Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Minorities minister ‘doesn’t remember’....Pakistan
Minorities minister ‘doesn’t remember,
where he spent Rs2.8m
Thursday, January 28, 2010
By Sikh Naujawan Sabha Pakistan
Efforts towards affirmative action for minorities have been rocked by the misuse of funds in the minority affairs department, with Sindh Minority Affairs Minister Mohan Lal Kohistani claiming that he “doesn’t remember” how and where Rs2.8 million were spent from the Rs100 million allocated last year for different development and welfare projects for the minorities.
The minority affairs department had received Rs100 million last year, funds that were to be distributed amongst the poor, spent on renovation of places of worship (churches, temples, Gurdwaras), and on educational aid among students.
When The News queried Kohistani about how the Rs100 million were utilised, the minister claimed that only Rs2.8 million had been received by his department. “Just two days ago, the department received funds of Rs50 million, and now I will distribute cheques among the deserving people, send the students to attain foreign education and utilise it for developmental projects.”
However, representatives of minority communities told The News that no financial aid has been received by any of them - neither for educational or welfare purposes, nor for development or renovation work. Young Hindu Welfare Association President Raj Kumar said that at an awards distribution ceremony of Hindu students, the minister had promised to give Rs700,000 to the association, but this promise was not upheld.
The minister vehemently denied these allegations. “I never made false promises, and this is all propaganda against me. I am an honest person, and there are some miscreants who want to tarnish my party’s and my image. Therefore, they are coming up with false and baseless accusations.”
When pressed further to explain the use of funds, the minister said: “Last year, I received Rs2.8 million as fund money. I can’t remember where I spent it, but my secretary knows and he will send you the list.”
Kohistani claimed that part of the funding had been spent on Gurdwaras, but when informed that chief of the Ranchore Lines Gurdwara, Krishan Singh, had denied receiving any money, he immediately changed his statement and said that the money had been spent on the repair of a church. However, he was unsuccessful in naming the church where this money had been diverted.
Sikh Naujawan Sabha Pakistan Chairman Sardar Ramesh Singh corroborated the accounts of other minorities’ leaders. “As a representative of 3,000 Sikhs in Karachi, I assure you that no Sikh has been offered any financial assistance from the minister. He and his peers have appropriated all the funds, money which was supposed to be for us,” he said. “Not a single Sikh has been employed in the job quota for minorities, nor have any of our students been given any aid, while none of our Gurdwaras have been repaired.”
Complaints against the minorities minister are not limited to misuse of funds.
Kohistani claimed that he worked till late night, and he was always available. “I am always there for the people, and they can meet me and call me anytime they want to. I am the only minister who is available in the office till ten in the night.”
However, minority representatives say that the minister refuses to meet common people, and when people try to contact him over the phone, he doesn’t attend their calls. If he picks up the phone by chance, he refuses to talk and says that he is busy in a meeting. While people spend hours outside his office, they return empty-handed as the minister never shows up.
Similarly, representatives said, the minister doesn’t attend functions held by the minority communities. Kohistani believed that he could only attend events where he was invited: “I attend all events and festivals, but I don’t go where I am not invited. I didn’t attend the Guru Gobind Singh Sahib Parkash Gurpurbh festival held in Gurdwara Baba Nanak Daharki Sindh, as I wasn’t invited, and I didn’t receive any invitation.” Sources meanwhile refuted the minister’s assertions, and provided The News with a copy of the invitation faxed to Kohistani’s office.
Minorities’ representatives also claimed that no joint meeting has ever been convened to discuss the issues and problems of the minority communities, nor has any genuine committee been formed.
Kohistani claimed that a committee had indeed been formed, but his knowledge did not extend beyond that. “Last year, I constituted a committee to solve the issues of the minorities. Their members include Pritambar Sewani and Saleem Khokhar, but I don’t remember the names of rest of the members.”
Former MPA and All-Pakistan Minority Alliance Sindh Secretary General Michael Javed appealed to the President to look into the matter. “The minister says that there is a ban on funds, and that is why he hasn’t been able to spend it on us. I don’t think there is any ban. I request the head of the state to ensure that a full-fledged enquiry should be held by NAB to see where the fund money is going.”