LAHORE – Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker Rana Mashood  on Monday constituted a 4-member MPAs committee to know the reasons behind the Auqaf Department’s failure to retrieve land from illegal occupants and why the lease money of the land did not commensurate with the market price.

The session of the Punjab Assembly started at 3:45pm, 45-minute late of the scheduled time, with Deputy Speaker in the Chair to take up questions on the Auqaf Department in the first hour which were responded to by the Minister, Haji Ehsanud Din Qureshi.

The question relating to the retrieval of the Auqaf land took special view of the House partly for the reason, unsatisfactory answers were provided by the department and partly for the reason, the government action against the Qabza mafia was not adequate despite an year 2005 order by the SC to get the land vacated after its lease were cancelled. The department answered that over 300 kanals of residential and commercial land was being illegally possessed in the Lahore and the Minister gave litigation as the main reason for inability to get the same vacated. The Opposition members pointed out that the scheme under which the land was given on lease has been declared illegal by the SC seven years ago but the department did not take action and let the occupants to build houses and the commercial sites on the land. The Minister said that notices have been sent to the occupants while court decision is awaited on the cases of those who again approached the court of law. The members said after SC decision action was required by the department but its negligence let the matter linger on. Umza Bokhari and Sajida Mir said it could not have happened without collusion of the officers with qabza mafia and the matter should be probed. The chair observed that the department failed to address the question properly and prima facie showed negligence and obduracy and formed a committee comprising the Minister, Ajasam Sharif, Sajida Mir, and Naveem Anjum to probe the issue and report the House.

To a question the Minister said a number of the Shrines in the Province were being privately managed and no account is maintained on the amount collected there. He said no tax is charged on the money put in the coffers of the Shrines.

To a question from Khadija Umer, the Minister said no survey has ever been conducted to know the exact number of shrines in the province as well as how many are being held by the ghaddi nasheen.  Seemal Kamran asked question on overcharging at Darbar Data Sahib on shoes keeping and the Minister agreed that it was going on despite the facts, various methods have been employed to check it.  He said to a question that contract for shoes keeping at the Darbar was awarded to one Abid Dogar for Rs 1.775crore in open auction in 2010-11 however he defaulted on the payment of installments and his contract was cancelled and proceedings were on against him for the recovery of the rest of Rs 38.78lakh.