Housing Societies Scam Exposes The Flawed Accountability Process Under PTI Govt

Housing Societies Scam Exposes The Flawed Accountability Process Under PTI Govt
In improper haste, Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar with the consent of Prime Minister Imran Khan has promulgated an ordinance to regularize as many as 6,140 illegal housing societies in Punjab in return of a fee of just two percent of the total cost of the land. Khan's corruption narrative seems to be losing moral prowess owing to never ending list of scams while people of his own party involved are escaping accountability.

The entire matter of the regulation of illegal housing societies was resolved by the duo Usman Buzdar and Imran Khan in haste, and without requisite deliberation while just an officer remained instrumental in giving final touches to the draft. The consent of the Punjab cabinet was secured by circulating a draft. Several ministers related to the Housing Societies mega scam opted to abstain from voting and their silence was thus considered as if the answer was in the affirmative. “The Punjab Commission for Regularization of Irregular Housing Schemes Ordinance 2021” has been promulgated to give a clean chit by levying just two percent of the residential value on the non-conforming use of the land. It is kind of a blank cheque at just two percent charge.

Of as many as 6,140 illegal housing societies, 1,500 fall in the purview of development authorities such as LDA, RDA, GDA, MDA, and FDA while remaining in that of district governments and municipal corporations. This process was initiated by none other than Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar who also retains ministry of local government with him.

Secretly, this mega scam was supported and strengthened by the PTI government at Center. Imran Khan led PTI government was so eager to see it translating into reality that the approval from cabinet was sought through the draft; promulgated through ordinance in haste because the Punjab Assembly wasn’t in session and Usman Buzdar was not ready to wait for 'unknown' reasons. Since the issue of illegal housing societies is years old, any legislation in this respect could have waited for Assembly to come into session.

A constitutional office-bearer gave final shape to the draft; although it was the job of the executive branch. "The Punjab Commission for Regularization of Irregular Housing Schemes", according to the ordinance, will have a retired judge of the Supreme Court or High Court as its chairperson who will be appointed in consultation with the chief justice of Lahore High Court. As many as four members will also form part of the commission - a town planner, a civil engineer, an environmental expert and a legal expert. While the chairperson will be nominated by the chief justice, the provincial government will nominate the members. In this mega scam, the Central and Punjab governments are on the same page.

The concerns about irregular housing societies were raised by Lt Gen (R) Anwar Ali Hyder, Chairman "Naya Pakistan Housing & Development Authority" during "National Coordination Committee" meeting held on February 23 this year. Chief Secretary Punjab proposed setting up a commission and subsequently a draft was prepared within no time by the Local Government Department and vetted by the Law Ministry. As the mandatory time period to respond elapsed and no objection was raised from any minister, it was deemed that all ministers accepted the recommendations mentioned in the summary.

Imran Khan's narrative about corruption goes the other way around. After medicine price hike, appeared flour scam, sugar scam; Malam Jabba, import of Covid-19 vaccination from Russia scam; petroleum, encroachment scam; 6,140 Housing Societies, Ring Road scam; and scam of US $1.38b amount released by IMF for Covid-19 affectees in Pakistan. None of the responsible were held accountable let alone be sentenced. Federal Minister for Health Amer Keyani, Advisor to PM on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza, Federal Minister Makhdoom Khusro Bukhtiar, Advisor to PM For Petroleum Nadeem Babar, Advisor to PM for Overseas Pakistanis Zulfi Bukhari, Spokesperson Shahbaz Gill and Federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan and CM Punjab Usman Buzdar made billions of rupees during three-year rule of Imran Khan. Jahangir Tareen though disqualified by the court continued influencing PTI government's administrative, party and political matters and earned billions in sugar scam.

Just few involved in different scams were removed from the scene and tactfully given other responsibilities. No enquiry against those involved in different scams was initiated either by NAB or any of the investigative agency. None of the culprits could thereby be sentenced. If one is found corrupt and inefficient how can he or she be assumed to become honest and efficient in dealing with the other portfolios and responsibilities? Take the matter of Special Assistant to CM Punjab Usman Buzdar Dr. Firdous Aashiq Awan. She was removed disgracefully from Center and afterwards sent to Punjab.

The removal of any culprit from any position is never a punishment but a relief? Such habitual culprits appear on the scene on ad-hoc bases making money and quietly leaving. Somehow they manage to get new assignment and repeat their routine of plundering money. National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and other investigative agencies briskly move against PMLN leaders, put them in jail first and then start investigations but against PTI's corrupt and guilty leadership, investigation is never initiated.

The writer is Islamabad based columnist, political analyst and author of several books. He can be reached at naveedamankhan@hotmail.com and tweets @NaveedAmanKhan3