Pakistan could sell a part of its embassy in the US capital Washington DC to a Jewish company that has offered the highest bid for the building. Islamabad’s decision to sell its property in Washington comes in the wake of reports about a financial crunch at home, and millions being spent on the upkeep of this building that remained unused since 2000.
According to Dawn Newspaper, the Jewish group has made the highest bid of almost $6.8 million. It wants to convert the building into a synagogue, a Jewish temple.
Interestingly, the second bid of about $5 million is from an Indian realtor and the third of about $4 million is from a Pakistani realtor, Dawn reported quoting diplomatic sources.
Pakistani-Americans, who were contacted by the embassy for opinion have said that the building should go for the highest bidder. “We should follow this tradition, also because it will create a lot of goodwill in an influential American community, which wants to use it as a place of worship,” a Pakistani realtor, who asked Dawn not to name him, said.
One of the three properties of Pakistan used for diplomatic presence in the USA on the prestigious R Street NW was up for sale. This building once housed Pakistani’s embassy’s defense section from the mid-1950s to the early 2000s.
Facing a huge funds crunch, Islamabad has also decided to lease out a prime property – the Roosevelt Hotel site in New York. Recently, the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation has asked for the appointment of a financial adviser for leasing the property.
The embassy officials told Dawn that they were also consulting an appraiser to finalize the deal: to sell the building as it is or to do so after renovation. “We are in no rush, and we will not conclude a deal that does not benefit Pakistan,” the embassy official said.
The embassy moved to the new building in the early 2000s, but it is also keeping the old building and has spent close to seven million dollars in renovating it and the nearby official residence of the ambassador.
The amount spent on the renovation, however, surprised many, with some demanding a probe to determine why it cost so much. The R Street building, however, has never been renovated and a visit to the site showed that it was in dilapidated condition.
Other residents of the area confirmed that they had complained to the local authorities about the state of the building which, they said, was now “a security hazard”. The R Street building was purchased by Ambassador Syed Amjad Ali between 1953 and 1956.
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“We have already wasted a lot of money in retaining these buildings for so long.” Yet another embassy official rejected the suggestion that the embassy was unable to pay its diplomatic and other staff and that’s why it was selling its properties. “Every embassy employee — diplomatic or non-diplomatic — is paid on time,” the official said.