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January 21, 2021

Govt’s action, reaction in Broadsheet saga perplexing

Top Story

January 21, 2021

ISLAMABAD: As daily doses of new and interesting details of Broadsheet saga continue to pour in, the government’s attempt at damage control comes across as perplexing.

On January 6, 2021 in an inter-ministerial meeting held in the foreign ministry and attended by officials of the Foreign Office, NAB, finance ministry, the attorney general’s office and the law ministry, it was decided to send a legal notice to the United Bank Limited, UK, for “unauthorized debit of account” to pay Broadsheet “without informing” the Pakistan High Commission in London.

On Sept 14, 2020, The News published an exclusive story by its London correspondent Murtaza Ali Shah disclosing that the Pakistan Government had issued instructions to the UBL London office to make a payment of around $27 million to Broadsheet after the company had moved the London high court and obtained freezing orders on monies kept in bank accounts in London linked to the Government of Pakistan.

Quoting trusted sources, Shah had reported: “Instructions were issued recently to comply with the London high court orders pertaining to the Third Party Debt Order which directed the United National Bank last month to freeze financial assets worth around $27 million in the accounts belonging to the state of Pakistan.”

The story, which was never denied or clarified, added: “The source said that the government has directed the London bank to have the monies ready to dispose of all liabilities as per the London high court order.”

Shah’s story disclosed: “In June this year (2020), NAB had sought Rs4.41 billion from the Finance Division to clear the outstanding liabilities to Broadsheet. This was after Broadsheet won a case of arbitration against NAB in the Chartered Institute of Arbitration in London. The arbitrator had issued part final award (quantum) for $21,589,460.00 along with interest. The Chartered Institute of Arbitration also issued part final award (costs) amounting to $5,637,130.50 against the Government of Pakistan through NAB. The total amount payable stood at $27,226,590.50.”

Disagreement is also obvious between what happened in September last year, what the inter-ministerial meeting on January 6 2021 decided. The document, marked ‘Confidential’ with the subject ‘Inter-Ministerial Meeting to review the development in case of Broadsheet LLC v/s National Accountability Bureau’ reads, verbatim:

“In order to discuss the fallout of decision of the UK High Court in case of Broadsheet LLC v/s National Accountability Bureau and subsequent unauthorized withdrawal/debit of funds by the UBL, UK from the accounts of the Pakistan High Commission in London, an Inter-Ministerial Meeting was held at Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 06 January 2021 under the Chairmanship of Special Secretary (Europe). The minutes of the meeting are enclosed for review.

“2. Following decisions were taken during the meeting:

i. A legal notice would be sent to the UBL, UK on breach of trust, unauthorized debit accounts and becoming Third Party without informing its client (Pakistan High Commission in London). The Office of the Attorney General for Pakistan would provide legal advice in this regard.

ii. The NAB would remit the remaining amount (about US$ 0.235 million) to the Pakistan High Commission at the earliest.

iii. The accounts of Pakistan High Commission would be shifted from UBL UK to some other bank(s). The Ministry of Finance expeditiously approve this proposal.

iv. Details of the Court proceeding, including detailed judgments, would be shared with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“3. Considering the gravity of the matter, the concerned Ministries and departments are requested to expeditiously implement the decisions taken during the meeting and share updates with this Ministry.”

The document was signed by Director (Europe-I) Muhammad Mubashir Khan and shared with NAB DG Operations Zahir Shah, Head of International Dispute Unit at the Office of Attorney General Ahmad I Aslam, Consultant Law Ministry Khurram Shahzad and Deputy Secretary Finance Ministry Jan Bahadur, who attended the meeting.