Welcome to Human Rights Commision South Asia Official Website  



back to home......

Millons donated by pakistanis overseas untraceable


By Shahwar Faryal


ISLAMABAD: Overseas 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 transferred.

But 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.

The 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.

When 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. Click for Report Page1 | Page2

No body 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.

Caught 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 Jamali Government.

SA 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.

The 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.

Banks 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.”

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

For 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

“The 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.”

Who is 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.

If 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