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January 15, 2020

Punjab CM’s official residence gets costly renovation


January 15, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Usman Buzdar, the Wasim Akram-plus of Prime Minister Imran Khan, has spent millions of rupees to upgrade his “7-Club” official residence with 7-star comforts.

Informed sources said that the official residence of Punjab chief minister generally known as the “7-Club” in GOR-1 has been renovated in such a lavish manner that it shocked some of the recent visitors.

Not only that the entire house has been renovated but is decorated with expensive furniture and hand carpets. All toilets, which reportedly were reasonably good quality, have been redone with high quality ceramics and sanitary ware. Curtains and blinds have also been replaced.

“The level of expense can be gauged from the fact that fabric used for curtains of CM private room are Rs15,000 per sq foot,” an insider told The News. Numerous large screen LED TVs have also been installed.

A frequent visitor to star owned houses who has seen federal and provincial chief executive houses said, “Never seen such opulent furnishing at state expense.” The official residence, which was last occupied by former CM and late Sardar Arif Nakai as his official residence, had never been used as official residence since then. Shahbaz Sharif and Ch Perviaz Elahi used to live at their private residences but they used the 7-Club as office.

Perviaz Ellahi later shifted to new built office called the 8-Club, and during most of his tenure, 7-Club was unused. However, Shahbaz Sharif in his both tenures used 7-Club as his main office.

The furnishing of 7-Club was already graceful and thus the former chief minister did not even allow a curtain or carpet to be changed. “So much so that once the ceiling of the CM’s personal office room collapsed during Shahbaz Sharif era but he still did not allow any major renovation and all furnishing and furniture remained the same.”

The furniture and fixtures replaced were old but very graceful and previous CM has been hosting heads of state and foreign dignitaries in the old style house. Informed sources who have actually visited the 7-Club official residence recently informed this scribe that Chief Minister Buzdar has spent crores of rupees on the luxury 7-star renovation and refurbishing of his residence.

The sources said that the Chief Minister is only entitled to official entertainment like high tea lunch and dinners during official meetings and receptions. Food expenses of the CM, his family, personal relatives and guests cannot be booked or charged to state expense. Whether it’s the PM or the CM, they have to pay for these personal expenses.

But in Buzdar’s case from breakfast to lunch to dinner all expenses of CM, his family and personal guests are being charged to state expense. The Chief Minister House’s annex - an exclusive six executive suite building built for exclusive use of visiting federal ministers and chief ministers of other provinces visiting Lahore - have been in occupation of Buzdar’s relative.

They use the place as a Dera - for meeting visitors from Taunsa and DG Khan, a source said, adding that full board hospitality of these relatives is also charged up to public exchequer.

The sources said that now Buzdar’s official dastarkhwan is decorated with full gold plated crockery, silver plated cutlery and precious crystal glasses.

Information Minister Punjab Fiazul Hasan Chohan when approached said that he has no knowledge about the renovation of CM’s official residence. Later, The News contacted CM’s Office through its PRO, who in his response said that the Punjab government is fully implementing the policy of austerity and transparency as per the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan. The provincial government, it said, does not believe in wastage of public money. The CM Office added that cut in the government spending was started from the Chief Minister’s Office to become an example for others.

The CM Office added that on the direction of the Chief Minister Usman Buzdar the budget of the CM Office was cut by 60 percent in the year 2018-19 as against 2017-18. It said that the CM’s discretionary fund was cut by Rs80 million while Rs40 million was saved in the budget meant for repair of vehicles.

The CM Office said that 2,000 personnel were deployed for the security of private residences of former chief minister and his relative but now this number has been reduced to 500 saving almost Rs550 million. The CM Office said that the incumbent chief minister does not have any camp office, no private residence or office. It maintained that the present government has also undone the culture of spending public money in the renovation of private residences in the garb of security. The CM Office said that during the tenure of the present government public money is spent only on welfare of the people of the province.

The CM Office also explained that the actual expenditure under entertainment and gift head which was Rs86 million in 2016-17, Rs89.9 million in 2017-18, Rs53.8 million in 2018/19, has been brought down to Rs20.4 million in 2019-20 (till Nov 2019).

According to the CM Office, the actual expenditure under repair of furniture head has been FY 2016/17 - Rs0.741 million; FY 2017/18 Rs0.641 million; FY 2018/19 Rs1.499 million and FY 2019/20 Rs0.498 million (till Dec 2019).

The CM Office has also shared the details of actual expenditure under POL head- FY 2016/17 Rs30.318 million; FY 2017/18 Rs34.999 million; FY 2018/19 Rs21.918 million; FY 2019/20 Rs12.409 million (till December).

The CM Office spokesman denied that the CM annex is under the use of Buzdar’s relative. He said that only one servant of Buzdar lives there.

The CM Office was asked to share details of, a) expenditure spent on 7-Club residence’s renovation and replacement of fittings and furniture; b) whether the CM Buzdar pays from his pocket the spending of food etc for his person, his family and private guests; c) if the rooms/suites of CM’s Annex are under use of Buzdar’s personal friends and acquaintance.

The CM Office did not respond to the first two questions and shared information that was mostly irrelevant.