Pakistan’s government has launched a counter-offensive against a British tabloid that ‘uncovered’ the ‘London Olympics visa scam’ after investigations into the issue apparently showed that the story was fictitious.
Terming the story “propaganda,” the federal cabinet decided on Wednesday to file a lawsuit against the daily paper, The Sun, in British courts. A meeting, presided over by Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, approved the decision to sue the newspaper for publishing the report based on assumptions, said a source, adding that Pakistan will seek Rs10 billion in damages.
Though the cabinet has directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to halt investigations in light of its decision to file the lawsuit, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said the inquiry will continue as evidence collected by FIA will help strengthen Pakistan’s case.
In his address to the media, Kaira leveled strong criticism against The Sun and turned the tables on the paper by questionings its ‘credibility.’ He added it was surprising how the newspaper did not know that NADRA has nothing to do with issuing passports.
Athletics Association Pakistan’s Secretary Khalid Mehmood also presented the record of the 38 participants due to take part in the 2012 summer games to the FIA. The investigation agency, meanwhile, has decided to release all the suspects detained earlier.
The government, however, has asked FIA to put together a complete profile of Lahore-based politician Abid Chaudhry, who, The Sun claims, is the mastermind behind the alleged scandal. The tabloid accused Chaudhry of smuggling people to London under the garb of Pakistani officials in exchange for a payment of Rs1 million.
The decision to file a lawsuit came soon after NADRA Chairman Muhammad Tariq Malik briefed the cabinet. Malik, who appeared before the cabinet along with the interior secretary and director-general of the passport office, rubbished The Sun’s claims of NADRA officials providing forged travel documents.
“The British newspaper’s story about NADRA is not based on any evidence. Upon the cabinet’s directives, NADRA will file a lawsuit against the tabloid for maligning Pakistan,” Malik said at a press briefing soon after the meeting.
He said NADRA can boast of being the safest registration system in the world and no unauthorized person can access the system.
The Sun’s ‘man’
The Sun, in its story, had claimed that its “man” had been able to get a Pakistani passport on someone else’s particulars. Based on this premise, it said, the “man” could have gotten a visa for the Olympic Games to be held in London through some “corrupt” officials.
The visa, however, was never issued.
As for the claim of the “fake passport,” the charges were rubbished. According to NADRA’s database, The Sun’s “man” is named Mohammad Ali Asad s/o Mohammad Anwer Siddique. His NIC bearing number 35202-2660630-5 was issued on February 6, 2002. It was added that Asad, a former reporter for Daily Khabrain, had immigrated to the UK earlier and had been living there for the past 8-10 years.
His British passport bearing number 506486804 was issued on October 24, 2011, and has the same name and photograph as his NIC. In a discrepancy that conversely takes place on the UK’s side of things, an incorrect place and date of birth is mentioned. Malik said that, though the British security mechanism for the same is quite intricate too, the authorities there were not able to nab Asad.
In any case, Asad, according to authorities, returned to Pakistan on July 8 this year as an undercover man for The Sun. He had booked a room at the Avari Hotel in Lahore from the date of his arrival till July 31.
He personally visited the NADRA office in Baghbanpura on July 10 and had his picture updated in his record. He got his own photo updated rather than getting someone else’s identity as claimed by The Sun’s story. The photo was updated after matching it with his previous photo, it was claimed by officials. On the same basis, he consequently applied for a passport on July 13 which was delivered to him on July 18, it was added. According to officials, no discrepancy took place.
(Read: Getting a fake ID)
(With additional reporting from our correspondent in Lahore)
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2012.
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allegation could not wash without proof. Corruption is our narional identification and need /status in every filed of life. Explation as issued by Nadra is not satisfictory but creating further doubt. I thing mind it suit will dismiss because facts are different and explaination is weak. President to Clreck are all corrupte explaination is supporting the corruption. Saad Shibli Asc
@Asma: They were freed after investigations, as part of the law. The article also states that.
@DevilHunterX: Stop being a smart-Alec. English is not our language, our languages are Urdu/Pashto/Punjabi/Balochi/Sindhi and others. If we can't speak English properly, we are not a subject of ridicule and it does NOT put us below others.
It is you, who, with your comment reveal your low position.
Grow up, son.
A news item last night exposed Brit security system that is 'hightened' these days in the wake of Olympics 2012.. A boy, 11, bypassed all levels of 'security' at Heathrow and flew to Rome without any visa, passport or even ticket. I think they should set their house in order first before pointing fingers on others on fabricated stories.
@Malatesh dont bother just rent out the footpaths in mumbai for homeless
Keeping patriotism and ego aside, who to believe? an institution of country that ranks 150 out of 165 on the corruption index or a newspaper of a country that ranks 35. No prizes for guessing.
@shaista: English, do you speak it?
Counter allegations or counter attacking is one of the tool for face saving temporarily.. Its human tendency that people forget past as time goes.,, for example see the recent history of Pakistan.
Pakistan government should not act in haste, as tables may turn if our work is incomplete
This sun will now set forever, Insha'Allah!
Finally we found a new replacement for aid.
Admit it, the officials were caught red handed. Don't do a Salman Butt on us. I bet some sensitive officials where involved at the highest level, that's why the government has suddenly turned offensive.
Another baseless propogandafrom the Brit Media to mlign Pakistan .. Great step by the government to challenge it legally. This will set the record straight!!
Good reporting and good work FIA and NADRA. We are with you. Sun is about to set.
Sounds great but given Pakistan's record of "investigations" you would gain more credibility if you convinced Scotland Yard and had them join you in refuting the allegations.
though we loath The Sun, for being anti-muslim, anti-pakistani, anti-asian etc newspaper, rather tabloid, we know deep down our officials and our system is corrupt to the core, and PPP tops all of them.
as much as we wish this story to be a scam, i still have my reservations and doubts in pakistani officials......................... and suspect a bit of a truth in the revealed story.
The Sun, is the most racist newspaper against Muslims. Its first page is always full of biased reports against Muslims.
No one should back out of this suing regardless of the pressure from the British. Our pride is at stake.
If one day an accusation is made against Pakistan which they are guilty of and they actually admit to it without first claiming it's a conspiracy or propaganda from the start, even a simple denial would be alright in place of it... Then maybe this would receive more than most of the world rolling their eyes at it while still figuring they're guilty.
If the story is a FAKE, why is the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) rounding up a dozen suspects?
Majid that why always put right stuff when filling form . Sue the newspaper altleast show the people who are responsible for this.
Sun should have been careful after its weekend paper News of the World got closed! . Its two prominent editors are already arrested and charged! Sun's future will be no different!
Go for it!
A BBCD, tried his level best not to defame Pakistan just living in UK but also trying his level best to create a story to defame Pakistan from the land , his incestors left in boats.
i can see an apology coming from Sun lol
chuk day phuttayyy
This will be the final nail in Rupert Murdoch's coffin . Go for it .
Sue The SUN later, first tell me what should I do after spending a lot of money and A LOT OF TIME coupled with unlimited zalalat from totally and completely incompetent NADRA officials, my NICOP is still showing wrong credentials after my third (3rd!) modification?
Take these scumbags to court. Sue them for all they have. Make sure they file for bankruptcy afterwards!
Long Live Pakistan!