Dysfunctional Baitul Mal council deprives thousands of financial aid

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LAHORE: Thousands of needy people have been deprived of financial assistance from Punjab Baitul Mal as its council has been lying dysfunctional for the past six months, Pakistan Today has learnt. With the holy month of Ramzan just around the corner, the economically weak people have been left further distressed owing to the absence of the said council.

The Punjab Baitul Mal disburses millions of rupees among the needy and poor people of Punjab annually. Baitul Mal’s council has prime importance in the department as no funds can be disbursed without its approval. The basic function of the council is to provide relief and financial rehabilitation to the poor, particularly deserving widows and orphans. Besides this, the council also provides educational assistance to needy students while also disbursing funds in term of medical assistance.

According to the Punjab Baitul Mal Act 1991, the Punjab chief minister nominates the head of the council, who is called the ‘Ameen’. Following the nomination, the chief minister names another 14 members of the council with the consultation of the Ameen. While four among the said 14 are government officials, the other 10 are unofficial members, mostly renowned social workers who are eminent in the fields of education and health or are committed for the cause of public welfare. The 10 are appointed on an honorary basis.

Sources in Baitul Mal told Pakistan Today that since the council was dysfunctional, the welfare work being carried out by the department had been halted. “As the holy month of Ramzan is arriving, the poor and needy are seeking support from the department,” they said while adding that the last council was dissolved in November after the completion of its three-year tenure and according to the rules, they said, the members for the new council must be nominated soon after the previous one was dissolved.

They said that the previous council, which was formed on November 15, 2014, consisted of ten unofficial members who belonged to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). “Among the members were MNA Nighat Parveen from Rawalpindi, MNA Perveen Masood Bhatti from Bahawalpur, MPA Manshaullah from Sialkot, MNA Shahnaz Saleem from Dera Ghazi Khan, MNA Mehar Ishtiaq Ahmed from Lahore, MNA Chaudhry Hamid Hameed from Sargodha, ex-MNA Haji Irfan Daha from Multan, MNA Khalida Mansoor from Faisalabad and MNA Chaudhry Muhammad Munir Azhar from Sahiwal,” sources added.

They also claimed that the Ameen had nominated the same members, belonging to the ruling party, for the next council so that they could disburse funds while gaining political mileage for the upcoming general elections.

Speaking to Pakistan Today, Punjab Baitul Maal Ameen Malik Suleman Mangla told that the department had already forwarded the summary of council’s members to the Punjab chief minister and it would be approved within a week.

“We have nominated the same members for the next three years,” he said while replying to a question and added that soon after the approval, the department would start disbursing funds among the deserving people.

“We have a list of applicants and all the funds will be distributed in a transparent way regardless the political affiliations of anyone,” he added.