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PAC for mechanism to monitor usage of foreign loan

31 August, 2012

ISLAMABAD: The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Thursday directed the Economic Affairs Division (EAD) to establish a mechanism for proper monitoring of foreign-funded projects and to ensure a proper way to repay the loans taken by various ministries and departments.

The committee expressed astonishment over the reports that all foreign loans are forwarded to ministries, autonomous bodies or provincial governments through EAD without establishing any mechanism to monitor the usage of funds after disbursement. The committee also expressed displeasure over the reports that some of the departments and ministries had defaulted on foreign loan.

The government of Pakistan is paying the loan money interest, commitment charges and variation in foreign exchange reserves from Federal Consolidated Funds. The committee was informed that the National Highway Authority (NHA) always failed to repay its loan to the donors. Majority of the NHA projects are delayed due to land acquisition and the government had to pay all charges to the donors.

The PAC was of the view that corruption was usually carried out in foreign loan by ministries, departments or NGOs. The NGOs usually take such loan in the name of capacity building, skill development and other purposes. EAD Additional Secretary Rao Iftikhar told the committee that they had written several times to the departments and ministries to provide details of used loans but no one bothered to provide such details. He also clarified to PAC that role of the EAD was just like a post office, which received loans and disbursed in the departments concerned. After the disbursement, it is responsibility of the secretary of the department to monitor proper utilisation of loan.

The PAC directed the EAD principal accounting officer (PAO) to submit a comprehensive report within one month over all the defaulted departments and details of loans.

PAC member Hamid Yar Hiraj told the committee that EAD secretary, by virtue of its status is member of several foreign departments' board of directors, is drawing thousands of US dollars per month. However, the PAC directed the Ministry of Finance to provide details of the status of the secretary and any foreign benefits received by him.

PAC member Khurram Dastgir Khan told the committee that autonomous bodies like NHA are burden on national exchequer. He claimed that NHA took foreign loans and subsidy from the federal government but it always claimed that it (NHA) did not have funds for repayment of its foreign loan. He questioned the viability of the NHA in the future because it looks difficult for the government to always finance it.

Answering a question, the EAD additional secretary told the committee that the US had to provide $1.5 billion per year under the Kerry Lugar Law, but extended only $2.8 billion during the last three years instead of actual $4.5 billion.

'Blasphemy' girl being favoured: lawyer

Doctors and officials are "favouring" a young Christian girl charged with blasphemy after allegedly burning papers containing Quranic verses, the lawyer for her accuser claimed on Thursday.

After a brief hearing in the case, which Rimsha did not attend, Rao Abdur Raheem, the lawyer representing her accuser, rejected the doctors' assessment.

"The victim has admitted that she burned a chapter of the holy Quran," he told reporters outside a court. "The doctors are favouring the victim and the state is also supporting her."

Raheem also objected to the medical examination because it was carried out a day before the court formally requested it. Judge Raja Jawad Abbas Hassan adjourned the case to Saturday to seek clarification on the report.

Minister warns of Christian discrimination

Blasphemy allegations against Christians in Pakistan are not just a religious issue, according to the country's top Christian politician – they also show that the old feudal caste system has not gone away.

The position of the Christian minority in the overwhelmingly Muslim nation has come under the spotlight in the past fortnight with the arrest of Rimsha Masih, a young Christian girl accused of blasphemy for allegedly burning papers containing verses from the holy Quran.

Anti-terrorist police with automatic rifles guard the large Islamabad home of National Harmony Minister Paul Bhatti, whose brother and predecessor Shahbaz Bhatti was gunned down last year for speaking out against the anti-blasphemy law.

Bhatti, the only Christian cabinet minister, felt a rush of fear two weeks ago when Rimsha was arrested in a poor Islamabad suburb.

When furious Muslims threatened Christians in the area the next day after Friday prayers, Bhatti contacted prayer leaders to try to calm things down, saying if they had encouraged the worshippers, "it would have been possible to have another Gojra".


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