The incumbent Pakistan Peoples Party government withdrew Rs270 million from the secret fund of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) – allegedly for pushing its political agenda in Punjab, intelligence sources familiar with the issue told The Express Tribune.
There are no details as to how exactly this money was used, but sources claim that the party used the funds in an attempt to influence loyalties of parliamentarians in Punjab – an exercise that reached its peak in the lead-up to and during the eventual imposition of governor rule in Punjab in 2009. According to sources, though the party wanted to try to form its own government in the province, some hiccups – including steep demands of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), such as the Punjab chief minister’s slot, – stalled this plan.
The classified documents made available to The Express Tribune stated that never before had such a huge amount been withdrawn from the secret fund of the IB in such a short span of time.
According to the rules and regulations, the purpose of the secret fund is only to obtain or uncover sensitive information necessary to protect ‘national interest’ – it cannot be used for any other purpose, even emergencies or incidental expenses. All withdrawals are supposed to come under specific heads and justifications. This was not the case with this large withdrawal.
The IB works under the supervision of the prime minister and the agency’s director general is directly answerable to the prime minister.
The issue first came to light when Dr Shoaib Suddle was made the director-general of the IB.
When contacted, Suddle admitted the withdrawal of the said amount, but told The Express Tribune that he had informed the premier regarding the case personally. After assuming charge in 2008, Suddle was informed about the withdrawal of a large chunk of IB’s secret fund – initially believed to be Rs920 million. However, after a probe it emerged that the actual amount was Rs270 million.
Sources confirmed that, when he took over in 2008, Suddle brought the discrepancies to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s notice. However, the sources added, Gilani chose to remain silent.
When contacted, PPP Punjab Secretary-General Samiullah Khan told The Express Tribune that the funds were probably obtained by individuals and they were not transferred to the party funds. He said that if the IB secret funds were used for the purposes alleged by the sources, the PPP would have established a government in Punjab – but it had not been able to.
That said, he added: “legal action should be taken against whichever politician took funds from IB or ISI, regardless of their party affiliation.”
Khan said that a case of similar nature is already being heard by the Supreme Court, so now the time has come to link all these matters. He further added that both politicians and intelligence agencies’ officials should be exposed so that such practices are not repeated in future.
When contacted, Presidential spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar told The Express Tribune that various departments and agencies have special/secret funds for different purposes and they can utilise these funds according to their own mandate. He said that if any institution or agency used funds contrary to its charter and without any accountability or justified manners, it could be considered “absolutely wrong”.
“Without looking at the report, I am not in a position to further comment on this matter,” added Babar.
This is not the first time that the PPP has been accused of using the IB’s secret funds.
In Benazir Bhutto’s first government in 1989, IB secret funds, to the tune of Rs95.5 million, were used for a number of purposes, The Express Tribune has learnt through classified documents.
From October 1989 to June 1990 a total amount of Rs124.3 million was given to IB as part of a supplementary grant. However, of this amount, only Rs28.8million was actually used for the IB’s operations. Rs95.5 million was siphoned off for political payments – withdrawn, according to the records, on the orders of the Prime Minister’s Secretariat.
The funds were used to influence the vote of no confidence of October 1989, the disturbances facing the NWFP (now Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa) government of then CM Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao and the general elections of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir on May 21, 1990, as well as the election of its prime minister on June 19, 1990.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2012.