Despite serious financial constraints, a Mercedes Benz car is about to be purchased for Punjab Governor Salman Taseer’s ‘fleet of vehicles’ at more than Rs25 million. Official documents suggest that owing to the financial position of the provincial government, Rs25.4 million would be drawn in advance through a supplementary grant before the close of the current financial year as a special case, by relaxing rules. The government of Punjab had imposed in October last year “a complete ban on purchase of vehicles, refurbishment, interior deco ration of offices, establishment of new offices, furniture and fixture, procurement of generators, air-conditioners and other luxury items etc”. A few weeks back, the federal government slashed the Public Sector Development Programme for the current year by more than 45 per cent to Rs250 billion from the budgetary allocation of Rs446 billion because of a severe financial crisis and rising fiscal deficit, halting development activities for public welfare. In December, the federal cabinet announced wide-ranging austerity measures to curtail government expenditure, restricted the entourage of the president and the prime minister to seven vehicles and that of governors and chief ministers to six vehicles. It also announced use of only locally manufactured vehicles and armoured vehicles for official purposes. The approval for the purchase of Mercedes for the governor was given by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. Since the expenditure is to be incurred by the provincial government, the chief minister also has approved the costly purchase in violation of his government’s policy decisions. The policy directive issued by the provincial government bans such extravagance, envisages reduction in expenditure and calls for observing austerity and ensuring economical use of public resources. A circular issued on Oct 9 said that any departure if warranted under ‘unavoidable circumstances’ would only be considered and recommended by an austerity committee constituted by chief minister. “The recommendations so formulated are to be submitted to the chief minister for appropriate orders.” The committee was not consulted for the procurement of the Mercedes. Documents suggest that the chief minister initially suggested that the governor’s secretariat should request Mr Taseer to consider whether such an expensive pur chase could be postponed in the present financial situation. However, he later sanctioned the Rs25.4 million price estimate of Shahnawaz Ltd when the governor concluded that the vehicle was critically important for carrying out official business. The governor was of the view that since the Mercedes cars of Governor’s House were also used by VVIPs and foreign dignitaries during visits to Lahore, the new vehicle must be part of the governor’s fleet. He said the purchase could not be postponed for an indefinite period and almost six months had already passed since the initial request. Sources close to the chief minis ter said the new Mercedes was not justified on the basis of VVIP duties and for foreign dignitaries because bullet-proof vehicles were available in Lahore for the president and the prime minister and for foreign dignitaries. A source close to the governor said the car being purchased would replace an old vehicle purchased in 1994 for official use. He said the old car had been declared unfit for VIP use. He said that since the federal cabinet division had conveyed the approval of the prime minister for the purchase or import of the car, there was no need for the provincial government to get its approval from the austerity committee.

In yet another criminal case involving a PML-N figure, the Mozang police have registered a case against MPA Malik Feroze Joya, his brother Munir Joya and a son in a car fraud case. Munir Joya is the RTA secretary.

The police, who have yet to arrest any of the suspects, claim that Joya brothers are not found guilty in the hitherto (police) investigation.

Architect Hassan Jameel Chaudhry of Faisal Town’s HBFC scheme has accused the MPA, his brother and son Umer Feroze Joya of taking away his car worth Rs1.8 million parked at Canal Motors. They got it registered in the name of Umer Feroze in connivance with the Punjab Excise and Taxation Department, he said.

He stated in his application that he had parked his new car he had bought in January 2010 at Canal Motors owned by Rana Qaiser Nazir for sale on Feb 11. He said evidence and discussions with ex-employees of Canal Motors revealed that MPA Feroze of Mianwali, along with another MPA and 30 gunmen, reached the showroom on Feb 12, got the original registration book at gunpoint in the presence of the showroom owner and drove away with the car.

The showroom owner, however, informed Hassan that his car was stolen by unidentified people and “did not reveal the truth”.

Hassan lodged an FIR under section 406 of the PPC with the Faisal Town police against Rana Qaiser and his staff on Feb 21. Qaiser and others have gone missing since Feb 19 for their alleged involvement in fraud cases.

Hassan later came to know on March 28 that according to the excise department’s record his vehicle had been transferred in the name of Umer Feroze. The suspects, he said, used fake signature and thumb impression on transfer letter with forged stamp papers. There was no signature and thumb impression of any witness, he said.

He said this proved that the staff of the Motor Registration Authority also was involved in the process. Hassan challenged the transfer at MRA against which they issued a legal notice to both parties for hearing on April 20. The suspects did not appear before the authority.

The authority deferred the matter for another 22 days by giving another date of May 12 under pressure of the MPA’s brother, said Hassan who finally got registered a case under sections 420, 468 and 471 of the PPC against the three on April 23.

He further said the Mozang investigation police raided the house of Munir Joya who threatened the police team with dire consequences. The police returned without any arrest.

Hassan said Mr Joya had been calling at his cell phone and threatening and abusing him. He has appealed to the chief minister, the IGP and the Lahore High Court chief justice to take notice and provide him justice.

Civil Lines Division SP (Investigation) Shahzad Asif Khan, however, said Joya brothers had been exonerated in the Faisal Town case by the investigation police after they produced genuine transfer documents.

He said their investigation found that the complainant had got registered two similar cases involving Joya brothers, wondering how the two FIRs of a single incident could be lodged and how two punishments could be made in similar cases.

He said Munir Joya was RTA secretary but the registration of cars was the responsibility of the excise department.

The SP said the police could not arrest Joya brothers without evidence, adding that he had called both parties at his office on Wednesday (today) for inquiries. He expressed ignorance about any police raid at the house of Munir Joya.

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