muhammad khan bhatti

Funds for two districts being spent by two families

ISLAMABAD: Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi first granted his home district the status of division and then allocated over Rs100 billion for the development schemes.

They were apparently for the two districts — Gujrat and Mandi Bahauddin — but it turns out that 70 percent of the funds are for the constituencies of two families.

The non-developmental expenditures to incur on building paraphernalia for all divisional offices in Gujrat are separate from the above-mentioned funds. According to reports, the Punjab government had a surplus of around Rs440 billion in its accounts when the budget was passed in June of this year. Funds for Gujrat and Mandi Bahauddin have been paid from this amount, according to a source.

Details available with The News suggest that around Rs700 billion are the total budget allocation for Punjab’s Annual Development Programme (2022-23), of which a significant portion went to Gujrat division, comprising four small districts—Gujrat, Mandi Bahauddin, Wazirabad, and Hafizabad—although the lion’s share was kept within the two families.

The major beneficiaries from Gujrat are the constituencies of Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, Chaudhry Moonis Elahi, and Chaudhry Hussain Elahi, who is the son of Chaudhry Wajahat Hussain.

From Mandi Bahauddin, Sajid Bhatti received the highest grant among all MPAs. He is the nephew of Muhammad Khan Bhatti and the parliamentary leader of the PMLQ in the Punjab Assembly.

Details of tenders floated for development work in his provincial constituency suggest the volume of the fund is more than Rs 15 billion. It is learnt that 50 percent of projects related to road repair are those where development was carried out in the previous four years. According to a source, around 90 percent of the payment has been made, whereas only 20 percent of the work has been completed.

The News sent questions to Moonis. He said he wasn’t sure about the number of schemes but confirmed they had been approved for the Gujrat division. He justified the allocation for them by saying that one shouldn’t forget that a single scheme of Rs80 billion has been approved to elevate the expressway for Lahore. However, he didn’t reply when asked about the worth of schemes approved for the above-mentioned constituencies.

He said that his father was not the CM at the time schemes were approved (during budget). When informed that the schemes were approved through supplementary grants and that this was done after his father became chief minister, he said that the dates be double-checked. The News confirmed that CM Pervaiz Elahi had approved them.

Most of the development schemes have been approved in haste and without proper feasibility studies. This lavish spending of public money in a few constituencies without proper diligence raises questions about the abuse of funds and is also in violation of the apex court orders.

Before Pervaiz Elahi became CM at the end of July this year, 164 schemes worth Rs9 billion were approved for Gujrat and Mandi Bahauddin. Afterward, the budget for these two districts first increased to Rs 54 billion and then to over Rs100 billion.

Now, there are 113 schemes worth over Rs45 billion in one constituency alone, where Pervaiz Elahi is MPA (PP-80) and his son is MNA (NA-69). Another Rs10 billion for 103 schemes have been allocated for the area falling in the constituency of Hussain Elahi (NA-68). As many as 116 schemes have been approved for Mandi Bahauddin. The majority of them are in PP-67, Bhatti’s constituency, and their worth is around Rs 20 billion.

All the schemes introduced after the initial allocation of 164 are being funded through supplementary grants approved at a time when the flood-affected areas needed resources the most. What happened, however, was quite the opposite. The budget for affected areas like Dera Ghazi Khan and Bhakkar was cut. Bahawalnagar and Khushab’s budgets have also decreased.

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