. During that time, there were 16 lawmakers in parliament from the JUI-F, but the remaining 14 had to divide up Rs600 million between them for their constituencies.
Not only did the JUI-F leaders fail to share the federal government’s largesse with the rest of their party members, they also failed to cooperate with federal auditors when asked about where they spent the money in 2012.
Yet despite apparently starving their fellow party members’ constituencies of funds, JUI-F legislators appear to believe that the Rahman brothers were justified in their behaviour.
“Both [Fazlur Rehman and Attaur Rehman] are the best at fighting for the rights of their constituencies compared to the more lethargic MPs who may have been inactive both within parliament and outside it,” said Jan Achakzai of the JUI-F. “In our system, if you are not proactive lobbyist as an MP, you cannot get a penny’s worth of projects [for your constituency] from the bureaucracy.”
The Rahman brothers are by no means alone in dominating their parties’ allocations for federal discretionary development spending. The Sherpao faction of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP-Sherpao) was allocated Rs160 million during the Zardari Administration, of which Rs140 million went to projects identified by the party’s eponymous leader Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao.Of the Rs7.5 billion allocated to Awami National Party (ANP) lawmakers between 2008 and 2013, party leader Asfandyar Wali Khan got Rs980 million, which is more than three times the amount allocated to the next biggest recipient of federal funding.
During that period, Rs18.3 billion were allocated to federal legislators from the Pakistan Muslim League Quaid (PML-Q), of which party leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi used up Rs800 million.
Despite several attempts, none of these party chiefs responded to The Express Tribune’s requests for comment.
Between 2008 and 2013, the federal government spent Rs125 billion on discretionary development projects identified by members of the National Assembly. That amount is nearly four times as much as the Rs33 billion spent by all lawmakers in the preceding 23 years (1985-2008) combined.
Under Prime Ministers Yousaf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, a total of 5,212 projects identified by MNAs were authorised, of which 1,823 (35%) were never completed, and some had a progress rate of less than 9%. The auditor general of Pakistan has conducted special audits on 330 of these projects, and even that happened after a Supreme Court order.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2015.
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