ISLAMABAD: Around Rs21.8 million of taxpayers’ money was spent on security and protocol arrangements for the Sharif family members during their appearance before the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing their offshore assets, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has claimed.
In a letter addressed to the PM office, PTI leader Andaleeb Abbas has sought information about the expenditure on Sharif family’s JIT visits under the Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002.
The letter dated June 11 claims that a “mammoth sum of Rs21.8 million of public money was spent for the security and VVIP protocol” of Sharif family members as they appeared before the JIT. Of this amount, Rs6.4 million was spent on security arrangements for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz.
It is yet unclear how the PTI came up with this estimated figure of expenditure on the Sharif family’s JIT visits. However, the party’s spokesperson said the information was received through sources within the government. The Express Tribune tried to contact Abbas repeatedly but her number was unreachable.
In her letter, observing that all Sharif family members appeared before the JIT in their personal capacity, Abbas questions: “Has the Constitution of Pakistan and the budget allowed public money to be used for family expenses?”
Writing as a citizen of Pakistan, Abbas stated that the prime minister was elected by the people of Pakistan to serve them. “But by looking at the record of the expense of the family protocol during JIT investigation and PM’s foreign trips since June 2013 there is a huge question mark on misuse and wastage of taxpayers’ fund for personal use,” she wrote.
Abbas also sought an explanation as to why federal ministers and MNAs, whose salaries are paid from taxpayer money, were asked to accompany the Sharif family members during their appearances before the JIT.
She also lamented the use of public money doled out to the media to place advertisements to build the image of the Sharif family.
The letter also seeks details on the money spent by the Sharif family to pay the legal fees of their lawyers contesting the Panama Papers case in the apex court as well as the money spent on the PM’s foreign trips.
According to Abbas, the PTI had sought information about legal fees in February but has not received a response.
“The PM’s office is bound under Article 19- A of the Constitution and Freedom of Information Ordinance 2002 to provide me the information, but till date your office has not bothered to respond to my letter,” Abbas wrote. “Your non-response indicates that legal counsels were paid from public money. If not, then please share the documentary evidence.”
The PTI leader also took a shot at the PM’s foreign tours, claiming he had broken all previous records.
“The PM visited UK for a record 17 times since 2013, spending about two months in UK, of which 32 days were listed as official stay while 24 were listed as transits,” the letter stated. “During each transit, you [PM] stopped for at least a couple of days at UK to spend time with your family in the controversial flats, which cost the exchequer Rs137.8 million.”
“Have you reimbursed the public money spent while you stopped in UK on personal trips, as otherwise this is classified as corruption,” it added.
Abbas claimed that the PM went on more foreign tours than the former US president Barack Obama, and that the taxpayers were at a loss as to what benefit Pakistan received from these visits.
“Despite these trips Pakistan’s international relations are at an unprecedented low as the country is isolated regionally and Pakistan’s exports and trade deficit is the worst in the last eight years. Kindly explain the return over investment of these trips to Pakistan?” she wrote.
She further claimed that the PM Office has been constantly refusing to provide details of all the expenditures she had mentioned in the letter.
“If there is no documentary evidence to prove the legality of these expenditures then the Supreme Court must take a suo moto to protect the public money and public interest,” she demanded.
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The 2018 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference is scheduled for April 8 to 11 in Boao, Hainan Province. The forum will be themed "An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of Greater Prosperity."
— The Daily Mail - People's Daily