Another potentially-crippling scandal hit Pakistani sports on Monday – and once again it was broken in dramatic style by a UK-based tabloid newspaper.
The Sun claims to have unearthed a scam, involving a “Lahore-based politician” and other officials, wherein Pakistani nationals were brought into England under the garb of participants and officials accompanying the Pakistani Olympics delegation for the summer 2012 games – set to start on Friday.
However, Pakistan’s Olympic chef de mission Aqil Shah dismissed The Sun’s claims.
According to an exclusive report of a sting operation published in The Sun, a journalist allegedly broke into “a crime ring offering false passports, visas — and access to London 2012 as bogus support staff.” The report upped the ante on the already-startling charges by saying the ring brought in “potential terrorists.”
The Sun alleges that Lahore-based politician Abid Chaudhry offered its undercover reporter in Pakistan the chance to go to the Olympics posing as an official member of the Pakistani contingent on a two-month visa in return for a million rupees ($10,000). The crime ring had been under investigation after the daily informed UK intelligence, MI6, the Home Office, the UK Border Agency and the British High Commission in Islamabad.
“These are baseless reports,” Pakistan’s Olympic chef de mission Aqil Shah told AFP. “This is an attempt to malign Pakistan. Even if someone gets a passport he cannot enter the Olympic Village without an Olympic accreditation card,” he added.
According to Shah, barring him, Pakistan’s 39-member delegation is already in London and consists of 23 athletes and 16 officials. “Hockey has at least six officials which are under the rules and then we have physicians and other coaches who are genuine members of Pakistan’s contingent,” he said.
Further pouring doubt into the controversy, Malik Bashir, the owner of Dream Land, the travel agency whose name was mentioned by The Sun, said that he did not even know who Abid Chaudhry was.
Bashir who was charged with human trafficking in 2003, presently stands clear of criminal charges.
Abid Chaudhry when contacted by The Express Tribune, dismissed allegations held against him and said that he was trapped into “this planned controversy”.
Advisor to the Prime Minister on Interior Affairs Rehman Malik constituted a Joint Investigative Team (JIT), headed by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), to probe the scandal. Malik has instructed the JIT to complete their investigation within three days and arrest those responsible.
The team consists of officials from FIA, ISI, IB and NADRA.
Malik also directed the Ministry of Interior to place Abid Chaudhry on the Exit Control List. He also asked authorities to arrest all those who have been responsible for preparing the “fake” CNICs and passports purportedly used for the exercise.
An official from NADRA informed The Express Tribune that eight officers from NADRA’s Lahore office have been suspended and an internal committee comprising senior officials from the organisation has been formed to probe the matter.
The internal committee will probe separately into each official involved in the controversy. It will visit the NADRA provincial headquarters at Lahore and the concerned NADRA office on Tuesday (today), where the case would be further investigated to find more culprits, sources in NADRA further stated.
(With additional reporting by Asad Kharal in Lahore )
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2012.