A series of talk shows aired by a senior journalist in January this year on what he called “illegal acts of a non-governmental organisation (Pakistan Foreign Office Women Association)” have sown seeds of discord between the Foreign Office (FO) and the Capital Development Authority (CDA), Pakistan Today has learnt.
The news made some rounds, as the Standing Committee on Cabinet (Secretariat) took up the matter and called CDA Chairman Maroof Afzal and Foreign Office officials to present their case.
The PFOWA is a registered welfare and charity organisation that has a long history of raising funds and pursuing many charitable activities on purely voluntary basis.
Back in 1995, the PFOWA was allocated a plot by the then prime minister Benazir Bhutto. The Association was supposed to pay a sum of Rs 13.5 million, but due to non-payment the allocation was suspended for 10 years till 2005.
The Association however could not actualise the purpose it had got the plot for – i.e. education for needy children – since it lacked the funds to build the infrastructure and expertise required to run a school of a greater size on its own.
Initially, the National Rural Support Programme (NRSP) was roped in to initiate the project, but the NRSP soon pulled out of the joint venture, realising the fact that the amount required to undertake the project was huge.
Later, the PFOWA invited an expression of interest (EOI) from Preston University, Beaconhouse School System, The City School, Bloomfield Hall Schools, Roots Millennium Schools, and Roots International. It finally picked Roots Millennium Schools which emerged as the most competitive of all and inked an agreement with it on December 23, 2014.
Under the deal, Roots Millennium Schools will spend Rs 500 million on the building of the school, while the children of FO employees will be given 50 per cent discount among other perks. Furthermore, there will be a vocational training programme for the widows of FO employees while three per cent funds from the school’s annual revenue will be spent on many social causes by the PFOWA.
The lease will stay in the name of PFOWA, while Roots Millennium Schools will run, manage and build the school under the terms and conditions agreed upon between the two parties.
Meanwhile, the Senate Standing Committee held a hearing on the issue in January and after lending ear to both the CDA chairman and Foreign Office, upheld the FO’s stance and resolved the issue.
Talking to Pakistan Today, FO spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said the Foreign Office was the face that represented Pakistan all over the world and worked day in and day out to manage the repute of the country and increase its standing before the comity of nations.
About the PFOWA, he said the Association was formed to work for the betterment of children and low-paid staff of the FO. “It is a voluntary organisation and our wives don’t take a single penny for services they do,” he added.
He said the anchorperson who ran talk shows against the PFOWA wanted to taint the Foreign Office’s repute. “No matter what they aim to do, the PFOWA will keep doing everything in its capacity to alleviate poverty and help the needy living among us,” added the spokesperson.
When contacted spokesperson for the CDA Ramzan Sajid refused to comment, saying the issue was under scrutiny of the standing committee.