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Posts from — January 2010

FC running parallel govt in Balochistan, says Raisani: The Dawn, Jan 21

By Saleem Shahid and Amanullah Kasi
QUETTA: Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani has accused the Frontier Corps of running a parallel government in Balochistan.

In a statement issued here on Wednesday, the chief minister said that FC’s attitude had harmed the ongoing reconciliation process and, as a result, the situation had worsened.

“The FC has established a government paralled to the provincial government,” he said.

He urged the federal government to direct law-enforcement agencies in Balochistan to work for normalising the situation and strengthening the reconciliation process.

The federal government, he said, should realise the gravity of the situation. Otherwise, he warned, it would go from bad to worse and he would not be responsible for that.

Meanwhile, a statement issued here on Wednesday by a spokesman for the FC said that the force had nothing to do with the killing of BSO activists.

“No FC personnel were deployed when the BSO rally was fired upon,” the spokesman said.

He welcomed a judicial inquiry into the killing of BSO activists.

Nawab Raisani said the killing would be investigated by a judge of the Balochistan High Court.

He said there was nothing in the Balochistan package to be lauded because there was nothing important in it.

The chief minister said that bureaucrats in Islamabad were the biggest obstacle to implementing the government’s decisions pertaining to Balochistan.

He said the forces which wanted to sabotage the process of reconciliation had to be discouraged.

Nawab Raisani said the federal government had rejected the scrapping of the Gwadar Deep Sea Port and Reko Dik project agreements. But, he said, the Balochistan government would not allow any agreement which undermined the rights of the people of Balochistan.

“This response from the federal government strengthens the elements who say that the centre is not interested in giving rights to the people of Balochistan,” he said.http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/front-page/13+fc-running-parallel-govt%2C-says-raisani-110-za-11

January 21, 2010   No Comments

Sindhi nationalists intensify efforts for single platform

By Habib Khan Ghori in The Dawn, Jan 21
KARACHI: Several Sindhi nationalist parties frustrated by what they view as a ‘change’ in the Pakistan People’s Party’s original agenda have intensified their efforts to form a single platform to launch a joint political struggle for the rights of the province and its people.

Shah Mohammad Shah, head of the Save Sindh Movement (SSM) — part of a five-party alliance — and Saleem Jan Mazari of the Sindh Awami Alliance told a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Wednesday that they agreed to form the platform quickly and contest the upcoming local government elections jointly across Sindh. Pressing issues confronting Sindh were also discussed at length at a meeting held on Wednesday at the residence of the SSM chief.

The SSM groups together the Sindh Awami Tehreek, Sindh National Front, Sindh United Party, Sindh Taraqqi Pasand Party and Save Sindh Movement.

The meeting, they said, decided to bring other nationalist forces to the platform.

Mr Shah told journalists that several proposals on safeguarding the rights and interests of Sindh and its people were made by SAA leaders at the meeting and he would put up the set of proposals to a committee having representation of the SSM component parties for approval as the agenda of the proposed broader election alliance. The SAA leaders, he said, intended to convince leaders of all nationalist parties of Sindh to form such an alliance.

Regarding the perceived PPP policy shift, Mr Shah recalled that the PPP had been in the forefront of the Sindh-based parties’ struggle for the rights of the province before it reached the power corridors, but now it was subjecting the people of Sindh to excesses. The PPP, he said, had been opposing the greater Thal canal project for years while it was an opposition party but now when it was ruling over the country, it not only stopped opposing the project but also allocated Rs15 billion for the construction of the canal.

Salim Jan Mazari said water, Sindh’s rights over its resources and a fair census were some of the major issues confronting the province. “While wrong census figures have been registered with regard to the urban and rural population of Sindh, 60 per cent of the budget is being allocated to the 40 per cent urban population,” he claimed, adding that the 60 per cent rural population was given 40 per cent share in budgetary allocations. Double entries and omissions in the voters lists based on wrong census figures were also a major issue leading to the political exploitation of a majority of the Sindhi people.

He demanded that a fair census should be held under the supervision of the army and the judiciary.

In reply to a question, Mr Mazari said that “anyone living in Sindh is a Sindhi whatever his mother tongue may be.”

Welcoming the independence of the judiciary, the nationalist leaders lauded the Supreme Court’s recent judgments, particularly on the National Reconciliation Ordinance, and said this had rekindled the hope for the restoration of provinces’ rights.

Mujeeb Pirzada, Maqbool Shaikh, retired Capt Haleem Siddiqui, Irfanullh Marwat, Irfan Gul Magsi, Sardar Manzoor Panhwar, Sardar Ali Gauhar, Ali Mehar and Amanullah Talpur were among the others present at the press conference. http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/local/13+karachi-sindhi-nationalists-intensify-efforts-for-single-platform-110-za-02

January 21, 2010   No Comments

An elusive package: edit in the Daily Times, Jan 21

The walkout by two ministers from the Balochistan Assembly session on Monday in protest against the killing of two Baloch students at a protest rally in Khuzdar last week and condemnation of the killings by senators of both the treasury and opposition benches once again focuses minds on the plight of the Baloch. When the PPP government presented a package for Balochistan, a province that has been fighting for its rights since the inception of Pakistan, many termed it a historic step. Though the Baloch nationalists rejected the package and said that it would not bring about any change in the current situation, a broad swathe of opinion thought the nationalist leaders were being overly pessimistic. Now, however, it seems the ‘pessimist’ Baloch nationalists were right after all. This has been proved yet again by the incident in Khuzdar, where the people’s right to a peaceful protest was violated and brutally crushed. The use of brutal force by the Frontier Constabulary (FC) has not only alienated the Baloch further, it has put the federation of Pakistan at stake.

The ‘Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan’ package has failed to deliver on its promise. The military operation is still continuing, as are the kidnappings of Baloch nationalist leaders and workers. The government must ensure that the military operation is stopped, and the ‘missing’ persons the prime minister promised would come home, recovered. In this backdrop, the removal of some Baloch leaders’ names, including Ataullah Mengal, Akhtar Mengal, Khair Bakhsh Marri, from the exit control list (ECL) was a good gesture, albeit a small one. What is more shocking is Prime Minister Gilani’s comment that it was “news to me” that these people were on the ECL. We should be thankful for small mercies that the prime minister finally got this ‘information’ and acted upon it. If the chief executive has no ‘news’ about prominent names on the ECL list, one can only pray.

Despite the mention of Balochistan’s IDPs in the said package, the situation remains the same. We hear of humanitarian aid for the Swat and Malakand IDPs every day, but the Baloch IDPs are hardly ever mentioned. If this continues, the anti-federation sentiment would rise even more in the neglected province. Balochistan needs concrete steps to defuse the situation and engage the alienated Baloch rather than pie-in-the-sky ‘packages’.

For the past many years the Baloch have been waging a fight against the Pakistani establishment for their just rights. They have largely been asking for what has been promised to them under the constitution. Failure to fulfil this aspiration is the surest way to exacerbate separatist sentiment in the province. Instead of playing politics with such a serious matter, the government should deliver on its promises and not make a mockery of the Baloch issue. To ignore Baloch grievances is to run the risk of weakening the integrity of the federation. The Centre must pay heed to the disquiet ruling Balochistan. The government needs to have a dialogue with the alienated Baloch leaders, both in Pakistan and those living in exile abroad. The tension-ridden atmosphere of Balochistan should ring alarm bells for the government. Pakistan is already fighting a war with the Taliban and it cannot afford another war front against Baloch insurgents. The results of not delivering on the Balochistan package can be disastrous for the country. The government needs to get its act together or else get ready for another debacle.http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\01\21\story_21-1-2010_pg3_1

January 21, 2010   No Comments

Drone strikes unlikely to hurt Taliban in long term: The Daily Times, Jan 19

ISLAMABAD: A US drone strike that nearly killed the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief may encourage the CIA to keep up its campaign to eliminate high-profile Taliban by remote control.

But the strikes may only have limited success and generate more anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, which the US sees as a front-line state in its war on terror.

Taliban officials said TTP chief Hakeemullah Mehsud was wounded slightly last week after being targeted in a drone attack. Washington says its drone strikes are key to defeating Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Coming just days after Hakeemullah appeared in a farewell video with the suicide bomber who killed CIA agents in Afghanistan, the apparent revenge attack was a reminder that drone attacks are highly capable of eliminating top Taliban leaders.

Analysts say the high-tech aircraft – designed to throw Al Qaeda and Taliban operations into disarray – are unlikely to break resilient militant groups in the long term and may only generate more anti-American anger in Pakistan.

“Ultimately this is not really an effective weapon. The intent is, that if you can kill off or decapitate a significant extent of the leadership, then you can cause a rift within the movement,” said Kamran Bokhari, regional director for Middle East and South Asia at STRATFOR.

Drone attacks in the Tribal Areas have been intensified since the double agent suicide bomber killed seven CIA employees at a US base in Afghanistan on December 30, the second deadliest attack in the agency’s history.

Holding up: Even if sustained over a long period, drone strikes can only produce limited results – perhaps holding up suicide bombings for a few weeks – since Taliban leaders are unlikely to be killed in quick succession, analysts say.

The problem for the US and its allies is the over-reliance on drone attacks to fight the Taliban, and the lack of ground intelligence.

CIA’s recruitment of agents is tedious and risky since it requires winning over people in a region of tightly knit family and tribal ties. Anyone tempted by cash risks execution if caught by the Taliban or Al Qaeda, and intelligence is often sketchy.

That is why the CIA must rely on Pakistani intelligence to provide targets to the virtual pilots who use computers halfway across the world to fly the $4.5 million unmanned aircrafts into battle.

That coordination may have put the Al Qaeda and Taliban on the defensive in the Tribal Areas.

But Pakistan is unlikely to hand over the intelligence Washington wants most of all – whereabouts of leaders of the Afghan Taliban groups who attack US forces in Afghanistan.

Those coordinates will be hard to come by because those groups are some of Pakistan’s most strategic regional assets.

Pakistani officials complain in public that drone strikes violate the country’s sovereignty and have said that intensified strikes could hurt relations between the long-standing allies.

US officials privately say the attacks are carried out under an agreement with Islamabad that allows Pakistani leaders to decry the attacks in public. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\01\19\story_19-1-2010_pg7_15

January 19, 2010   No Comments

Congested border crossing may affect U.S. build-up in Afghanistan

By Joshua Partlow in The Washington Post, Jan 19
SPIN BOLDAK, AFGHANISTAN — The pace of President Obama’s troop buildup in Afghanistan hinges in part on a narrow, pothole-riddled dirt track that is controlled by a 33-year-old suspected drug lord and by the whims of the Pakistani military.

It is down this road each month that thousands of cargo trucks bearing U.S. and NATO military supplies pass through the only major border crossing in southern Afghanistan — the area where most American troop reinforcements are scheduled to deploy.

Here at the border crossing, where traffic switches from the left side of the road in Pakistan to the right in Afghanistan, supply trucks must pass along with the flood of pedestrians, donkey carts, drug shipments and materials to make roadside bombs. Only about 2 to 3 percent of the vehicles are regularly searched, and payoffs to border guards are rampant, U.S. military officials say.

The chaos and congestion of this border crossing have become a matter of urgent concern as military logisticians scramble to fulfill Obama’s plan for bringing 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan this year. Compounding the problem is that Pakistan has been slow to respond to U.S. proposals to create a separate lane for coalition military vehicles and nighttime crossing rights, U.S. officials say.

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, flew to Quetta, Pakistan, on Monday to meet with Pakistani military commanders, then toured the border crossing with officials from both countries.

“It’s absolutely key to have this gate functioning better,” said Maj. Gen. Hubert De Vos, a Belgian army officer who is the deputy chief of staff for resources with the coalition military command. “It’s a direct link to the south, and the south is absolutely critical.”

Hastening overland supplies of fuel, food and military equipment to Afghanistan is just one issue in a frenzy of logistical work that is required to feed, house and protect soldiers coming to fight. The military is rushing to construct and expand military bases, dig wells and build power plants, dining halls, aircraft landing strips and temporary housing. At the end of each week, coalition officials responsible for southern Afghanistan convene for hours to monitor the progress — meetings that have earned the nickname “Friday night fights.”

Maj. Gen. Don T. Riley, the chief engineer for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said the pace of traffic through Spin Boldak needs to increase to 150 NATO supply trucks a day, up from the current average of just under 100. These additional trucks are needed, among other reasons, to slake the military’s demand for fuel, which is expected to increase by 30 to 40 percent.

The U.S. military has longer-term plans to build a bypass road around the crossing. In the short term, it is pushing for overnight access through the border.

But for the past month, Pakistan has given little ground. Part of the problem is apparently bureaucracy, with at least five Pakistani agencies involved in providing security for NATO convoys between the port city of Karachi and the border. In the past, Pakistani officials also have criticized U.S. plans to increase troop levels, arguing that an intensified war will spread back into their country.

There is trouble on the Afghan side as well. The urgency to increase the flow of military supplies has forced the U.S. military to rely heavily on Abdul Razziq, the illiterate local commander of the Afghan border police.

According to U.S. military officials, Razziq wields near total control over Spin Boldak and the border crossing. Razziq, a former anti-Taliban fighter, owns a trucking company, commands 3,500 police, effectively controls the local government, and reportedly takes in millions from extorting passing vehicles and trafficking drugs. He is a colonel, but his soldiers call him “general.” On Monday, Razziq popped pistachios while smiling and chatting with U.S. generals.

Razziq can shut down the border crossing at will. He also provides intelligence to Americans about potential attacks and keeps the insurgency in check in his area. He says he is amenable to U.S. plans to fast-track NATO supplies but has tried to keep U.S. soldiers at arm’s length at the crossing point.

Razziq said in a telephone interview that the allegations against him are “totally baseless,” and that in the past three months his police has confiscated 11 tons of drugs and arrested at least 15 traffickers. “If they have any kind of evidence, then they should present that evidence,” he said.

Razziq’s power also seems to anger Pakistan, which already has a fraught relationship with Afghanistan over the disputed border. One Western official who works with the Pakistani Army said Pakistan wants the border crossing to be more efficient to avoid backups on its side.

But, he said, Pakistani officials find Razziq “unpalatable,” think that he is slowing traffic and are upset that “he’s getting all the money.” Fittingly, the Friendship Gate, which marks the border with dual archways, is locked.

Riley, the chief engineer, said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, regional envoy Richard C. Holbrooke and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl W. Eikenberry are “all working feverishly to get the two governments to work a little more closely together” to speed supplies.

After his meetings in Quetta and Spin Boldak on Monday, McChrystal sounded optimistic.

“We want to make sure that it’s as efficient as it can be,” he said of the border crossing. “And instead of it being something where the two nations don’t work closely together, we’d really like it to be something that’s a little closer to a handshake. And I think we can do that.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/18/AR2010011803474_pf.html

January 19, 2010   No Comments

Arms merchants in Rs 20 billion trade: By Kamran Khan IN The News, Jan 13

KARACHI: Since the last week of March 2008, more than 38,800 people have been issued licences of prohibited weapons such as Kalashnikov, MP5, G3 and Uzi, mostly on direct orders of the prime minister and minister of state for interior.

Most alarmingly, these licences were issued without any police verification or an official check on the background of the applicants, according to an investigation by this correspondent. A whopping 100,000 licences of non-prohibited bore weapons, such as revolvers and pistols, were also issued without any police verification whatsoever during the same 21-month period.

There is no formal or official procedure in the country for a common Pakistani to properly apply for a prohibited bore weapon license other than finding a member of the National Assembly or the Senate having direct connections with the prime minister or minister of state for interior for the approval of license, hence prohibited bore licenses are a precious commodity and arms dealers charge a premium of up to Rs 200,000 for such a license.

Sources in arms dealers’ community estimate liberal issuance of prohibited and non-prohibited weapons licences by the government since April 2008 has generated Rs 20 billion business for weapons dealers in sale of automatic, semi-automatic weapons in addition to massive earnings in selling the prohibited and non-prohibited licences of weapons. The situation also raised serious questions about the exact source of weapon supplies to arms dealers.

Massive monetary attraction, besides other reasons, may have contributed to immense pressure on Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani from parliamentarians to favour them with his special powers to issue licences for all sorts of weapons.

As parliamentarians pressed the prime minister for more and more licences, he introduced an unprecedented quota of weapons licences in September last year by allowing 25 licences per year of prohibited weapons and 20 licences per month of non-prohibited weapons for each member of the National Assembly and the Senate. He extended the favour to MPAs also by allotting them five prohibited weapons licenses per year.

Since March 2008 till June 2009, the prime minister ordered issuance of 22,541 licences of prohibited weapons, mostly making orders on plain papers with certain names scribbled on them presented to him by various MNAs and senators.

In two months after assuming the office of minister of state for interior in April 2009, Tasnim Ahmed Qureshi issued a record 5,986 licences of prohibited weapons, including more than 100 licences that ended up at the Inter Risk (Pvt) Ltd, the security company contracted by the United States Embassy in Pakistan. Inter Risk owners are now facing prosecution for possessing a large cache of illegal weapons.

Qadir Nawaz, the personal secretary of the minister of state for interior, was arrested in the case, while the issuance of about 6,000 prohibited weapons licences in just two months on the direct order of the minister of state is still being probed by the relevant agencies.

This incident caused uproar in the government security services about the scale of corruption and security risks in weapons license system. The prime minister, though rejected allegations of ministerial level involvement in the weapons scam, announced a ban on issuance of licences in June last year.

“If parliament believes in accountability, justice and fair play, it should allow a neutral and thorough probe into the prohibited weapons license case and examine who were those 39,000 people whose names were recommended by various senators and MNAs for Kalashnikovs and Uzis licences as well as those 100,000-plus people who received licences for pistols and revolvers,” said an interior ministry official. http://www.thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=26635

January 13, 2010   No Comments

Bugti’s killing was a result of clash with state’s writ: Musharraf

LAHORE: Nawab Akbar Bugti’s death was the result of a clash with the writ of the state, former president Pervez Musharraf said on Tuesday.

According to a private TV channel, Musharraf said neither the president nor the chief of the army staff could give direct orders to the army and other law enforcment agencies on any particular issue and the allegations against him were baseless.

He said Akbar Bugti and his henchmen challenged the writ of the state and later took refuge in a cave. He said a four-member delegation of the army went into the cave to ask Bugti and his followers to lay down their arms. “It seems the cave collapsed which resulted in the death of Bugti and the four soldiers”, he said. He said billions of rupees were spent on the Gwadar port under his regime. http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\01\13\story_13-1-2010_pg7_4

January 13, 2010   No Comments

Bill asks Zardari to certify Pakistan’s sovereignty, every year: The News, Jan 13

By Tariq Butt
ISLAMABAD: To counterbalance the Kerry-Lugar Act, a bill moved in the Senate the other day makes it mandatory for the president of Pakistan to certify to parliament every January that Pakistan’s sovereignty and honour have not been compromised in any manner whatsoever.

The Pakistan Sovereignty Bill 2010, sponsored by opposition leader in the Senate Wasim Sajjad, says notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in any law and treaty, and undertakings or conditionalities agreed with any foreign country, the president of Pakistan shall certify every January each year on behalf of the Pakistani government to each house of parliament that no compromise had been made on security or effectiveness of the nuclear programme of Pakistan; that no understanding has been reached with any foreign country for interference in the change of command or promotions in the Pakistani armed forces or in the structure or role of security forces of Pakistan; and that no conditionalities have been accepted from any source to weaken the defence of Pakistan against foreign aggressions.

“There are many forces, both inside and outside Pakistan, which are weakening the defence of Pakistan and endangering the sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan,” the statement of objects and reasons of the bill said.It said a vulnerable economic situation was being used to force Pakistan into steps that were not in the national interest, and it, therefore, was necessary to enact this law.

Wasim Sajjad believed during a chat with this correspondent that no parliamentary party would oppose or object to the bill because it dealt with an important non-controversial issue, which was of concern to every citizen of Pakistan. He hoped the ruling coalition parties would also not be against this bill because there were no two opinions on protecting the sovereignty of Pakistan.

He said the Kerry-Lugar Act raised many concerns and caused serious worries in almost all civil and military circles. He said to deal with these misgivings and qualms, it was necessary to provide a legal statute wherein the president of Pakistan was bound to give to parliament an annual certification.

Wasim Sajjad said this was something new in Pakistan, but such requirements were in place in many countries, especially the United States where the Congress was informed about all measures and policies decided by the US administration.

It appears the Pakistan Sovereignty Act was drafted keeping in view the harsh provisions of the Kerry-Lugar Act, which were interpreted in Pakistan as something meant to hit the country hard.

Almost all matters on which the Pakistan Sovereignty Bill seeks presidential certification were covered directly or indirectly in the Kerry-Lugar Act and it was claimed the sovereignty and honour of Pakistan had been compromised in it; Pakistan’s nuclear programme has been endangered; US interference has been allowed in the change of command and promotions in the Pakistan armed forces and the structure and role of security forces of Pakistan and several conditionalities have been attached, which impinged hard on the defence of Pakistan. www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=218421

January 13, 2010   No Comments

Arms merchants in Rs 20 billion trade: By Kamran Khan IN The News, Jan 13

KARACHI: Since the last week of March 2008, more than 38,800 people have been issued licences of prohibited weapons such as Kalashnikov, MP5, G3 and Uzi, mostly on direct orders of the prime minister and minister of state for interior.

Most alarmingly, these licences were issued without any police verification or an official check on the background of the applicants, according to an investigation by this correspondent. A whopping 100,000 licences of non-prohibited bore weapons, such as revolvers and pistols, were also issued without any police verification whatsoever during the same 21-month period.

There is no formal or official procedure in the country for a common Pakistani to properly apply for a prohibited bore weapon license other than finding a member of the National Assembly or the Senate having direct connections with the prime minister or minister of state for interior for the approval of license, hence prohibited bore licenses are a precious commodity and arms dealers charge a premium of up to Rs 200,000 for such a license.

Sources in arms dealers’ community estimate liberal issuance of prohibited and non-prohibited weapons licences by the government since April 2008 has generated Rs 20 billion business for weapons dealers in sale of automatic, semi-automatic weapons in addition to massive earnings in selling the prohibited and non-prohibited licences of weapons. The situation also raised serious questions about the exact source of weapon supplies to arms dealers.

Massive monetary attraction, besides other reasons, may have contributed to immense pressure on Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani from parliamentarians to favour them with his special powers to issue licences for all sorts of weapons.

As parliamentarians pressed the prime minister for more and more licences, he introduced an unprecedented quota of weapons licences in September last year by allowing 25 licences per year of prohibited weapons and 20 licences per month of non-prohibited weapons for each member of the National Assembly and the Senate. He extended the favour to MPAs also by allotting them five prohibited weapons licenses per year.

Since March 2008 till June 2009, the prime minister ordered issuance of 22,541 licences of prohibited weapons, mostly making orders on plain papers with certain names scribbled on them presented to him by various MNAs and senators.

In two months after assuming the office of minister of state for interior in April 2009, Tasnim Ahmed Qureshi issued a record 5,986 licences of prohibited weapons, including more than 100 licences that ended up at the Inter Risk (Pvt) Ltd, the security company contracted by the United States Embassy in Pakistan. Inter Risk owners are now facing prosecution for possessing a large cache of illegal weapons.

Qadir Nawaz, the personal secretary of the minister of state for interior, was arrested in the case, while the issuance of about 6,000 prohibited weapons licences in just two months on the direct order of the minister of state is still being probed by the relevant agencies.

This incident caused uproar in the government security services about the scale of corruption and security risks in weapons license system. The prime minister, though rejected allegations of ministerial level involvement in the weapons scam, announced a ban on issuance of licences in June last year.

“If parliament believes in accountability, justice and fair play, it should allow a neutral and thorough probe into the prohibited weapons license case and examine who were those 39,000 people whose names were recommended by various senators and MNAs for Kalashnikovs and Uzis licences as well as those 100,000-plus people who received licences for pistols and revolvers,” said an interior ministry official. http://www.thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=26635

January 13, 2010   No Comments

Ex-Pak Navy chief confirms French kickbacks

By Ansar Abbasi in The News, Jan 12
ISLAMABAD: Former Naval chief Admiral Abdul Aziz Mirza gives credence to the recent French investigative report that talked of almost $49 million kickbacks in the Agosta-submarine deal allegedly received by President Asif Ali Zardari and others, including Naval officers, disclosing that the then Benazir government had urged the Pakistan Navy to go for the French subs.

Mirza, while quoting the then Naval chief Admiral Saeed Khan, also revealed that Benazir Bhutto’s defence minister Aftab Shaban Mirani had clearly indicated to the Pakistan Navy’s high command the government’s preference for the induction of the French submarines.

Despite these clear indications by the defence minister, the top naval command again met and deliberated on the subject and decided to recommend two options to the government — the British Upholder and the French Agosta. The government later approved the induction of the Agosta.

Mirza, who led the Pakistan Navy from Oct 1999 to Oct 2002, said the Navy first formally came to know about the kickbacks in the Agosta deal in 1998 following which it proceeded against three officials of the rank of captain and commodore for getting bribe. They were eventually removed from service. “My hunch is that besides the politicians, some top ranking naval officers, even above the rank of commodore, might also have received kickbacks as reflected in the recent French media reports. They, however, (the top Naval officials) remained undetected for want of proof or witnesses,” Mirza said.

He claimed that even the condemned formal Naval chief, Masoorul Haq, was not convicted of the Agosta kickbacks but for the bribes that he had pocketed in other defence deals. According to a recent report in a leading French newspaper, investigations have revealed that Zardari received $4.3 million in kickbacks from the sale of three Agosta 90 submarines for Eu825 million. These reports also suggest that Naval officials might have received kickbacks out of this $49 million.

This deal was struck during Benazir Bhutto’s second tenure in 1994. According to former DG Naval Intelligence Commodore Shahid Ashraf, he had informed in early 1995 the then Naval chief Mansoorul Haq and his vice chief vice admiral AU Khan of the cash pay off to Capt ZU Alvi and Col (retd) Ejaz as bribe for further distribution amongst Naval officers.

Ashraf, who was dismissed from service, claimed in his statement in 1998 that he had informed the Naval chief and the vice chief in early 1995 of the Agosta kickbacks issue but was asked by them to keep quiet. Ashraf insisted that he was innocent and victimised by the Pakistan Navy in 1998 to save the skin of several other allegedly corrupt Naval officers, who had received kickbacks in the Agosta deal.

Admiral Mirza admitted the facts that Ashraf did make the same claim in his statement in 1998 and that retired vice admiral AU Khan too had confirmed the same fact when questioned in 1998 by the fact-finding inquiry.

But Admiral Mirza still insisted the ex-DG Naval Intelligence did receive kickbacks in the Agosta deal as was confirmed by the other two officers, Capt ZU Alvi and Capt Liaqat Ali Malik, who were blamed to have received bribes directly from the French. For the same reason, he said, the ex-DGNI was penalised.

He said that Capt ZU Alvi and Col (retd) Ejaz were the two main witnesses with the former having agreed to become approver on the condition of revealing all the details of kickbacks and corruption. Mirza though conceded that Ashraf was Admiral Mansurul Haq’s right-hand man, he did never carry the reputation of being corrupt before he was convicted to have received Rs 1.5 million from Alvi, who was the direct recipient of the kickbacks.

Mirza, who has also served as the country’s ambassador to Riyadh, said that one Zafar Iqbal, a middle man of the French company, was also interrogated and had admitted to have received $160,000 to be paid to four commodores. He, however, said that both Iqbal and Ejaz never paid this amount to anyone of them. The former Naval chief said that the four commodores were never charge sheeted or confronted by a board of inquiry as a fact-finding inquiry had already found them innocent, which led to their promotion as rear admiral.

Zafar Iqbal claimed during interrogation to have been assigned by the French company to bribe the Naval officials up to the rank of commodore. For top ranking Naval officers and for political bosses, Mirza quoted Zafar Iqbal to have claimed that some other middle men, including Aamir Lodhi, were responsible for the kickbacks and commissions of persons with higher status both in Navy and in the government.

Since these middle men were never caught and probed so it still remains a secret as to who amongst the senior most Naval officers of that time received how much money, he said. But he believed that there were some top men, who must have received the kickbacks but remained free.

Referring to the latest French media reports about the Agosta kickbacks, he said he gives such reports due credence also for the reason that the French, Germans, Italians and other manufacturers of defence equipment do have a recognised provision of allocating about 10 pc of the contract value as kickbacks, entertainment, gifts etc as a matter of policy.

When asked whether the kickbacks and commissions in defence deals in Pakistan could be curbed, he stated that with a little bit of sincere effort the kickbacks in defence procurements could be considerably reduced if not altogether eliminated. http://www.thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=26619

January 12, 2010   No Comments