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The Upper House of the Parliament on Friday passed a key government bill namely 'The Federal Government Employees Housing Authority Bill, 2019,' which aims at "planning and development of housing schemes for serving and retired federal government employees and other specified groups."
Minister for Housing and Works Tariq Bashir Cheema presented the bill in the Senate session. The bill had first landed in the Senate on April 25, 2019, and was referred to the relevant Senate standing committee, and remained under its review for months before being finally passed by the Senate panel and eventually by the house.
According to the draft of bill, the federal government shall, by notification in the official Gazette, establish the Federal Government Employees Housing Authority, within 30 days of the commencement of this Act.
"The Authority shall be a body corporate having perpetual succession and common seal with power to purchase, procure through acquisition or otherwise, land as well as movable and immovable properties and assets with the object to hold, possess, sell, lease, transfer, exchange any property including landed property and to regulate the schemes undertaken by it in the specified area."
The bill points to the incompetence of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) regarding its mismanagement in the sectors G-13 and G-14 of the federal capital. "Maintenance of existing schemes is not possible without the status of authority, thus the residents are suffering badly because of poor facilities and lack of basic utility services. {In the sectors G-13 and G-14, the CDA is neither performing nor allowing FGEHF (Federal Government Employees Housing Foundation) to provide basic services by collecting requisite revenues and disposal of assets)," it says.
Furthermore, the bill which is extended to the whole of Pakistan mainly deals with the complexities regarding the land acquisition. "The process of land acquisition and securing approvals of layout plans to launch any project is extremely complex and time-consuming and dependent on other regulatory bodies (development authorities and district administrations) (Two major schemes i.e. F- l4 and Park Enclave are pending adjudication in Supreme Court on land acquisition issues)- Therefore, there is an urgent need of a body to expedite the projects on fast track basis by establishing a one window facility through legislation, so as to address the above narrated issues."
Moreover, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah presented 'The Mutual Legal Assistance (Criminal Matters) Bill, 2019,' which has been referred to the relevant Senate standing committee for review. The bill has already been passed by the National Assembly. The bill seeks to authorize the government authorities to "make a request on behalf of Pakistan to the appropriate authority of a country for mutual legal assistance in any investigation commenced, or proceedings instituted in Pakistan relating to a criminal offence committed, or suspected on reasonable grounds to have been committed within or outside that country; receive and deal with requests received from the appropriate authority of a country for mutual legal assistance in any investigation commenced, or proceedings instituted in that country relating to an offence committed, or suspected on reasonable grounds to have been committed within or outside that country."
Meanwhile, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senators Sherry Rehman and Sassui Palijo slammed the federal government, especially the Petroleum Division, for sending highly inflated bills to the gas consumers and "crippling shortage of gas in harsh winter season all across the country which has affected both domestic and commercial consumers."
The senators urged the Petroleum Division to take "practicable and pro-people measures" to ensure that the consumers are not over-billed like last year and ensure gas availability across the country.
The Senate would meet again on Monday at 3:00pm.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020