ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing committee on Housing and Works on Thursday directed Ministry of Housing and Works to auction all petrol pumps and shops under its possession after the leases expire.
The details were shared during a senate panel meeting in parliament after which the committee was surprised to hear that the petrol pumps and shops were leased out for ‘peanuts’. The committee was briefed that the ministry’s 273 shops in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar in residential areas and nine petrol pumps in Karachi were rented out on an amount fixed four years ago.
“This is totally shocking to me as a shop on main Shahrah-e-Faisal is paying Rs1,600 to 30,000 in rent while petrol pumps in other main areas were rented out at Rs56,000,” said the committee chairman Mir Kabeer. He asked the ministry’s official about the reason for application of such meager amount.
The ministry estate officer said that the rents allotted were from 1950s and 1980s and the ministry faced strong opposition when it opted to increase the rents. “Many shopkeepers in Peshawar and Karachi have moved cases in courts, which are pending for as long as 15 years,” the officer added.
The committee chairman said that the ministry was not following the cases with proper effort to resolve the matter otherwise the cases would not have been in court for 15 years.
Housing and Works Secretary Imran Zeb said that the court intervention was intentional on part of the occupiers and many had to pay outstanding in billions.
National Highway Authority Director General replied that the rents were way less than the market rate and they recommended 25 per cent increase in the existing rent but they were hamstrung by stay orders from courts.
The committee was further told that in 2017-18 the ministry initiated 83 new projects at the estimated cost of Rs4.1 billion for which allocation of Rs1.5 billion was made and release of Rs70 million were made. Similarly, only Rs43 million have been spent on the projects which include construction of new secretariat in Islamabad, constructing new building for National Accountability Bureau (NAB), conference hall in the PM house among other mega projects. The committee was also informed that the ministry had generated Rs82.76 million against rented hostels and lodges in Islamabad, Karachi and Quetta.
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