‘Zardari paid Umra cost himself’ – Rauf Klasra and Abdul Qadir Hassan

‘Zardari paid Umra cost himself’
Friday, January 23, 2009 (The News)

By Rauf Klasra

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari became the first head of the state who paid Rs 24.9 million from his own pocket to the government last year when he went to perform Umra along with an entourage of 188 people, including federal ministers, politicians, bureaucrats, their wives, friends and media persons.

The details of these payments were laid down before the National Assembly on Thursday by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi. A quick look at the papers submitted in the House revealed that unlike former prime ministers, particularly Ch Shujaat Hussain and Shaukat Aziz, who made false claims of paying the cost of Umra from their own pockets, at least President Zardari has kept his promise of paying the full Umra cost of the members of his entourage.

Earlier, the information about the payment of the Umra cost by the president was placed before the National Assembly on Thursday when MNA Faiz Muhammad Khan sought the details of the total number of entourage of President Zardari along with the expenditures incurred and the source. It was also asked that the province-wise names and addresses of the members of the entourage should be submitted. The Foreign Office submitted the details of those expenditures, which disclosed that all the expenditures of the PIA chartered flight, accommodation and transport were paid by the president from his own pocket.

The PIA chartered flight cost a sum of Rs 19.8 million, accommodation Rs 2.9 million, transport Rs 1.7 million and miscellaneous charges, including the payment of porters, purchases of Ahrams and belts, etc, cost Rs 0.486 million.

In the past, Ch Shujaat Hussain had also taken an entourage of his friends, along with the members of his family, to perform Umra when he became the caretaker prime minister for hardly 30 days. However, when the official record was placed before the NA, seeking details of the expenditures of his entourage, it was revealed that Ch Shujaat made a false claim before the nation as millions of rupees were spent from the taxpayers’ account for this purpose.

Likewise, Shukat Aziz also announced to pay the bill of his entourage when he assumed the office of prime minister in 2005. He beat his drums the world over that he was the first prime minister, who had paid the bill of Umra instead of putting a burden on the taxpayers, like his predecessor Ch Shujaat Hussain.