The meeting of Senate Standing Committee on Communications was held on Wednesday. Chaired by Senator Hidayat Ullah, the meeting was attended by Senator Syed Muhammad Sabir Shah, Senator Fida Muhammad, Senator Ahmed Khan, Senator Dr. Jehanzeb Jamaldini, Senator Dr. Ashok Kumar, Senator Behramand Tangi, Senator Abdul Ghafoor Haideri and other senior officers from the Ministry of Communications along with all concerned and the National Highways Authority (NHA). Senator Lt. Gen (R) Salahuddin Tirmizi was a special invitee.
The agenda that came under discussion was a point of public importance regarding payment to land owners whose land was acquired for the construction of road from Kaghan to Babusar Top and PSDP budgetary allocation and its utilization for the period of July to December, 2018.
The Ministry informed the Committee that proceedings were delayed due to frequent postings/transfers of Land Acquisition Collectors and PKR 164 million had already been transferred to the respective District Treasury. Senator Lt. Gen (R) Salahuddin Tirmizi was of the view that this matter is a perfect example of the indifferent, callous attitude of government departments. He said that the land is being undervalued and demanded that a new notification be issued and payments be revised according to current rates.
It was revealed that the assessment carried out was incorrect and that instead of 8000 acres a total of 1700 acres was needed for the project. Chairman Committee showed displeasure and said that the officer who conducted the assessment must be taken to task and that it was unfair to the people that 800 acres of land is acquired and the section 4 is imposed on it for 18 years after which demand for more is made.
The Chairman directed that a sub-Committee be formed under the convenership of Senator Behramand Tangi and a report be submitted to the Committee within a month. Senator Bahramand Tangi was of the view that to resolve this matter it was imperative that those responsible be summoned to the Committee.
Deliberating over budgetary allocations and its utilization from July 2018 and December 2018 it was revealed that a total of 46 projects were being funded and a total PSDP allocation for 2018-19 was PKR 185.197 billion. Total PSDP utilization was PKR 122.605 billion. Details of all projects were presented to the Committee. Financial hiccups were discussed in detail. The Committee recommended that in order to get a true picture of the issues being faced it was imperative that the Finance Ministry be summoned. Senator Abdul Ghafoor Haideri objected to the situation in Balochistan and said that Balochistan is being exploited in the name of CPEC and that there is not one single road or highway in the region that is in a position to bear the burden of heavy trade vehicles.
The Committee recommended that concerned departments must be summoned to find out what programs are there for Balochistan including the Finance Division and the Planning and Development Division to ensure that budget is not slashed. This would ensure that projects are completed on time and that escalation costs are not raised.