KARACHI - Sindh Auqaf Department had leased out thousands of acres of agriculture land worth billions of rupees on nominal price in the province. MQM parliamentary leader in Sindh Assembly and provincial minister Syed Sardar Ahmed informed the legislators about this scam during question-hour session on Monday. The Provincial Assembly met under the chair of Deputy Speaker Shehla Raza and took up the questions regarding Minority Affairs, Women Development and Auqaf Departments. Provincial Minister Syed Sardar Ahmed, on behalf of concerned minister for Auqaf Department, answered the questions. Arif Mustafa Jatoi from opposition benches asked about the total district-wise revenue from the lease of agriculture land owned by Auqaf Department during the period from 1st July 2005 to June 2008. In his written answer, Minister Auqaf Department said that at least 6,883.01 acres land in Mirpurkhas and Badin, 450 acres in Sehwan, 3,076 acres in Thatta, 384 acres in Larkana and 108 acres of land in Sukkur districts was leased out during above-mentioned period. Meanwhile, Arif Mustafa Jatoi of NPP presented the estimate that Auqaf Department had leased out thousands acres of agriculture land on nominal prices of Rs831 per acre in Mirpurkhas. He offered that he could pay a better price to government of this land. Sardar Ahmed affirmed Jatois point and blamed the centuries-old system, which was being followed by present government. He informed the House that Auqaf Department had leased out agriculture land on average price of Rs831 per acre in Mirpurkhas, Rs160 per acre in Thatta, Rs672 in Sehwan and Rs158 in Sukkur districts. Replying to queries from various members, Provincial Minister argued that dysfunctional system in the country facilitated this land scam therefore it should be improved. He further said that Auqaf Department has prepared a comprehensive plan to bring drastic changes in the department. Replying to a question, Minister for Minorities Dr. Mohan Lal said the population of minorities had increased to 2.643 million in 1998 census from 1.471 million in 1981. He pointed out that population of Parsis has decreased in the province due to migration to other countries as well as unique system of marriage. He added that Hindus, Sikhs, Ahmadis, Parsis, schedule castes and other communities were also part of minority population in the country. Speaking on the issue, Syed Sardar Ahmed said that there was no provision for scheduled castes in the constitution, so this word should not be used for minorities. Provincial Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination, Makhdoom Jameeluz Zaman suggested that the Constitution amended in order to delete the word 'minority as all countrymen were equal. Meanwhile, a member of the House sought explanation for declaring shrines as sensitive areas. The minister concerned stood up to reply but Deputy Speaker did not allow him to speak arguing the question pertained to Home Department. She, however, herself replied that the present security situation was the reason behind this decision. To a question, Minister for Women Development, Tauqir Fatima Bhutto said that government had initiated various projects while five day-care centres were functioning in Karachi where working women leave their children till their return from job in the evening. She pointed out that government had decided to set up such centres in all towns of the city.