PAC clamps down on using mosques, other places as ‘cover’ for encroaching govt land


The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Sindh Assembly has recommended to the provincial government to bind all district coordination officers (DCOs) of the province to seek mandatory approval for construction of mosques and other places of worship on government land. The recommendation came during a PAC meeting on Thursday to review audit reports of the Sindh Local Government Department.
Participants of the meeting, chaired by PAC Chairman Jam Tamachi Unnar, discussed 24 audit paras of years 2006-07 to 2008-09, deferred two of them for want of record, and settled the remaining. The PAC was informed that land grabbers were utilizing the cover of these worship places for encroaching government land. In turn, the committee not only issued the recommendation to the Sindh government but also directed the Local Government Department to write a letter to all DCOs to seek details of all property owned by the department, including those that are encroached or given on lease.
The PAC also suggested that DCOs should ensure that the creation of new religious places within their districts should be made in consultation with religious scholars of different sects. The committee also suggested that a signboard should be erected on every property owned by the department to prevent any encroachments. Local Government Secretary Ali Ahmed Lund informed the PAC that taluka municipal authorities enjoy powers to initiate action against illegal encroachments as well as vacating encroached upon lands, but officials of the department are helpless in the face of political influence.
The secretary said that despite these hurdles, efforts are being made to stop land-grabbing and encroachments. He argued that the government has set up an Anti-Encroachment Cell in the Local Government Department while a separate police force has also been formed to curb the menace. He said that the special anti-encroachment force has been able to vacate several acres of land in different parts of the province, especially in Karachi. Another matter which came under discussion at the PAC meeting was financial irregularities in district governments and taluka municipal administrations.
It was pointed out to the PAC members that there is no provision in relevant laws that allow the committee to discuss such irregularities. Secretary of the Sindh Assembly, Hadi Bux Buriro, also confirmed the legal position and suggested that the PAC could be handed a mandate to deliberate these matters through a resolution of the provincial assembly. Later, it was decided that PAC member Ghulam Mujadid Isran would move a resolution during the forthcoming session of the Sindh Assembly. The PAC also finalized a draft for the resolution.