Former director-general of Naval Intelligence Commodore (retd ) Shahid Ashraf has said that President Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto were not involved in the deal for the purchase of Agosta submarines from France.
He said that though he was “pressurised to get them involved” but he did not succumb.
Participating in an Express News programme Kalamkar with Abbas Athar as host, he said that, in 1992, during the first Nawaz Sharif government, the Navy was given approval to acquire new submarines for $520 million.
The programme was also attended by columnist Abdul Qadir Hasan.
A team, comprising Admiral Naqvi, Admiral Javed Iftihkhar and Admiral SA Mujtaba, was constituted. The team visited China, France, Sweden and the UK and recommended that submarines should be purchased from Sweden.
Later, Admiral Saeed Muhammad Khan again formed another team which visited France, Sweden, China and the UK and recommended to the ministry of defence to purchase either the UK-manufactured ‘Uphold’ class submarines or the French ‘Agosta 90’ class submarines.
He said that the detailed procedure was aimed at reaching a decision to assess the navy’s requirements.
He said that the second team consisted of Rear Admiral AU Khan, SA Mujtaba, Captain Mushtaq, Captain Naqvi, Captain Naveed, Captain Alvi and Captain Khushnud.
The former commodore told the audience that the agreement of purchase of Agosta class submarines was signed on August 21, 1994, during the second tenure of Benazir Bhutto.
“The Pakistan Navy gave its consent to buy the submarines. The government could not have compelled the navy to agree to buy them.”
Replying to a question, Commodore (retd ) Shahid Ashraf said that he was the DG Intelligence in those days. “I was informed that someone called Niaz was going to pay Captain Alvi a sum of $107,000 as part of ‘kickbacks’ on the deal. I went to the house of then Vice-Chief of Naval Staff Admiral AU Khan and provided him all necessary information about the people involved, but he refused to allow me to take any action and said that action should be taken with the permission of the Navy chief, Admiral Mansourul Haq, who was on a visit to France and the US.
He said that he called up Admiral Mansour in France and informed him about the episode and “he advised me to wait until his return home”.
“When he returned, I again told him the entire story. A meeting was held in which all senior officers were present. But this meeting remained inconclusive. After the meeting, Rear Admiral Faseeh Bukhari said to me that I should have ‘caught’ the persons. But I said that my job was to provide information and that he should have got the meeting to decide to arrest the suspects. He got angry and went away.”
When he was asked to comment on Captain Alvi’s allegations regarding receipt of Rs1.5 million, Commodore (retd) Shahid Ashraf refused to comment.
He said that, later, when he learnt that four commodores were “receiving $40,000 each”, the Navy chief, Mansourul Haque, and Vice-Admiral AU Khan advised me to investigate”. The accused deny ever taking any bribes.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 5th, 2010.