ISLAMABAD - In a significant development, a parliamentary panel has recommended the appointment of the administrators at Defence Housing Authorities (DHAs) by the Ministry of Defence, instead of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS).

Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed chaired the session of the Senate Standing Committee on Defence and Defence Production on Monday that saw tough ‘grilling’ of the defence officials at the hands of the lawmakers due to apparent non-compliance with the committees’ recommendations on part of the authorities concerned in defence sector.

Reviewing the administrative working of the DHA Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad/Rawalpindi, the committee voiced concern over the fact that the MoD did not have any administrative role in the appointment of the DHA administrators despite the secretary defence being chairman of Governing Bodies (GBs) at the DHAs.

Senator Farhatullah Babar categorically noted that the practice of picking a DHA administrator as per the choice of the army chief must come to an end.

“The secretary defence and MoD have the due powers to appoint the administrators and this power shall be exercised by them,” he said, adding that civilian representation in the DHA GBs and Executive Boards (EBs) should be enhanced and the powers to make rules should also vest in the government instead of the EBs.

The defence committee members were stunned when informed that the Military Lands & Cantonments (ML&C) Department had decided to cancel the lease deed of allottees of 25 plots of land allotted to them through open bidding in 1998 by the Punjab government at the site of the old jail and that the entire chunk of the land will be acquired by it under the Land Acquisition Act 1984.

Senator Babar said that the owners had made full payment, got the building plans approved and were also ‘armed’ with a High Court verdict directing that the allottees be permitted to build houses on the plots.

The Senate committee on also took stock of the reportedly ‘inhuman’ treatment meted out at the lawmakers as well as the civilians in cantonment localities, particularly in Abbottabad and Peshawar.

The committee, officials said, took up the issue, after the MoD showed negligence in taking any action against this practice.

“If lawmakers are treated this way, I wonder how would the ordinary public be treated,” Mushahid remarked. “Such inhuman treatment must be stopped and the authorities concerned at the cantonment localities must mend their fences before we recommend a strong action against them.” Expressing annoyance over the declining performance record of the PIA, the Senate panel said that the national airline had failed to show improvement despite the injection of billions of rupees.