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Donations by Pakistani expats vanish: Report

January 15, 2003 20:01 IST

Amidst fears of money being siphoned off for terrorist organisations including Al-Qaeda, Pakistan's Auditor General has disclosed that millions of dollars donated by expatriate countrymen vanished without a trace while being transferred to Islamabad from overseas.

In its 'special audit report on revenue receipts of Pakistan Mission Abroad' from 1997-98 and 2000-01, the report, submitted to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf said, "The banks [in England] either did not give any reply or provided information which was unbelievable." The report was published in a US-based Pakistani weekly, the South Asia Tribune.

Successive civilian governments in Pakistan had asked expatriate Pakistanis to donate to three special funds --- the Kashmir Relief Fund started by Benazir Bhutto, the Flood Relief Fund started by Nawaz Sharief and the Drought Relief Fund by Pervez Musharraf.

The weekly reported that Musharraf, having blamed the two exiled leaders as corrupt, did nothing but brush the scandal under the carpet by referring it to the non-existent 'public accounts committee'.

"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 anyone can imagine," the weekly commented.

The audit report quoted an instance that in 1997 "a receipt book bearing serial number 13, containing 100 receipts, was issued to Fazlur Rehman, Pakistan Haj director in Madina, Saudi Arabia, for collecting donations for the Self Reliance Fund on behalf of the Nawaz Sharief government."

"The officer neither deposited the collected amount nor did he return the used or unused receipts. Thus, the amount collected, if any, was available with him, unaccounted, for the last four or five years," the weekly said.

The report also quoted one instance of a Pakistani bank in Scotland, which had reported a 'nil collection' in that particular fund account to the Auditor General.

"The Pakistani community told the audit team during informal meetings that the community did donate generally [generously]," the South Asia Tribune said.

The report also pointed out that the Habib Bank at Glasgow, United Kingdom, vaguely stated that all the collected funds had been remitted to London, but did not provide any details.

The Pakistani Mission in Manchester, Brimingham and Glasgow told the audit team that the banks had collected the funds directly and remitted the same to their main branches in Pakistan. But the banks do not admit such things, it said.

The issues involving 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 weekly said.

It said such disclosures did not trigger alarm bells among the donor Pakistanis alone, and all security agencies and international watchdogs would like to know whether these millions were used for any purpose.

"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 agency of Pakistan, to achieve any illegal or terrorist objective," the weekly commented.

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