Earthquake funds: CJP Nisar off to Balakot to review rehabilitation work

  • Chief justice says spending funds of earthquake victims on other projects is crime
Pakistan

ISLAMABAD – Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Wednesday left for Balakot on an unannounced tour to review uplift work for the survivors of the 2005 earthquake.

The chief justice took the decision while hearing a sou motu case pertaining to alleged embezzlement of funds entitled for victims by the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA).

The apex court had taken notice on an application of Shahzad Mehmood Qureshi of Mansehra inviting the attention of the court towards the plight of earthquake victims, who are living in the makeshift houses without water facility and improper education arrangements for their children despite the lapse of 13 years.

He also accused Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government of not providing encumbrance free 12,000 kanals of land to the ERRA for initiating development schemes. He added that the authority had not developed any school, college, hospital and other welfare departments in the area.

During the hearing, an official of the ERRA informed the court the authority was facing difficult in getting ownership of the land, adding that the project will be completed in two year if land is provided.

To which, CJP Nisar remarked if the victims will leave without roof until the project is completed. He observed that the former finance minister Ishaq Dar should appear before the court to explain the utilization of the funds. He also remarked that spending funds of earthquake victims on other projects was a crime.

The chief justice also asked secretary finance Arif Ahmed Khan about the funds, saying whether the funds were added to national exchequer or not.

Khan replied that the funds for development projects were released on yearly basis. Responding to another question, the secretary said that Pakistan received $2.89 billion funds for donors but denied possessing the funds record.

A representative of the ERRA informed the court that the authority need additional Rs37 billion to complete the projects. He further said that that the federal government released Rs 1.9 billion funds while the donors released Rs100 billion. He added that Rs5.3 billion have been spent in these projects since 2006.

Expressing anger over the government inaction for the development of earthquake victims, the chief justice decided to visit the area personally. Questioning the performance of ERRA, the chief justice remarked that relatives were hired in the department.

The chief justice said that the court will hear the problems of locals. He also ordered all authorities concerned to reach the area.

 

According to a report of a sessions judge appointed by the apex court to visit the area, nothing was done in areas hit by earthquake in 2005.

The chief justice on Tuesday expressed dissatisfaction over the reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts of ERRA and summoned the Auditor General of Pakistan and finance secretary to apprise the court of the utilisation of around $6 billion financial assistance sent by the international community for the victims.

Brigadier Zafar (retd), an official of ERRA, at last hearing informed the court that the authority was only executing department that worked on the scehmes announced by the government, adding that funds extended by donors are received by the government.