AJK Council approves Rs 3.75 billion budget
9 October 2006
The Daily Times
Islamabad: The Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) Council on Monday decided to hold an international conference early next year inviting world known personalities to present their views and concept papers for the just solution of Kashmir dispute. Chaired by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, the council also approved its budget of Rs 3.757 billion for the year 2006-07. Around 80 per cent of the total budget would be allotted to the AJK government for development projects while the remaining 20 per cent would be utilised by the council on its own projects. Maj (r) Tahir Iqbal, the minister of Kashmir and Northern Areas (KANA), told a press conference that international conference on Kashmir would either be held by mid-February or early March. He said that Rs 90 million would be spent on the conference that would promote the Pakistans viewpoint on Kashmir dispute. He said President General Pervez Musharraf wanted equal rights for the people of Kashmir to participate in the Pak-India peace process. He said that the people from different walks of life from India would also be invited to the international conference to be held in the federal capital Islamabad. Speaking at the council meeting, the prime minister observed that Kashmir was a major issue of South Asia and sustainable peace in the region was possible only after resolving the dispute. .The KANA minister said that the existing budget was 50 percent more than the last years AJK Council budget. The council approved that Rs 76 million would be spent for the construction of road from Muzaffarabad to Chakothi providing an easy route to Pak-India bus services and the trucks carrying loads. The council set the revenue collection target of Rs 2.8 billion compared to the last year target of Rs 2.5 billion. The meeting was informed that 90 per cent earthquake-hit people were shifted to permanent and transitional accommodations from the tents. The council was told that 32,000 people in AJK were still living in tents, which would soon be shifted to either transitional or permanent accommodation. The council hailed the federal government decision of writing off the Zarai Taraqiyati Bank Limited (ZTBL) and House Building Finance Corporation (HBFC) loans pending against the quake-hit people. It was decided that a fresh survey would be conducted to allot lands to those people of AJK whose lands were badly damaged by the last-year earthquake. The minister rejected the accusation that various cases of embezzlement were reported in the funds meant for the earthquake victims. The AJK Council moved seven motions dealing with different issues pertaining to the AJK affairs. The council wrote off the loans of Rs 30 million owed by its 428 employees for vehicles, motorcycles and houses. It was decided that an AJK Board of Revenue would be established for smooth and transparent running of the related affairs. The council also gave approval of constituting a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and a standing committee for the AJK. It was decided the AJK council would have a block allocation of Rs 150 million for quick approval of small development projects. The council gave approval of amending the AJK Ehtesab Ordinance to make it similar to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Ordinance that was also applicable in Pakistan. It was also decided that telecom rules of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) would also be implemented in the AJK. The prime minister told the council that global and domestic response was outstanding after the last-year earthquake. He said the world community stood by Pakistan in the hour of great difficulty. He said the total estimates for reconstruction were increased from the initial estimates. However, funding will be arranged as and when required. The government will continue to disburse the loans continuously as the projects are approved and funding is needed. He asked the members of AJK Council to keep close contact with the people of affected areas and the agencies participating in rebuilding and rehabilitation activities. Among others the meeting was attended by the AJK President Raja Zulqarnain Khan, AJK Prime Minister Sardar Attique Ahmad Khan, Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri and Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad.