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January 17, 2021

Unanswered questions about Broadsheet scam

Top Story

January 17, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Certain critically important questions in the Broadsheet saga, which keep heaping embarrassment on Pakistan every other day, still remain unanswered.

Most importantly, there is still no explanation offered by the government about how and why it transferred US$ 30 million to its High Commission’s bank account in London before the freezing order by the local court.

Official sources, who are well versed with government procedures in such matters, told The News that in Pakistani embassies and high commissions abroad there is never a surplus of even few thousand US dollars just lying around. “Monthly releases are given and at times our diplomatic staff doesn’t even receive its salary for weeks,” a source said, and asked: “So how come 30 million dollars was sitting around in the London high commission account which the UK authorities could attach so easily?”

The source said that transfer of the money to the high commission was mysteriously done in advance of the UK high court’s decision. “This is unbelievable,” the source said.

Did the Government of Pakistan intentionally transfer the US$ 30 million to the London high commission’s account so Broadsheet could easily get its money, he asked, adding that the owner of Broadsheet is said to allegedly be an old Iranian Intelligence officer.

Referring to government procedures in such financial matters, the source said that as per the orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, even a supplementary budget cannot now be allocated without the approval of the prime minister and his cabinet.

“Did the prime minister and the cabinet approve this payment, besides allowing the money’s transfer to the high commission’s account even before the freezing order of the account was passed by the London court?”

It is also said that the finance minister and State Bank of Pakistan also have to approve foreign exchange cover for such a large transfer of money outside Pakistan. Did they approve it after due consideration and ensuring it was not a premature transfer of foreign exchange to the high commission’s account, wondered the source.

It is said that in case of any wrongdoing in this matter, the foreign minister as well as foreign secretary could be questioned for allowing the transfer of US$ 30 million into the high commission’s account.

The Government of Pakistan’s accounts operated by its embassies and high commissions fall in the category of diplomatic accounts wherever they are located. The diplomatic accounts enjoy protection and immunity under the Geneva Conventions. “Who waived this diplomatic immunity to the advantage of the Broadsheet?” asked one of the sources. “How could the UK authorities seize a diplomatic sovereign account? Or had someone in the Government of Pakistan approved a waiver,” the source asked, adding, there are several factual and legal questions anchored in international law, in our rules of business, financial administration procedures and domestic law which need answers from the Government of Pakistan.

“No one can touch a diplomatic account; it has sovereign immunity. Who waived that immunity and on whose orders? Immunity cannot be simply waived without the orders of the PM and federal cabinet,” the source said, and asked : “ Why is the arbitration decision given by a UK court not being made public by the Government of Pakistan?”