Saturday, June 19, 2010
By Umar Cheema
ISLAMABAD: In what appears to be a blatant misuse of tax payers money, Law Minister Babar Awan has chartered a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) plane for his hurried visit to South Punjab bar associations and took off on Friday for Multan apparently to distribute funds ahead of the SCBA annual elections. The law minister, along with three junior lawyers, boarded the PAF plane at the Chaklala Airbase around 8:15 am on Friday with Multan as their first destination.
A spokesman for the PAF confirmed that a plane had been chartered by the law minister for, what he called, “national duty.” “We received a request from the government for the plane, and it was said to be needed for national duty,” the spokesman said responding to the queries of The News. The spokesman declined to go into any further details when asked about the duration of the charter.
According to an official, posted at the Chaklala Airbase, the information received at the base on Thursday night was that more than 15 passengers will be travelling with the minister, but, as they arrived on Friday morning, only three persons accompanied him.
An official privy to the details said the plane has been chartered for Friday and Saturday as the minister would also be travelling to Rahim Yar Khan in a bid to win the lawyers community through cash and kind amid the heightened government-judiciary tension over the non-implementation of the NRO verdict and other issues.
Intisar Ahmad, the PRO to the law minister, who is travelling with him, said the plane has been chartered as a regular flight to Multan was not available. He confirmed the plane will be at the minister’s disposal for two days.
He said the minister interacted with the media and addressed Multan’s bar association. In Rahim Yar Khan, the minister’s engagements include an address to the district bar association there and inauguration of a Sui gas project and this is the ‘national duty’, he will be performing for which the PAF plane was chartered.
The law minister has long been on the mission to win over the lawyers’ community. The incentives being offered include legal advisories of different government departments and huge amount of funds apparently for the welfare of the bar associations.
According to sources, the government has placed generous funds at the disposal of the Law Ministry to distribute among the lawyers’ associations of different tiers with Law Minister Dr Babar Awan making public announcements for allocations during his visits all over Pakistan.
An official said that the process of distribution of funds would accelerate as the election to the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) elections draws closer with the government determined to win its top office that carries a lot of weight in the present situation. According to press reports, in Balochistan alone during his visit to Quetta last month, the law minister handed over cheques for Rs72 million to the Quetta district bar association and the Balochistan Bar Council, and separately announced grant-in-aid of Rs30 million to the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), Rs10 million for welfare of senior Supreme Court lawyers and Rs10 million for female lawyers besides Rs1 million for PBC staff.