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ISLAMABAD: The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Wednesday ordered the formation of a committee comprising officials of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), and the Auditor General for Pakistan to investigate $3 billion interest-free loans given to 628 businessmen during Covid-19 pandemic by the previous government of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and report back in two weeks.

The committee which met here with PAC Chairman Noor Alam Khan, a dissident of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), held an in-camera meeting a day ago and agreed to dispose of the matter, but he changed his mind and ordered the formation of a committee to probe into $3 billion interest-free loans given to businessmen during the PTI government.

Referring to the in-camera meeting of the committee held a day ago, the PAC chairman said that the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor, Jameel Ahmad, briefed the committee about$3 billion interest-free loan to businessmen during the PTI government, but he did not provide the name of the banks.

Syed Ghulam Mustafa Shah, a member of the committee, said: “It’s a huge amount and the matter should be sent to the NAB or the FIA”. Birjis Tahir, another member of the panel, said that bestowing 628 individuals with $3 billion interest-free loan which becomes Rs9 billion is no joke and the matter should be thoroughly investigated. Afzal Dhandla, a member of the committee, said that the purpose for which the loan was given should also be ascertained.

WajihaQamar said that the media reports that the issue has been disposed of, to which, the PAC chairman said that “$3 billion dollars is a huge amount and the issue will be settled once it’s properly investigated”.

Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Center Talha Mehmood especially attended the PAC after the PAC chairman claimed massive irregularities during Hajj 2023.

Mehmood said that he was perturbed over the remakes passed by the PAC chairman as he should not have said such things through the platform of the top parliamentary watchdog without having any evidence.

He came down hard at the PAC chairman, saying he has completely tarnished the image of the top parliamentary panel, adding the PAC must apologise for his remarks about Hajj 2023 as he is ready for any kind of accountability.

“I have come to hold you [Noor Alam] accountable”, he lamented.

Birjis Tahir, a committee member, pacified the enraged minister, saying the issue could be sorted through talks as it is not the right place to discuss such things.

The PAC chairman was left-red faced as he had nothing to substantiate his claim about the remarks passed against the poor Hajj arrangements. The PAC also took notice of the inordinate delay in buying arms for Frontier Constabulary (FC) despite making all the payments five years ago.

The PAC chairman directed secretaries for interior and defence production to hold a probe into the matter and report back to the committee.

The audit officials told the panel that Rs27 core was paid to the Pakistan Ordinance Factory (POF) for the purchase of over 3,000 Kalashnikov rifles for the FC personnel deployed in Swat and other parts of Malakand division, but the national arms producer company sought additional Rs7.2 million under the pretext of rupee depreciation.

They said that Rs7.2m was paid to POF but it is yet to provide the required arms to FC despite pocketing all the payment five years ago without citing any reason.

However, the inspector general FC told the committee that according to the agreement, POF Wah was supposed to supply AK-47 Kalashnikov rifles to FC, but later it was decided that AK-103 Kalashnikov would be imported from Russia instead, and due to international sanctions on Russia, the import could not be possible.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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