The dam fund

Editorial Board
Thursday, Sep 22, 2022

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is a constitutional body with a mandate to look into the matters of financial significance for the country. On Sep 20, the auditor general of Pakistan is reported to have informed the PAC that the registrar of the Supreme Court of Pakistan did not provide the requisite details of the Dam Fund. After this development, the PAC decided to write a letter to the registrar seeking details of the Dam Fund of the Supreme Court. The PAC also plans to re-summon former CJP Saqib Nisar with regard to the Fund. Since the Supreme Court established this fund apparently to facilitate the construction of the Diamer-Basha and Mohmand dams, the PAC considers it appropriate to receive details of how much money was collected and how it was spent – if at all. This information should be in the public domain as the citizens of Pakistan have every right to know about the total collections made and spent.

So far, former CJP Saqib Nisar has not turned up after being summoned by the PAC. Since the former chief justice has no immunity the PAC considers it within its purview to summon him. This appears to be a question of the supremacy of parliament as the PAC has the parliamentary mandate to perform its functions and investigate any financial matter involving public institutions and state organs. In a functioning democracy, all state institutions and their officials are – and should be – answerable to parliament and nobody should consider themselves over and above the parliamentary scrutiny. If the registrar of the SC does not provide details of the Dam Fund to the auditor general even after the PAC gives instructions to do so, it amounts to a refusal of sorts to follow the PAC guidelines. It is also tantamount to refusing to furnish transparent accountability to the representatives of the people – who, in a functioning democracy, should be above all considerations.

Apart from the Dam Fund, there is also the issue of the Mohmand Dam about which PAC Chairman Noor Alam Khan has expressed his reservations regarding 'mega corruption’. The PAC has also decided to write a letter to the DG PPRA about the award of the contract of Mohmand Dam as the committee thinks that substandard material was used in the project. Still the most significant matter remains the billions of rupees collected in the name of the Diamer-Basha Dam Fund established in July 2018. The previous PAC meeting held on August 23 had summoned the former chief justice to enquire about what happened to the more than Rs10 billion collected. Initiated by the former chief justice, this venture was later fully supported by former prime minister Imran Khan. As the accountability arm of parliament, the PAC must receive due compliance and respect from all concerned. A refusal to comply equals shirking constitutional obligations. Such controversies are not good for the public trust, nor are they beneficial for Pakistan’s image internationally. Such news travels fast and the international media have already picked up the discussion about the fund. The people who initiated this fund should have made sure that all details remain beyond such controversies. If the reports about billions of rupees spent on advertisements are correct, somebody must be held accountable to explain how this happened and who authorized this. Deposit of donations is a sign of people’s commitment to their country and it shows that the donors trusted the solicitors. To restore that confidence in the country and its institutions, it is imperative now that an inquiry brings all facts and figures to the fore.