iSLAMABAD - Senior government officials seem to be above law when it comes to illegal occupation of luxurious official residences in Islamabad while those trying to uphold the policy of merit in allotment of houses in light of the historic Supreme Court judgment have landed in a quagmire due to political support for the unauthorised occupants.
In 2011, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had passed a judgment in which the Estate Office and the Ministry of Housing and Works were directed to ensure implementation of the Accommodation Allocation Rules 2002. These rules underline the eligibility of the occupants and the procedure for eviction of the unauthorised occupants.
But official documents available with The Nation reveal that despite the directions of the apex court, the Estate Office is still under influence of the powerful unauthorised occupants for whom the judgment of the court is mere a piece of a paper.
In an effort to comply with the court directions, the Estate Office last month moved for evicting illegal occupants from the luxury government accommodation but now it seems to be under pressure after intervention of the powerful quarters.
One such case is that of the former chairman of Employees Old Age Benefit (EOBI), who is absconding from the legal action after allegation of corruption worth billions of rupees. He was allotted an accommodation in posh F-6/3 sector of Islamabad, in violation of the rules. When the Estate Officer issued Show Cause followed by eviction notice early this month, a stay order was issued by Senate Chairman Nayyar Hussain Bukhari and the matter was referred to the Senate Standing Committee chaired by Mr Shahi Syed.
According to officials, there was no legal provision for senate chairman to issue stay order in matters which fall in the jurisdiction of the courts, or to even discuss such issues in senate committees. "The chairman not only came to the rescue of the illegal occupant; a stay order was issued with his signatures and the issue was later brought on the agenda of the senate standing committee," an official confided to this scribe.
"During the discussions, pressure was exerted on the officers of the Estate Officer present in the committee meeting that there should be no eviction of the unauthorised occupant. Minister of State for Housing and Works Usman Ibrahim present in the meeting gave his silent approval in favour of the accused bureaucrat from Gujranwala (minister's home district)," a source informed.
But this is not the only case of its kind as other senior government officials, who are supposed to abide by the law, too have been illegally occupying government accommodation in sheer violation of the rules. A powerful police officer, who retired in 2008, is still occupying a government accommodation. After his retirement, he got a plush appointment as Ombudsman with a handsome pay package. "His job contract ended almost a year back but the ‘Ombudsman’ himself is acting above the law and rules that he was supposed to uphold," a source said.
Similarly a Grade-22 officer of District Management Group (DMG), who retired in January 2013, is still occupying a government house. On record, however, he had vacated the house in March 2014 (although the rules do not permit occupation after 6 months of the date of retirement). Despite the vacation on paper, he is living in the house with his name plate still on the gate and the government vehicles parked in the porch.
An officer of Pakistan State Oil (PSO), who is getting a market pay from the rich corporation and is not entitled to a government accommodation, is occupying subsidised accommodation. A retired Grade-19 teacher, who is close to a senator from Karachi, is occupying a house meant for Grade 21-22, but she will never vacate the house even after her retirement.
A lady doctor in Grade 17 was allotted a house meant for Grade 20 officers. Even after a lapse of 20 years, such illegal occupation has not been got vacated, though she still serves in Grade 19. Another lady working as Deputy Commissioner of Income Tax Group in Grade 18 was allotted a Grade 20 house in 2012 soon after the apex court came with a judgment in 2011 regarding implementation of the Accommodation Allocation Rules 2002.
A lady Director (Grade 18) in FC College for Women is occupying a Grade 20 house while another lady doctor (Grade 17) working in Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) occupies a Grade-20 house, which was also allotted after the judgment of the apex court. A lady officer of Customs in Grade 18 is occupying a house meant for Federal Secretaries while an officer of Board of Investment (BOI), who is related to a former PM, enjoys a luxury house to which he is not entitled.
Two police officers (one in BS 18 and another in BS 17) are occupying two houses in Sector I-8/1 which are entitled for officers in BS 20-22. A deputy director of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) (Grade 18) is also occupying such a house in Sector I-8/1. A private individual, who was appointed as coordinator by the former PM, is still occupying a house despite being no more in that position since past one year.
Documents reveal that some officers of National Assembly Secretariat and Senate Secretariat are also occupying houses above their entitlement while an officer of Customs in Grade 19, related to the former PM, is occupying a house meant for federal secretaries. Sources said there were officers, who after being posted abroad and enjoying house rents in foreign exchange, were still occupying some houses in Islamabad. Although Estate Office has issued notices to unauthorised occupants, there seems little chance of getting these houses vacated due to political pressure.