Kashmir Committee: the vehicle for political bribes
3 December 2007
The News International
Islamabad: Dozens of opposition and treasury MPs in the last parliament joined hands to spend some Rs 11 million belonging to taxpayers on trips to Europe and America using the Kashmir cause as a vehicle for political bribes. Organised from the forum of the Kashmir Committee, the huge amounts were quietly spent on the purchase of air tickets, lodging, gifts and daily allowances. These foreign trips were undertaken in the name of promotion of Kashmir cause at a time when both India and Pakistan have put Kashmir on the back burner. Basically these trips were for merry making as never was any tangible result achieved or displayed to Parliament or the people of Pakistan. A secret list of expenditures containing the details of these trips was submitted before the Finance Committee of the National Assembly before dissolution of the assemblies to get the approval from the Speaker National Assembly, Chaudhry Amir Hussain. According to available copy of the list, a total of 12 foreign trips were undertaken by the members of this committee both from treasury and opposition benches. It shows that Rs 1.6 million was spent on trip to Brussels, Rs 903,961 to Hague, Brunei Rs 1.4 million, Rs 2.09 million on trips to Paris, Stockholm, and Dublin, Rs 0.243 million, Washington Rs 1.7 million, Belgium Rs 0.7 million, London Rs 0.9 million, Harare and Pretoria Rs 1.4 million. Benazir Bhutto during her second term in office (1993-96) had constituted a Kashmir Committee to accommodate the veteran politician Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan on the one hand, and please the forces of establishment to promote the cause of Kashmir in the eyes of the world community on the other. The sole job of the Kashmir Committee was to visit the foreign capitals and most of the time, Benazir Bhutto successfully kept Nawabzada out of the country, apparently to avoid use of his political skills by her political opponents as the aging man was fond of politics of opposition not of power. The Musharraf government also followed the precedent set by Benazir and obliged dozens of otherwise firebrands of opposition parties in visiting foreign countries in the name of Kashmir committee. MNA Hamid Nasir Chattha was chosen to lead the 50-member Kashmir committee which held several meetings at Islamabad before proceeding abroad. The committee never meant anything for the decision makers either in Pakistan or the capitals they visited. Everyone knew that it was a junket to bribe politicians. Basically, the Kashmir committee was neutralised when Pervez Musharraf started direct peace process with India and both the sides decided to sit on the table instead of involving foreign countries to help settle the issue. Interestingly the Kashmir Committee members felt greatly disturbed over the peace moves between the two countries on Kashmir issue and several meetings were also held in which the foreign office officials were grilled. Talking to The News, a former member of the Kashmir Committee and religious minister Ejazul Haq defended the role and trips of members of the committee. He defended the expenditures on the visits. Ejazul Haq said the committee members both from the opposition and the treasury benches played their due role in raising awareness at world level. Some of the important members of the Kashmir Committee included former federal ministers Rao Sikandar Iqbal, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Muhammad Ejaz-ul-Haq, Muhammad Naseer Khan, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Liaquat Baloch, Dr Attiya Inayatullah, Mrs Zeb Gohar Ayub, Chaudhry Shahbaz Hussain, Zahid Hamid Khan, Dr Noor Jahan Panezai, Malik Amin Aslam Khan, Engineer Amir Muqam, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Muhammad Shamim Siddiqui, Prof Mushtaq Victor, Mrs Naheed Khan, Ms Sherry Rehman, Imtiaz Safdar Warriach, Chaudhry Imranullah Advocate, Munir Khan Orakzai, Maulana Shah Abdul Aziz, Haji Gul Muhammad Dummar, Amjad Ali Warriach, Saima Akhtar Bharwana, Nawab Amanullah Khan, Rubina Shaheen Wattoo, Amin Aslam, Mir Muhammad Naseer Khan Mengal, Sardar Talib Hussain, Munir Khan Orakzai, Nawab Amanullah Khan MNAs, Maulana Gul Naseeb, Rukhsana Zuberi, Mir Israrullah Khan Zehri and Col (retd) Syed Tahir Hussain Mashahidi and others.