April 2003 News

British media exposes Labour MP's Pak connection

24 April 2003
The Hindustan Times
Vijay Dutt

London: Labour MP George Galloway possesses two of Pakistan's highest civil awards- one the equivalent of a knighthood- 'partly in recognition of his work to promote the Kashmiri cause', according to the Daily Telegraph. It calls the MP, Sir George in a full-page report, including details of his alleged links with the Islamabad regime. The daily, which two days ago, published documents to allege that Mr Galloway, received funds from the Saddam regime, has now recounted his alleged links with the Bhutto Government. Papers concerning the Pak links had been passed on to BBC's Newsnight some time ago. BBC recounted the whole story again following the allegations made by the Telegraph three day ago. These leaked papers indicated that the government of the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, allegedly allocated cash from a secret fund to finance a weekly newspaper called East. It was published by Asia Voice, which allegedly received money through the Pakistan High Commission in London. There was, however, no suggestion that Mr Galloway stood to benefit from the cash personally. But, in those days he was one of the biggest campaigners for plebiscite and for India to implement the 1948 UN Resolution.   A former journalist with East told Telegraph that the paper was 'a shambles' and its greatest coup was securing an interview with Osama bin Laden. 'It was revealed, as we had suspected, that a lot of funds for the paper came from the government of Benazir Bhutto. When she was toppled in a coup in 1996, the money dried up.' It is said that although a total of £547,000 was earmarked for East, only around £135,000 was paid over. The BBC said the successor government of Nawaz Sharif allocated another £189,000 after an approach from Mr Galloway to keep the paper going until the 1997 election, after which it folded. Mr Galloway called the arrangement a commercial deal.'They 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.'   The BBC, according to the report the paper, also obtained documents apparently acknowledging the receipt by Mr Galloway of cheques for £60,000 on behalf of the National Lobby of Kashmir. But the MP denied that it was a receipt, claiming it was only a letter he had written outlining how the group had spent its annual budget. He had then accused BBC of 'shabby, downmarket journalism'. But a Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges which investigated another controversy swirling round the MP, while absolving him of breaking any rules, observed, 'Members should act with particular circumspection in any relationship with a foreign organisation or government where financial transactions of any kind are involved.'

 

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