ISLAMABAD: Almost 400 of Pakistan’s senior civil servants have been given one prime government plot each, collectively worth Rs25 billion, in Islamabad over the last 15 years, media reported Saturday, citing exclusive official details.
These luxurious plots are located at the heart of the federal capital. They were allotted to top civil servants (BS-22) under a ‘contentious’ policy that was approved previous governments, the publication reported.
All the plots measure 500 square yards each and have a joint market value of Rs25 billion.
The top civil servants include judges, federal secretaries, director generals and heads of different autonomous bodies. They collectively only paid Rs1.6 billion to acquire the government plots, the report revealed.
These civil servants, of whom almost 80% had already been superannuated, had received an additional piece of land (1 kanal) each under the ‘contentious’ scheme, which had been either suspended, stopped or scrapped from time to time in previous regimes of Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, PPP and PML-N since 2006.
“In view of the current government’s policy of introducing incentives for senior civil servants, the government should review its policy of providing an additional plot to officers of BS-22,” wrote Younis Dhaga, the then secretary in-charge for housing and works, in a special summary, sent to then prime minister Nawaz Sharif on July 10, 2014.
But in May 2015, the then premier revived the policy of allotting one extra plot to BS-22 officers, suspending his own directions to stop that perquisite, official records showed.
The records revealed that around three dozen senior civil servants, most of whom are now retired, were collectively given more than four plots each from the Police Foundation, Capital Development Authority and the Federal Government Employees Housing Foundation (FGEHF) during that period.
Another 34 officers of BS-22, all of them retired, could not get this extra one-kanal plot under that scheme and some of them challenged the “true spirit of the scheme” in court. It had also been questioned by the federal cabinet in 2014 and by then Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah and Supreme Court judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa last year.
The plots in question were located Islamabad’s sectors E-7, E-11, G-11, D-12, F-14, F-15, the records showed.
The Public Accounts Committee, the highest accountability forum of the elected representatives, termed it a “controversial” policy and recommended stopping allocation of plots to judges, generals, bureaucrats, journalists and others at low prices.
Among those were given an extra plot were over 40 superior court judges, including four former chief justices, five DGs of FIA, six principal secretaries, 17 chief secretaries of provinces, 16 interior secretaries, 11 establishment secretaries, 18 cabinet secretaries, 10 chairmen of FBR, 17 inspector-generals of police, 11 CDA chairmen, four Supreme Court registrars, seven secretaries to the president and many other secretaries.
The wives of around a dozen senior civil servants, too, got an extra plot.
In an allotment bid held recently, more than two dozen secretaries got one extra choice piece of land in sector F-14 and F-15 by paying a nominal price of Rs5 million to Rs7 million each for those plots which have a market value of between Rs40 million to Rs60 million each, depending upon their location.
The difference between the market value of the plot and the concessional value determined for allotment is a taxable perquisite.
However, no civil servant offered that value for taxing, unlawfully making it a tax-free prerequisite due to FBR’s failure to enforce tax laws upon the bureaucrats, a senior tax official said.
The law ministry said, in its findings, that the allotment of plots to government officials and others is illegal in 2013, the official documents revealed.
In its summary to the FGEHF, the ministry recommended that the practice of blue-eyed officers must be “banished and buried forever”.