A Pakistani general has called the country's parliament a joke and its parliamentarians "jokers" after he was asked why the army was not paying rent for a part of Lahore's prestigious Fortress Stadium that it was occupying. The army was assessed as owing the Pakistan government Rs 120 billion.
Defence Secretary General Athar Ali was asked by the parliament's Public Accounts Committee why the army was not paying rent despite the fact that the portion that was under its control was being rented out to third parties. MPs commented the army was "minting billions of rupees" that should be going to the government but was instead going into defence ministry coffers.
"This is a joke," Athar Ali said in reply. He also commented that the army was a "national institution" and did not require to pay any rent. The parliament committee said it took exception to the fact that the army occupying a civilian area as well as renting it out to commercial organizations.
"You are all jokers," said the retired general after which there was chaos in the committee room. The chairman of the committee, opposition leader Nisar Ali Khan, said the remarks of the defence ministry official were uncalled for.
Earlier, auditor general Tanveer Agha had told the committee that for decades, the army has been illegally using more than a 100,000 square-yard area of the Fortress stadium for commercial purposes without any lawful authority.
The auditor-general claimed the rent generated from this commercial activity was deposited into military accounts, not with the government of Pakistan. The auditor-general said that Rs120 billion had been collected by the military from this activity and that this amount should now be deposited with the government in its consolidated fund.
General Ali took strong exception to the audit para and said this was an attempt to malign the army. He refused to accept the validity of the auditor-general’s claims saying he was surprised how the auditor-general brought such kind of ‘laughable facts and figures’ before the committee, adding that the army could not have collected such a huge amount from Fortress Stadium.
But, Auditor-General Tanveer Agha explained that the audit team had followed the proper process before bringing this audit paragraph before the PAC.