Rs5.5b secret funding to intelligence outfit

Musharraf had released Rs5.5b to the premier intelligence agency out of funds allocated to the finance ministry.

Shahbaz Rana September 22, 2010

ISLAMABAD: The General Pervez Musharraf-led government had released Rs5.5 billion to the nation’s premier intelligence agency out of the funds allocated to the finance ministry just a couple of months before the general elections of 2008, reveals the Accountant General of Pakistan Revenue (AGPR).

The revelation is a second major blow to the reputation of spy agencies within 48 hours and that too on the same platform – Public Accounts Committee (PAC) – after Opposition Leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said on Monday that the spy agencies were involved in picking up journalists and rigging elections.

Shahnawaz Khan, the AGPR told the PAC that the money was released under the cover of “relief” from November 10, 2007 to December 17, 2007. On November 10, the finance ministry released Rs140 million to the premier intelligence agency. After 13 days, Rs2.2 billion were again released to the agency. Five days later Rs50 million were again handed over to the agency. Likewise, on December 12, three supplementary grants amounting to Rs2 billion were given to the spy agency out of the funds allocated for the finance ministry.

“It was strange that the government gave funds to the intelligence agency from the finance ministry’s allocation,” said a former secretary finance on condition of anonymity. He said in his tenure the defence ministry was responsible to meet the agency needs, of all sorts.

Secretary Finance Salman Siddique refused to share details of the funds utilisation terming it “sensitive information”. On Monday, Secretary Cabinet too did not disclose the details of Intelligence Bureau’s funds.

The PAC, despite being in the habit of grilling civilian institutions on exceeding expenditure limits, settled over Rs21 billion of excess spending by the intelligence agency and military pensions.

The army put an additional burden of Rs15.5 billion on the national kitty at a time resources were very limited, as it did not inform the finance ministry and paid additional Rs15.5 billion on account of military pensions, the AGPR told the stunned PAC.

The PAC took exception to the practice of putting the burden of military pensions on civilian accounts. The office of the AGPR revealed that in 2007-08 the total pension bill amounted to Rs63 billion out of which Rs53.9 billion were on account of military pensions.

The PAC intended to recommend the government to make the military pensions part of the defence budget, as the allocation was a burden on civilian accounts. The military pensions were taken out of defence budget in 2001 in order to understate the actual defence budget. In 2001 the military pension amounted to Rs26 billion, which now has swelled to Rs72 billion. Siddique said that the armed forces pensioners were over 3 million as against 500,000 civilian pensioners.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2010.


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