Punjab Free Laptop Scheme initiated by CM Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif has started to receive a lot of criticism as both political figures and media men are targeting this scheme and making public the loop holes and mala fide intentions on government’s part.
On 2-May-2012 i happened to watch an report investigated by a bright young reporter – Huzaifa Qureshi – of Dunya TV showing how corruption remained an integral part of the entire scheme and how people of Punjab got deprived of billions of hard earned rupees . The report was telecasted in the program ‘Khari Baat Luqman Kay Saath’.
As a result of this report, very next day, Huzaifa’s father, who happens to be a government servant in Muzaffar Garh, faced the rage of his senior officials who had gone mad after his son’s freedom of expression.
I am quite agreed with Mubashir Luqman regarding the facts that the scheme has been mishandled and rather used for political motives just to increase the popularity of PML (N) among the youth of Punjab. And that the family of Chief Minister has no right to violate the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and distribute the laptops to those who are not eligible but there were major discrepancies in the report that were quite noticeable for even an ordinary viewer like me. I don’t know if the statistics were checked and verified before running the report or not but it really raises questions as to what kind of home work senior anchors do before doing their sensational shows.
The specification comparison between two laptops that Mubashir claims is as follow;
Following are few of the allegations leveled by Mubashir Luqman;
- The reporter (Huzaifa Qureshi) bought a laptop from the lot of Shahbaz Sharif Laptop Scheme for Rs. 19,500 from Hafeez Center along with a blank certificate of merit that government had distributed among students.
- Shahbaz Sharif Laptop scheme offered a 15 years old technology for Rs. 37,700 whereas a state of the art laptop from Dell is available for just Rs. 37,000 on retail.
- The laptop distributed is not manufactured originally by Dell but from China.
- The contract of providing laptops was given to a partner (Ghayas Khan) of Hamza Shazbaz Sharif.
- Wateen had offered to provide a 15 inch screen laptop of Acer at a better price than the one bought by Punjab Government.
- The operating system that Shahbaz Sharif’s laptop offers is a pirated copy of Windows7.
- Dell had offered the laptop for Rs. 24,600 but Punjab Government over invoiced it and raised the value to Rs. 37,700. So there is a corruption of Rs. 106,000,000,0 in the first place.
- Punjab Government advertised in newspapers and TVs heavily so that no one could write against this scheme.
- Punjab Government shifted Rs. 2 billion from the budget of primary education department depriving the students of small classes from much needed money. Earlier this budget was used to upgrade the computers and labs of primary schools in Punjab.
- In the budget, every year Rs. 4 billion have been dedicated for distributing laptops among students
- According to Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) of Punjab Government, only the deserving students in the educational institutions were supposed to get the laptops under this scheme. Educational institutions were asked to verify the status of deserving students. Even, secretary higher education and Assistant commissioners were given these tasks. For example, Assistant Commissioner Lahore wrote a verification letter to his bosses and sent a list of 893 students that had 248 students in it who had been failed in exams and who were also given laptops because they belonged to MSF (Muslim Students Federation) - political student wing of PML (N).
- Some 1700 students who were not eligible, as they were self financing their selves, were given the laptops on the condition of supporting MSF. These students belonged to (Sheikh Zaid Medical College Raheem yar Khan, Nawaz Sharif Medical College, Quaid-e-Azam Medical College Bhawalpur, Allama Iqbal Medical College Lahore. These students were also given certificate of merit.
- Principals and VCs kept writing letters about the ineligibility of the students but no one at the helm of affairs noticed them.
- Many teachers were also given laptops.
- Distribution of Laptop was full of corruption. On 23rd March, a mega event for distributing some 14,450 laptops was organized at Punjab University, Lahore. The expense on the event was more than the value of laptops distributed. Rs. 30 Mn was allocated by the university for the event whereas, Mian Nawaz Sharif distributed laptops worth of Rs. 20 Mn. Punjab Government had promised the university administration that it will pay back the expenses but the amount is still pending.
- Nawaz Sharif distributed 3200 laptops in Islamabad among students of other provinces violating the very basic rule with the help of 25 bureaucrats.
Apparent Errors in Report (As per above points)
2 I tried to check the price of Dell laptop (4050) in the market with similar specification as distributed and found that same was available for Rs. 42,000 and an advanced laptop (5110) with Intel i3 processor was available for Rs. 50,000. Although lesser in performance than i3 or i5, Intel Core 2 Duo was launched in 2006, so it can’t be a 15 year older technology.
3 Dell opened its China facility back in 1999. Dell’s Malaysian and Chinese facilities work for the Asian markets and assembles 95% of notebooks. If these laptops were manufactured in China, then there is no harm in that as most of the bigger brands have their manufacturing facilities in China even the world’s famous brands Apple and Nokia are working on the same lines.
5 As far as Acer is concerned, the brand has never been recognized as global leader. Therefore, turning down Wateen’s offer wasn’t something big.
6 I personally checked many Dell laptops and they had Ubuntu - a flavor of Linux – installed in them which is a freeware. So how come it is a violation of copy right act. I believe they (Mubashir and Huzaifa ) didn’t know that no company offers Windows OS in the entry level laptops.
7 The difference between over invoiced value and the one offered by Dell is Rs. 13,100 and for 110,000 laptops the embezzled amount becomes Rs. 144,100,000,0 rather than the amount Mubashir Luqman quoted i.e. Rs. 106,000,000,0.
15 Punjab University spent Rs. 30 mn on the function meant for distribution of 14,450 laptops. Mubashir claims the expense exceeded the laptops value. A simple multiply tells that the value of distributed laptops was Rs. 544,765,000 rather than claimed amount Rs. 20 million. I don’t know how the anchor calculated the value of these laptops.
I do not intend to question the capabilities of Mubashir Luqman and his team as he is one of the senior anchors of Pakistan but such an ignorance on his part may affect the credibility of entire report.
In his report he kept saying that soon all the documents would be made available to public on Dunya TV’s website. Since the date of that particular TV show, nothing has been placed on the website with reference to that report.
It’s now an open secret that hundreds of laptops were given to ineligible students of well to-do families. Also, there were students who belonged to MSF, who are always used by political figures for their vested interests.
Laptop that Mubashir Luqman bought from Hafeez Center may have been sold by someone who did not want it at first just to earn the easy money. There are reports that hundreds of laptops are being sold online and at Hafeez center.
Transparency International Pakistan (TIP) had earlier claimed that the provincial government had violated the Punjab Procurement Rules, 2009, while procuring 110,000 laptops, and had incurred a loss of at least Rs 1.7 billion to the exchequer.
The TIP had asked the Punjab Govt. to clarify the allegations such as that specifications of laptops in the tender were different than what Punjab Govt. have procured (like i3 or i5 processors were specified in the tender, while the machine provided by the government runs on Pentium-D processor). Later, Shahbaz Sharif claimed that TIP has shown satisfaction over the entire deal.
Lahore High Court has already been moved for probing into the matter for which the process has been started.
Video of the program