Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Saturday denied that any forgery had occurred in the Olympics visa scandal, insisting that British tabloid The Sun’s undercover man, Asad Ali, was a dual national, who was issued a genuine Pakistani passport.
Showing documents of Ali’s registration as a Pakistani citizen, along with a copy of his British passport, the minister told reporters at a press conference that “no forgery had occurred,” adding that it was only a matter of errors.
Ali was entitled to a Pakistani passport as he possessed a genuine identity card issued by the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) in 2002, which expired in 2008, Malik said, adding that his identity features were checked and matched,
However, the minister added, Ali had neither declared his earlier Pakistani passport, obtained through a manual system in 2000, nor his UK nationality when he applied for the machine readable passport recently.
“This person defamed Pakistan. He misled authorities here and my hunch is that he also misled The Sun,” said Malik, adding that, “We will ask the UK government to deport him so he can be tried in Pakistan.”
The interior minister further said that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had been directed to register a case against Ali. The evidence upon investigation has already been sent to The Sun, and will also be shared with the federal cabinet, he added.
Malik also said that four officials, two each from NADRA and the passport office in Lahore, were under custody for interrogation over their negligence to check Ali’s data on his previous passport.
“We are investigating if they (officials) accepted speed money or simply neglected to check the details; but this was not forgery it was an error,” the interior minister said.
Chaudhry Abrar, the person accused of taking money for facilitating the speedy processing, was also questioned.
According to Malik, Abrar, in his initial statement, told the FIA investigators that Ali had a history of involvement in such activities.
Meanwhile, an official of NADRA said on the condition of anonymity that Ali was issued a genuine Pakistani passport, but he made it seem like forgery. He explained that Ali travelled to Pakistan, along with British national Stephen Graham, on his British passport and a visit visa obtained from the Pakistani Embassy in Britain.
He first got his ID card renewed from NADRA, through which he obtained a machine readable passport from the FIA’s passport office Lahore. No forgery took place at any stage of the process as both documents were genuinely issued.
However, he made it seem like to The Sun as if he had obtained the documents through forgery by paying off registration and passport officials; therefore, the basis of the tabloid’s story were factually incorrect, the official added.
Terming it a conspiracy, the interior minister questioned why Ali did not use his newly obtained Pakistani passport to travel anywhere. He said that the newspaper “must have been in knowledge of this and Ali’s UK nationality,” an aspect that needed to be probed.
Malik said a case will be sent to the National Press Trust of UK against The Sun on the completion of investigations, before actually approaching courts to sue the newspaper for publishing a baseless story which defamed Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2012.