By Shahwar Faryal
Pakistanis having a soft corner for their country, Beware! All the money you
donated for ‘national causes’ under political and military governments,
obviously hundreds of millions of dollars, may have ended up in some private
account. Ask some questions before you make the next donation.
Officials in Pakistan have unearthed what could be the biggest continuing
scandal involving the hard-earned dollars of Pakistanis living abroad. Four
Pakistani banks operating abroad have conceded that they have no records of
massive amounts collected from Pakistanis and where these amounts were
this disclosure does not trigger alarm bells among the donor Pakistanis alone.
All security agencies and international watch dogs will like to know whether
these millions were used for any other purpose that
they were intended to. In the midst of the free flow of dollars before the 9/11
attacks, any one and everyone could have used these funds, including the
infamous Al-Qaeda or other secret agencies of Pakistan, to achieve any illegal
or terrorist objective.
three great causes for which Pakistanis opened their hearts, and their
check books, were the Kashmir Fund started by Benazir
Bhutto, Self Reliance Fund launched by Nawaz Sharif and Drought Relief Fund
initiated by present military ruler General Pervez Musharraf.
these fund raising schemes were launched, patriotism of Pakistanis abroad was
challenged and passionate appeals were made. In fact Pakistanis rushed to
contribute in hordes. Claims that millions had been
collected by these governments were made at that time. Official media was
used to the hilt to generate massive donations.
The highest accounting officer of Pakistan, the Auditor General, has now
reported to the President of Pakistan that there is no trace or record of these
funds with either the Government, the Foreign
Missions or the banks which transferred these funds.
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knows what was the total collection for the Kashmir Fund of Benazir Bhutto,
‘Qarz Utaro Mulk Swanro’ Scheme of Nawaz Sharif or the Drought Fund of Pervez
Musharraf. No bank is prepared to provide any detail.
in a trap and bracketed with the two leading politicians he calls corrupt,
General Musharraf has done nothing but to brush the scandal under the carpet. He
has sent the Auditor General’s report to the non-existent Public Accounts
Committee of the National Assembly. The new PAC is yet to be constituted by the
Tribune has learnt that the concerned banks are claiming that they had
transferred the amounts through their own channels to Pakistan. But, when the
Audit demanded documentary evidence to support their claim they could not
produce any, creating more doubts about the collection and use of these funds.
Audit is now demanding an inquiry into the entire issue to determine some basic
facts in the interest of public information. Firstly, it wants to know the total
amount collected by these banks in the name of these three funds.
Secondly, it wants to know whether the money was ever
transferred by these banks to Pakistan. Since it is not in the knowledge
of the concerned Pakistani missions, what method was adopted for these
transfers. Audit is asking for documents to establish
the movement of these millions.
Audit officials said that the situation could be alarming. The Banks which have
declined to provide any records saying they had none are National Bank of
Pakistan (NBP), United Bank Limited (UBL), Habib Bank Limited (HBL)and
Allied Bank Limited (ABL).
Donations collected by the Pakistani Missions, other organizations and even some
individuals, too are to be accounted for and whether the money was used for the
genuine cause. Many other banks could be involved and there is no clue with
anyone who collected what and where did the money go.
are obviously reluctant to get into these murky waters on their own. When Audit
officials asked for details, the initial reaction was to shrug off the inquiry
by saying they never handled the amounts.
According to the Audit report submitted to General Musharraf, “the banks either
did not give any reply or provided information which was unbelievable.”
Report quoted one instance of the banks in Scotland which
it said had reported “Nil Collection” in Nawaz Sharif’s Self Reliance Fund. “The
Pakistani community told the Audit Team during informal meetings that the
Community did donate generally (generously).”
Likewise the Report pointed out that the Habib Bank Ltd Glasgow vaguely stated
that all the collected funds had been remitted to London without providing any
details. Pakistan International Bank, UK informed that only a sum of 390 UK
pounds was pending on account of Musharraf’s Drought Fund.
Pakistani missions in Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow told the Audit that the
banks had collected the funds directly and remitted the same to their main
branches in Pakistan. But the banks do not admit any such thing.
situation of the donations made by Pakistanis living in the United States is
still not clear but since the banks are not providing any details of collections
from anywhere, it is to be assumed that the donations by Pakistani-Americans are
also not accounted for.
issues involved in these missing funds range from the least important (lack of
accounting and transparency) to those concerning the global community (use of
these funds for terrorism). The lack of interest in the Musharraf government
speaks of a hidden fear that if this issue was probed deeply it may turn out to
be a much bigger embarrassment than any one can imagine.
instance the Audit report also pointed out that in 1997 “a receipt book bearing
serial No 13 containing 100 receipts was issued to one Mr. Fazlur Rehman,
Pakistan Director Haj, in Madina, Saudi Arabia for collection of Self Reliance
Fund on behalf of the Nawaz Sharif government.
Click to View Report
officer neither deposited the collected amount nor did he return the used/unused
receipts. Thus, the amount collected, if any, was available with him,
unaccounted, for the last four or five years.”
this guy and what did he do with the amounts so collected is not known but at
least one 100 donations he received in Saudi Arabia are untraceable.
strict punishments, including fines, imprisonments and
suspension from duty were to be awarded to the offending
officers for using such unorthodox methods to make arrests,
police officers would be more responsible for their acts