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October 12, 2011

PPP govt, not Navy, purchased French subs, in a deal

October 12, 2011

ISLAMABAD: In a major confirmation of the most scandalous of all defence deals, the French Agosta submarines purchase, the naval chief of the time had disclosed before a court that it was the then government in 1994-95 that had decided to purchase the French submarines against the recommendation of the Pakistan Navy.
The then Naval Chief Admiral (R) Saeed Muhammad Khan during whose tenure the controversial deal was struck, had said that the Pakistan Navy had recommended to the government to go for five or six UK manufactured Upholder submarines but the then regime using its discretion had decided to purchase three Agosta 90 B class of submarines.
Generally it is believed that the submarine deal was finalised during the tenure of Admiral (R) Mansurul Haq, who had succeeded Admiral Saeed as naval chief but was sacked by the Nawaz Sharif regime on corruption charges.
In a defamation suit filed against a television channel in the court of district judge Islamabad through his counsel, Admiral (R) Saeed Muhammad Khan categorically stated: “The plaintiff (Admiral Saeed) in his capacity as Chief of Naval Staff did not recommend the French Agosta 90 B Class submarines for acquisition by the Government of Pakistan and had in fact recommended, based on the technical and other investigations carried out by Pakistan Navy prior to 1994, the UK manufactured Upholder submarines.
He added: “The reason for the recommendation was based primarily on the fact that the UK submarines were readily available and had been tested at sea whereas the French Agosta 90 B Class of submarines were yet to be manufactured being prototypes and would have taken years to be delivered. Furthermore, the Pakistan Navy had been offered five and possibly 6 UK Upholder submarines compared to three Agosta 90 B class of submarines for a lesser price.”
But, he disclosed that the recommendation of the Pakistan Navy was rejected by the Ministry of Defence, Government of Pakistan who decided

at their own discretion to purchase the Agosta 90 B class of submarines.
He made it clear that the decision to acquire was that of the Ministry of Defence and not the Pakistan Navy which was only required to evaluate the offered submarines and make their recommendations. He insisted that he was not involved in the Agosta deal in any manner.
Before this court statement of the Admiral Saeed, who is the most relevant naval officer of that time with regard to Agosta deal, it was his junior Admiral Abdul Aziz Mirza, who had told this correspondent early last year that the then Naval Chief Admiral Saeed Khan had revealed that Benazir Bhutto’s defence minister Aftab Shaban Mirani had clearly indicated to the Pakistan Navy’s high command the government’s preference for the induction of the French submarines. Admiral Aziz Mirza led the Pakistan from Oct 1999 to Oct 2002.
According to Aziz, despite these clear indications by the then defence minister, the top naval command again met and had deliberated on the subject and decided to recommend two options to the government - the British Upholder and the French Agosta. The government later approved the induction of the Agosta.
Admiral (R) Saeed court statement, however, does not talk of these two options. Mirza had claimed that the Navy first formally came to know about the kickbacks in the Agosta deal in 1998 following which it proceeded against three officials of the rank of captain and commodore for getting bribe. They were eventually removed from service. “My hunch is that besides the politicians, some top ranking naval officers, even above the rank of commodore, might also have received kickbacks as reflected in the recent French media reports. They, however, (the top Naval officials) remained undetected for want of proof or witnesses,” Mirza had told this correspondent. Mirza, however, clarified that the condemned formal Naval chief, Masoorul Haq, was not convicted of the Agosta kickbacks but for the bribes that he had pocketed in other defence deals.

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