WASHINGTON DC, Sept 13, 2005 | ISSN: 1684-2057 | www.satribune.com

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This is the entire evidence at NCHD Web site to show millions of dollars have been spent

Musharraf Engulfed in Biggest Emerging Financial Scandal of His Tenure

By Shaheen Sehbai

NEW YORK, September 13: When General Pervez Musharraf attends the Pakistan Human Development Fund Qawali in New York on September 15, (Price Tag: $275 per seat), he would be stamping the seal of his approval confirming to be an active partner in what would eventually emerge as the biggest financial scam of his tenure.

The scandal involves massive wastage of almost Rs2 billion of Pakistani taxpayers’ money handed over practically to one individual, without any official oversight or accountability. The latest published statistics reveal much more than they conceal, although the money has been kept out of the searching eyes of any Government auditor.

According to a signed document, Rs 1.5 billion had been doled out by the end of June, 2004. The money is claimed to have be spent in the name of the poor, illiterate and deprived people of Pakistan but no one knows where it is going or has gone. What is being claimed on documents is simply not verifiable but it is packaged in such attractive donor jargon that it has fooled even some international agencies.

The biggest loser is the Government of Pakistan which has dished out a wholesome $32 million to a favorite of General Pervez Musharraf. The General was tricked by this soft spoken, poker faced, crafty Pakistani expatriate whose main reason to have come close to General Musharraf was that he offered some legitimacy to a pariah military dictator prior to 9/11.

“If any civilian politician had done half of what Musharraf has done in this case, he would have been hanged by the Army. But since a General has officially authorized grant of millions of dollars, without any Government audit or accountability, no one has the courage to challenge the scam, although every one knows what it is,” a senior Information Ministry official now in New York confided to the South Asia Tribune.

The scam is brewing in the National Commission for Human Development (NHCD), a body created cleverly under law and then smartly weaved into a privately owned Pakistan Human Development Fund (PHDF). Unsuspecting eyes would never find out the difference between these two identical sounding organizations and would never know where the billions were coming from and where they were going.

The mastermind behind the whole idea is Dr Nasim Ashraf, a Pakistani medical doctor who settled in United States and for years made his living from his medical practice until he had enough money to pursue his political ambitions and become active in the Pakistani community as well as an active donor to US congressmen, thus buying some influence.

Yet Dr. Ashraf, was a relatively unknown person until he got into the hi-profile project of the film on Pakistan’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah, which a former Pakistani High Commissioner in UK, Dr Akbar S. Ahmed, had produced. He even persuaded some known Pakistani-Americans to donate for the film as it was being produced to match the Oscar winner feature film ‘Gandhi’.

‘Jinnah’ never took off and Dr Akbar Ahmed was financially burnt in the project at the hands of Dr Nasim Ashraf. Dr Ahmed’s wife Zeenat publicly accused Dr. Nasim Ashraf of handing over the film in London to an Indian accountant Mr. Singla, appointed as Receiver. She also alleged that Ashraf brought out the film in DVD format with an addition in which he praised General Pervez Musharraf who had nothing to do with the film. Ashraf thus used the film as a political platform to get closer to Musharraf.

Dr. Ashraf denied her charges but it was a fact that he got closer and closer to Musharraf by exploiting many other well respected names including that of former Prime Minister Moeen Qureshi, Imran Khan’s ex-wife Jemima Khan, Princess Sarwath of Jordan and even Abdul Sattar Edhi, the Pakistani social worker of international fame.

When Dr Nasim Ashraf launched the Pakistan Human Development Fund, he used all these big names and some of them even contributed up to $100,000 each, thinking that it may be a genuine project with some achievable honest objectives of helping the poor people of Pakistan. Even today the web site of the Commission claims "four persons of international repute will manage the accounts" while in fact none of these four have either the time or the will now to involve with the Fund any more. These four persons are former Pakistan Prime Minister Moeen Qureshi, Imran Khan's former wife Jemima Khan, Princess Sarwath of Jordan and Maulana Abdul Sattar Edhi. Click to view web site

It was the early period of General Musharraf when despite support from many Pakistanis and expatriates he lacked legitimacy abroad and was looking for help from any quarter. That was the time when he found in Dr Nasim Ashraf an attractive ally who could lend him some credibility in the Pakistani community in US and congressional leadership in Washington. Dr Ashraf marketed himself well with the Pakistani dictator looking for legitimacy.

By that time he had already conceived the Human Development Plan and in June 2001, Musharraf appointed him as head of a Task Force on Human Development which made its recommendations in June 2002. The main proposal was to create the National Commission on Human Development but all funds granted to the Commission were to go into a privately run Fund of Dr. Ashraf called the Pakistan Human Development Fund. It was a pre-planned set up to divert funds into a private company set up under the 1984 Companies Ordinance.

All kinds of false promises, disinformation and misinformation was used to get the Government grant after Dr. Ashraf was appointed Chairman of the new Commission in the rank of a Minister of State. General Musharraf was promised that if Government handed out Rs 2 billion to the NCHD (Read PHDF), Dr Ashraf will raise Rs 4 billion from the US and other donors.

“We are initially targeting a sum of Rs. 6 billion for the Fund of which we expect that one-third each will be contributed by the Government, the donor community and private sector philanthropists,” General Musharraf said in his inaugural speech as President and Chief Executive at the Pakistan Human Development Forum on June 24, 2002 at the Convention Center in Islamabad. How could the Government just hand over Rs 2 billion to a private company was never explained. Click to View Text of speech

But in his inaugural speech Musharraf did explain that: “This fund will include members from all segments of the society, in particular, leading philanthropists and important personalities like Mr. Abdus Sattar Edhi.”

“I want to assure you that government will ensure that this Fund will be managed by an independent Board of Trustees in a transparent manner and it will be audited by a firm of international repute. The Annual Report of the Trust Fund will be made public and the copies of the report will be sent to donor communities as well. I shall personally be monitoring the work of the Commission and the Fund,” the General said, taking direct responsibility of the billions he was going to hand over to his friend.

The explanation was also to pre-empt any objections to such a large grant to an unknown and untested Pakistani expatriate who just happened to have come into the good books of an all-powerful dictator.

But while the General was promising transparency, he had been very cleverly set up to declare that the audit of the Fund would be carried out by a firm of international repute. That was patently illegal and against the Pakistani laws as any organization receiving Government funds has to be audited by the Auditor General of Pakistan.

Dr Nasim Ashraf never allowed the Auditor General to touch his account books despite growing resentment in the Ministry of Finance and Ministries of Education and Health. The resentment grew so much last June that the Senate of Pakistan unanimously recommended to the Lower House to get the accounts of the Commission audited by the Auditor General, but Dr. Nasim Ashraf foiled the entire Upper House by using General Musharraf’s powers who ordered the young junior Finance Minister, Omar Ayub Khan, to ignore this recommendation of the Senate.

It was a moment of shame for the Senate as the Opposition and Government both had joined hands with all the 100 Senators demanding an audit, to be defeated by one crony of the dictator.

When Pakistan's Secretary of Information, Mr. Shahid Rafi, was asked questions at his Press conference in New York last week about the Commission and why its accounts had not been audited by the Auditor General of Pakistan, first he could not believe there could be such a Department but then he realized the sensitiveness of the issue and redirected all the questions to Dr Nasim Ashraf, who was not present at the news conference.

The basic purpose of the NCHD was declared in the hi-sounding donor jargon to be the following:

- Based on a holistic development model, NCHD aims at enlarging the scale and scope of the efforts made by the government in ensuring the effective provision of social services. It perceives human development as a process of enlarging choices, building capacities and encouraging participation of communities at the grass roots.

- To ensure this, NCHD is directed towards supporting government line departments, civil society organizations and the local communities in the sectors of education, basic health care and income generating activities at the grassroots.

- NCHD identifies, and consequently presents innovative and cost effective solutions to fill implementation gaps, building the capacities of the involved agencies and stakeholders to effectively address the issues hampering the process. Through extensive training programs and capacity building workshops which cater to all the stakeholders involved in the process, NCHD helps ensure a lasting impact. These capacity building exercises are targeted towards Government Line departments, community based organizations and the community.

- NCHD believes in the importance of community ownership in all its projects where decision rights are provided to all stakeholders. This approach to poverty alleviation is multi-sectoral, therefore at NCHD we are taking an integrated approach focusing on the needs of people at the grassroots.

- Incubation of government and non-government delivery systems is a novel concept in human development. It is derived from the business world where a business incubator nurtures businesses through the initial phases of development. The ultimate objective is to help bridge the implementation gap between strategy and delivery by establishing a nationwide network of Human Development Support Units (HDSU) to operate under the aegis of the NCHD. Acting as incubators, the HDSUs will build the capacity and competencies of government line departments, and NGOs working in the social sectors at the district level by imparting skills to promote communication, coordination and knowledge sharing.

- The Education Program aims to assist the government in achieving 100% primary school enrollment and will open schools in areas where no government schools exist. The Health Program is focused on the improvement of Health Indicators.

- The NCHD has taken the initiative to create a National Volunteer Corps (NVC), following the UN International Year of Volunteers. Where thousands men, women and children are being mobilized to extend support to social sector interventions at the grassroots in Pakistan. NCHD is developing a system to match volunteer skill sets with the operational needs of the organization, in order to support its programs.

- An effective Communications strategy and Social Awareness campaign are being constantly developed to articulate the attitudes and behaviors necessary for human development and will identify and promote NCHD programs. It will use innovative Social Marketing methods to generate demand for the Health and Education Programs at the grassroots and to support global resource mobilization initiatives.

According to an expert in the Social Sector, all these attractive words mean nothing in terms of realities on the ground in Pakistan. In simple words, the Commission was duplicating the work of Education and Health Ministries, both provincial and federal, but without any government oversight of the billions it would receive. It was a license to enjoy life with Government money as almost Rs750 million had been granted to the Commission to meet its expenses for something which can never be measured against verifiable performance.

Now after over three years, the Commission and its performance have nothing to show where the hundreds of millions of rupees have gone, although the official reports published at the web site of the Commission gives lots of data and statistics about the expenses. The irony is that no one on the ground can verify whether the stats are correct and whether anything actually exists on the ground. Dr. Nasim Ashraf would not let Government auditors touch his accounts or verify the claims of his web site reports.

In one place the reports claims thousands of volunteers have been raised. A picture on the web site (above) shows only three persons as 'volunteers'. Where are these thousands is for the watchdogs and parliamentarians to find out but no one is available as far as knowledgeable people can see. Likewise the Commission claims it has taught 650,000 mothers to give ORS to their kids, as if the mothers did not know how to feed their children before.

The Chief Minister of Sindh, Arbab Ghulam Rahim was recently asked by a parliamentarian about the “great work” done by the Commission in his province. The CM scoffed at the MNA and said he had never heard of the Human Development Commission, far less any work it may have done. Some of the pictures posted on the web site are reproduced above but that is all they have.

An analysis of the Financial Report of the Commission for July 2004 to June 30, 2005 reveals a lot of pork barrel expenditure. It shows a total expenditure of Rs 757.3 million but out of this Rs 127.6 million went to Staff Cost, Rs 62.6 million to Program Support and Head Office Administration, Rs 45.9 million to Global Resource Mobilization and Rs 15.8 million to Communications. Click to View Report

Likewise another Rs 30 million went to Capital Expenditure and Rs 11.3 million for an unexplained head of “literacy in NWFP” while another "NCHD Literacy Project" claimed Rs 55.5 million.

There are many more heads which claims similar millions but no one can determine what they mean and whether this money ever left any bank account. At least until June 30, 2004 more than Rs 1 billion was parked in the private Pakistan Fund bank account, according to the very sketchy report of the private auditors. Click for report in PDF Format (Size: 2.5MB)

The Global Resource Mobilization for which Rs 46 million were spent included a grand gala dinner for General Pervez Musharraf in New York in 2004 in which a stolen drama production “Anarkali” was shown. Click to view SAT Report

But these resource mobilization efforts have produced hardly the figures that were promised to General Musharraf who had himself announced that while the Government would grant Rs 2 billion to the Fund, it would raise Rs 4 billion from other donors.

The Audit Reports and Income Statement of the Auditors shows as against the promise of Rs 4 billion, the Fund has not been able to raise even Rs 100 million in the last 3 years but has been living lavishly on the tax payers’ money.

All the assurances and explanations of General Musharraf before he gave away the billions to his crony, have now come to a point where they are falling flat and will soon come back to haunt him.

Everyone knows that as long as General Musharraf remains in power, Dr Nasim Ashraf and the men and women who have benefited from this scandal will not be touched.

But a very responsible Senator told the South Asia Tribune recently he had heard the key Fund guy admit at a private sitting saying: “Whenever Musharraf goes, I would be the first one to leave Pakistan.”

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