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Opposition Runs Riot on Zakat Minister

The government of Pakistan is under fire for allowing corrupt Zakat distribution and for failing to take action against Zakat committee chairmen... “despite the government admitting for two years that the chairman of its Zakat committees were had failed to name the chairmen or take any action against them.”

Daily Times
February 11, 2010
Islamabad, Pakistan

Despite efforts by senior minister’s to come to the aid of the minister for Zakat and Ushr after he was criticised by the opposition, the minister on Wednesday failed to provide satisfactory replies to questions relating to his department put before him on the floor of the House.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader Raja Riaz Ahmed’s efforts to help out Minister for Zakat and Ushr Ehsanuddin Qureshi backfired, as the opposition used the opportunity to question the credibility of the federal government.

Ehsan failed to adequately answer the majority of questions put before him by opposition and treasury members. Even Punjab Assembly Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan asked the minister to carefully listen to the questions and properly answer them.

The minister was left confused after the matter of Zakat distribution, formation of Zakat committees and taking action against corrupt committee chairmen was brought up during the House proceedings.

The opposition criticised the Punjab government, alleging that Zakat was not being distributed among the masses due to the non-existence of Zakat committees.

The opposition also criticised the government for not acting against “corrupt chairmen of Zakat committees”, despite the government admitting for two years that the chairman of its Zakat committees were corrupt. It said that although the government had claimed that the chairmen – appointed by the previous government – were corrupt, it had failed to name the chairmen or take any action against them.

Funds: MPA Sajida Mir questioned where the Zakat funds were going since there were no Zakat committees. The opposition also questioned how hospitals were treating poor patients since there were no Zakat committees.

To this question, the minister said the government was providing free treatment to patients. To this, opposition member Amir Sultan Cheema questioned the minister as to where the Zakat funds for hospitals were being used since patients were receiving free treatment. When the minister replied that Zakat was being distributed among the masses through members of the provincial assembly and nazims, opposition members denied having done any such thing.

The opposition members asked the minister as to how many cases had so far been registered against “the corrupt elements in Zakat committees” and when the elections for these committees would be held, to which the minister could only reply with “very soon”.

After the minister failed to provide adequate answers for the questions, Raja Riaz came to his rescue and said the matter was of the federal government.

He said the Punjab government would be acting against the corrupt chairmen “who the previous Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid government had appointed”.

Riaz said the federal government would decide on when the elections for the aforementioned committees would be held. To this, Amir Sultan Cheema asked why the Punjab government had announced to hold elections if it never had the power to make such a decision. The minister again failed to give a satisfactory reply, even after the speaker told him to “carefully listen to the question before giving an answer”.

Leader of the Opposition Chaudhry Zaheeruddin said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Pakistan people’s Party were both equally responsible for the “unnecessary delay” in forming the committees. In response, Riaz said the “PML-Q had appointed the country’s most corrupt men as the chairmen of the Zakat committees”. He said that Zaheer had once been elected on a PPP ticket, and later on a PML-N ticket. He alleged that even now Zaheer was considering to rejoin the PML-N, but “Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi made sure Zaheer did not defect by making him the opposition leader”.


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