Pakistani counter-terror funds spent on luxury gifts

AFP, Islamabad :
Pakistani officials used a secret counter-terrorism fund to buy wedding gifts, luxury carpets and gold jewellery for relatives of ministers and visiting dignitaries, according to documents seen by AFP.
The revelations cast a spotlight on high-level corruption in Pakistan as the impoverished but nuclear-armed country battles a surge in Taliban violence.
They concern the National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC) of Pakistan’s interior ministry, formed in 2000 to coordinate between the country’s intelligence agencies and federal and provincial governments on national security matters.
The US and other Western countries have poured billions of dollars into Pakistan since the 9/11 attacks of 2001 to help in its fight against Taliban and Al-Qaeda linked militants.
The NCMC received some 425 million rupees ($4.3 million) from Pakistani government coffers from 2009-2013, according to files obtained by Umar Cheema, an investigative journalist for Pakistani daily The News, and seen by AFP.
During that time the interior ministry was headed by Rehman Malik, a flamboyant loyalist of former president Asif Ali Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
Many of the documents deal with payments to intelligence sources, routine maintenance of vehicles and overtime for employees.
But the files also include receipts for gifts for US and British embassy officials, as well as flowers and sweets for journalists.
One receipt for 70,000 rupees ($700) is itemised as a “Pair of wrist watches for marriage of nephew of minister for interior”.
The documents show that on a trip to Rome for an Interpol conference in November 2012, Malik took a necklace, wooden tables and a TouchMate tablet computer as gifts.
The counter-terror fund was also used to buy three rugs as wedding gifts for the son of former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf early last year.
A set of 21-carat gold jewellery worth $3,000 was bought for one unnamed individual, while another was the recipient of a $1,500 set.
A handicrafts store in Islamabad was paid some $23,000 in December 2012 for carpets and crafts given to local officials and delegations from the EU, Iran and India.
Among the more bizarre items paid for from the fund was the $800 cost of four sacrificial goats, plus butchery costs- listed as “stabbing charges”-for the festival of Eid-ul-Adha.