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Shaukat Aziz first order facilitate U.S. at any cost

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Friday was told about the first order issued by Shaukat Aziz, soon after taking oath as the prime minister of Pakistan in 2005. It was to give 28 acres of KPT land, worth billions of rupees, to the US for construction of its consulate in Karachi for only Rs 1.1 billion on a 99-year lease.

On the personal instructions of Shaukat Aziz, the Americans were given the land at the laughable rate of Rs 15,000 per square yard against the market rate of Rs 222,000, causing a loss of billions to the country.

When the Aziz scam was being unfolded in the PAC in pindrop silence, his two former cabinet ministers — Hamid Hiraj and Zahid Hamid — and six PML-Q MNAs, now sitting as members of parliamentary accountability, who had voted him to become the premier, were present.

The PAC was told that the 28 acres were actually given to the Americans before the visit of then US President George Bush, who was set to raise this issue in his bilateral talks with President Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

Bush was informed that the land had already been transferred to America on their own terms and a happy Bush walked out of the conference room with a huge smile on his face. It was disclosed that the secretariat of Pakistan Central Cotton Committee (PCCC), which was the backbone of the cotton economy, was asked to vacate its building urgently so that it could be handed over to the US for construction of the consulate. For the last four years, the PCCC is using a rented building and had paid huge rents to private owners.

The story was unfolded by KPT Chairperson Nasreen Haq. The scam surfaced in the PAC meeting when KPT and Agriculture Ministry officials brought their own controversy over the payment of PCCC building handed over to the Americans. The Agriculture Ministry officials were claiming to have been denied Rs600 million as compensation from the amount to be received from the Americans.

Secretary Establishment Ismail Qureshi was summoned to explain how could he as secretary agriculture had shown no resistance to this move and quietly let the PCCC building be handed over to the US without considering its implications for the cotton committee.

Ch Nisar wondered as to how could all this be done so blatantly by the prime minister of Pakistan and most importantly, how the US could do all this. He said now the Americans might know that why the people of Pakistan did not like them.

“It’s simply mind-boggling,” observed a seriously disturbed Nisar after coming to know the scandalous details. He blasted Shaukat Aziz and said he had already fled the country. “Now what should the PAC do, as the honourable Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz had already escaped from the country,” observed Nisar.

Chaudhry Nisar asked the concerned authorities to get the facts verified whether Pakistan was ever given such a huge concession of getting 28 acres of land in Washington, New York or other cities on such concessional rates.

When this correspondent contacted a former official, who was a close associate of Shaukat Aziz, he said only friends of Pakistan were given special treatment during the tenure of the former prime minister. He said the US has always been helping Pakistan in time of need. He said to give concessions to friendly countries is a norm in international relations and unnecessary criticism on this count should be avoided.

This article was published by The News.

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