June 1998 News

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Pakistan Deliberately Leaked Secret Documents on Kashmir Operations to Discredit Benazir

26th June 1998


02 Rabi-ul-Awwal 1419

LONDON: Highly secret and confidential internal memorandums regarding Pakistan's "covert operations" concerning Kashmir have been leaked from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's office, apparently by a close confidante to BBC television. BBC2 on Thursday night telecast a 21-minute documentary in its 'News night' programme showing and reading out "internal memorandums of the foreign minister and the prime minister's offices"which it claimed were"obtained from Islamabad" to establish that the Benazir Bhutto government had been funding London-based weekly East newspaper for countering Indian propaganda on Kashmir. Furious Pakistanis who watched the programme, called the offices of Dawn last night as well as on Friday morning, demanding that a case of high treason be instituted against the official who had leaked these "sensitive" documents.

"He should be tried on the charge of high treason," Mehboob Ahmad, a resident of Ilford in east London said. "That man, and I believe he is Senator Saifur Rehman who was shown in the television documentary handing over documents, should be tried on the charge of high treason."

Though the BBC2 documentary was aimed at targeting a British MP and a friend of Pakistan's, George Galloway, but it did more harm to Pakistan than to the MP, subcontinent observers here said.

One of the leading reporters on the programme is a Sikh of Indian-origin, Shashi Singh. The documentary claimed that its reporter was given "extensive access" to confidential documents and added that Ms Bhutto, who was committed to oust Indian troops from the Occupied Kashmir, had launched a campaign from the high commission in London to counter Indian propaganda..

It said that Mr Galloway was paid thousands of pounds to launch his East newspaper but did not mention that because of his outstanding services to the cause of Kashmir, Mr Galloway had been awarded Hilal-i-Imtiaz and Hilal-i-Pakistan by Pakistan.

The programme accused the MP of "raising issues that were of interest or concern to Pakistan" in the House of Commons. It said Mr Galloway had been openly supporting the cause of Kashmir and criticising the Indian oppression in the occupied state. It further claimed that Mr Galloway's company 'Asia Voice Limited', which published the East, was given money from the Pakistan high commission in London. To further establish that the documents were authentic, Senator Saifur Rehman was filmed as handing over a heap of papers to the reporter. However, in an apparent bid to save Mr Saifur Rehman from any trouble, the top document shown clearly was a photocopy of the share certificates in the name of Asif Zardari. A letter written by Mr Galloway to the Pakistan foreign secretary was also shown in which he had confirmed receiving some amount and also demanded the remaining amount which the government had committed in lieu of advertisements and purchasing copies of the East newspaper for distribution among the Pakistani community in London. Interestingly the internal memo from the prime minister's office in Pakistan has been addressed to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and says: "It was,therefore,decided to advise the finance division to allocate 547,000 sterling pounds to secret fund for the high commission in London (for funding the East)." The extracts from this memo were apparently read out by an Asian artist to show that this memorandum was handed over to the BBC by a Pakistani official.

When contacted by Dawn, Mr Galloway said his letter, in which he had asked for the release of the remaining money against advertisements and purchase of copies of the East, was written by him to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. "This was strictly a confidential letter written by me following a dinner with Mr Nawaz Sharif at the residence of Mr Sartaj Aziz," Mr Galloway said. "I am appalled to see that confidential letters written to the prime minister of Pakistan find their way into the hands of television reporters," he said. "Whosoever did it, I think he damaged his national cause and has betrayed his nation."

The documentary claimed that Ms Bhutto had agreed to provide half a million pounds to the paper for countering Indian propaganda on Kashmir.One of the charges against Mr Galloway is that he had criticised the Indian government in the House of Commons for carrying out oppression in the part of Kashmir under its control. The BBC said its reporter Richard Watson got "special documents" from the highest offices in Pakistan which established that Mr Galloway's company had been receiving funds from Pakistan through its high commission in London. But the reporter himself admitted many times that no funds were received by Mr Galloway himself and he did not breach any parliamentary rule.

The BBC2 also interviewed two staff members of the East, who Mr Galloway claims had been sacked. The former editor of the East said she was paid salary in cash. The documentary also referred to the visits of Mr Galloway to Iraq and his meeting with President Saddam Hussain. It also referred to his recent visit to Iraq for bringing an Iraqi girl suffering from cancer for treatment to London. This was apparently aimed at painting him as a friend of Muslims. The programme also claimed that the BBC had obtained a copy of the cheque issued to the Asian Voice Limited, the organisation which Mr Galloway left last summer. An internal memorandum of the prime minister's office was read out, which the BBC said, "gives an insight" into the story. "This is sheer treachery and the man who released the document should be tried on the charge of high treason," Shaaban Chaudhry, a resident of north London said. "If this is not treason, what else is treason?" he asked. "Who on earth will ever dare to deal with Pakistan when secret and confidential letters written to the prime minister by a British MP and internal memos addressed to the Pakistan prime minister are leaked by none else but those sitting in power," Shaaban said.

The documentary said that it tried to interview Mr Galloway but he refused to be interviewed. It, however, did not said that Mr Galloway had refused to appear on the programme because Mr Galloway had asked Richard Watson and Shahshi Singh to allow him to see the documents before he could authenticate them. Meanwhile according to investigations conducted by Dawn, a total payment of 315,000 sterling pounds was made by the Pakistan high commission to the Asian Voice for advertisements and purchase of newspaper copies. The first payment of 180,000 pounds was made during the PPP tenure and 135,000 by the Nawaz Sharif government.

Mr Galloway has never denied receiving this amount. "It was a commercial deal. They (GOP) would give advertisements and purchase newspapers for that money. There is nothing wrong in that. We had similar deals with other governments and even the British government," he said. Meanwhile Mr Galloway said his campaign against the Indian occupation of Kashmir was not aimed at projecting any government's point of view but to raise voice for the millions of Kashmiri people who are being tortured, humiliated and being killed by the Indian forces.

"I support causes, some would regard as controversial, it is true," he said in a statement issued here on Friday afternoon in response to BBC television'sprogramme "News night". "If the BBC, other Western media and political leaders had put more effort into understanding this crisis - as I have spent years urging them to do - then the world might not now be staring into the silos of the nuclear missiles, located along the Indian Pakistan border," he said terming BBC programme as a"fraggo of distortion, half-truths and innuendo". He said that the East newspaper was never owned or controlled by him. He said the East never received "over half a million pounds" from the Government of Pakistan or anyone else. He said the newspaper had commercial relations with a number of companies and governments from countries friendly to, or allied with Great Britain.

He said that the paper had never promised to follow the line of the Pakistan People's party and as even the programme had to concede, it never did so.


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