LAHORE (APP) - Hundreds of thousands of poor and deserving people in Punjab are likely to be once again deprived of Zakat money, owing to non-existence of Zakat committees at provincial, district and local level. Punjab Zakat and Ushar Departments Secretary Kazi Afaq Hussain told APP here Sunday that the Zakat committees are still not constituted in the province for distribution of Zakat funds. The Punjab comprised one provincial, 36 districts and around 26,000 local Zakat committees, he added. The Zakat and Ushar Secretary said, the Central Zakat Committee did not release the Punjabs share of 56 per cent of the total Zakat funds, which was Rs 2.40 billion last year, in the absence of Zakat committees. This year, I have yet to receive the data of Zakat collection as well as the share of Punjab in this regard, he responded to a question. Kazi said the Zakat committees were abolished by the present government in 2008, considering that previous regime had formed these on political basis in violation of the Zakat and Ushar Ordinance 1980. The audit of Zakat committees chairmen, members and officials of the Zakat and Ushar Department is under way and action had been taken against several erring persons, he maintained. To a question, he elaborated the banks deduct 2.5 percent Zakat from their account-holders on every first Ramazan and transferred this amount to the State Bank of Pakistan. The Zakat is distributed on population basis right from centre to provincial, district and local level committees, he maintained. The seven-member Local Zakat Committee comprising notable people of the respective area, teacher/an Alem and two women, is the ultimate authority for determining the deserving people and distribution of Zakat funds, he responded to a question. To another question, he said the provincial department had been spending 60 percent of the Zakat funds on Guzara Allowance under which every poorest family was receiving Rs 500 per month, however, the government abolished this allowance due to massive corruption committed by the distributors at department and committees level. Now this 60 percent of the Zakat funds would be diverted to other five heads including health, education, religious seminaries, marriages of the poor girls and old rehabilitation package, he added. To a query, he said, now the poor segments of the societies are being benefited largely under Benazir Income Support Programme and Punjab Food Support Scheme.