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January 8, 2021

Where is Debt Commission report?

Top Story

January 8, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Where is the Debt Inquiry Commission report and why is the government not making it public?

A cabinet member who confided to The News claimed the report is with the finance ministry but he was not sure whether it would be made public or not. The minister feared that the report would invite more problems than doing any good. He said that without any forensic audit, the report includes certain unverified allegations that could upset some international financial institutions – something that Pakistan simply cannot afford.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had constituted the Debt Commission report under Husain Asghar, the deputy chairman NAB, in the hope that the Commission would dig out what proportion of the debt accumulated during the last PPP and PML-N governments had gone into the pockets of politicians, including Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari.

Imran Khan was convinced that debt funds had been massively plundered by the past rulers as the country’s debt had increased from Rs 7,000 billion in 2007-8 to almost Rs 30,000 billion in 2018 when the PML-N completed its term. However, during the first two years of the PTI government, the public debt has risen like never before and reached the staggering figure of Rs 45,000 billion. Ironically, the PTI government has left both the PML-N and PPP government far behind in acquiring public debt.

What the Debt Commission has found is still a mystery, except for what the media has been reporting. A key member of the Debt Commission had told this correspondent in November 2019 that the Commission had till then not found any case of loan money finding its way into the pockets of any key politician or bureaucrat. Instead, all receipts were found going to Account No. 1, The News was told.

The Commission, it was clearly said, had also not so far found any case of fraud and corruption in debt money going into Account No 1. This scribe was told that the major case being focused on by the Commission was that of Karachi’s K-4 water supply project. The Commission was to complete its work by December 2019 but it had to seek more time to complete its job.

Khalid Mustafa, a senior member of the The News Investigation Cell, reported on May 22, 2020 about the Debt Commission report being submitted to Prime Minister Imran Khan. The report, the story said, pointed fingers at both the previous governments, alleging a loss of almost Rs 1,000 billion to the national exchequer in various development projects.

The report added that the Commission looked into 1,000 development projects, including the Orange Train, BRT Peshawar, Neelum-Jhelum Hydro Power Project and other major electricity and education projects. The top mandarins of the Economic Affairs Division, Finance Ministry and federal and provincial ministries were held responsible for a colossal loss amounting to Rs1,000 billion. The report also highlighted that the success rate of the development schemes initiated via the loans of the World Bank and Asian Development Bank stood at 25-30 percent. The report mentioned the role of the 13 families of top officials, bureaucrats, politicians in important ministries, including the Lahore Development Authority, who allegedly played a questionable role in the plunder of the national kitty. The Commission recommended the required action against those responsible for inflicting damage on the public exchequer.

On April 8, 2020 Geo correspondent Zahid Gishkori filed a story for The News claiming that the Commission had prepared a comprehensive report that is likely to hold many bigwigs responsible for the embezzlement. The story said that report had some shocking details of “where, why, when and how” more than 300 individuals associated with some two dozen entities ‘misused’ public funds worth hundreds of billions taken as foreign loans in the decade from 2008-2018. “It took nine months to conclude such a comprehensive, important and highly confidential report and would most likely be submitted to the Prime Minister's Office next week,” a senior official was quoted as confirming to Gishkori.

The news report said that the Commission also identified the cases of loans suspiciously credited into the accounts of certain private individuals associated with different tiers of the bureaucracy, private contractors, politicians and even cabinet members during the previous governments of the Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz).

“The commission has identified BS-20 to BS-22 officers who headed federal and provincial government departments, semi-government authorities, organisations and coordinating departments, where the issues of incompetence, inefficiency, poor planning, absence of due diligence and mismanagement were found from February 2008 to September 2018,” the reported quoted an official source as saying.