WASHINGTON DC, Sept 18, 2005 | ISSN: 1684-2057 | www.satribune.com

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Musharraf's Smart Crony, Left Alone to Face the Media, Gets Knocked Out

Special SAT Report

NEW YORK, September 18: Dr Nasim Ashraf, General Musharraf's Minister of State and the innovative creator of a multi-million dollar scam in the name of Human Development in Pakistan, defended his project at a Press conference at the Press Center of Hotel Roosevelt on Sept 15, after South Asia Tribune had exposed his scam, but the tables were turned when he failed to answer probing questions from journalists.

Dr. Ashraf’s story on the twin scandal of Human Development Commission and Human Development Fund, released by SAT two day earlier, was the main subject of discussion in the camp of General Musharraf, who was also staying at the Roosevelt along with his small “official” entourage but a large number of officials their wives, cronies, journalists and Pakistani diplomats, but none came to his help as he was practically told to fend for himself. Click to read original story

Almost shaking and nervous Dr Ashraf came to the media center and spoke about the "great job" he and his men were doing to spread education and provide health to the poor in Pakistan but his main focus was on how they were raising money from different quarters in and outside Pakistan.

“We don’t have funds to expand the project as it needs a lot of resources,” he said. “Important and large hearted people are helping us, yet we need more and more.”

When a journalist pointed out at the Audit Report posted at the web site of the Commission which stated that on June 30, 2004 there was an amount of Rs 1,032,086,499 lying idle as cash in bank of the Fund account, Dr Nasim Ashraf gave the incriminating answer which exposed his entire game. See image of the report below:

“This is our Endowment Fund which is to be used to sustain our program and not to be spent on our work,” was his response, meaning that over $16 million was to be kept separately for salaries, perks, cars, petrol, traveling, holding Qawali events etc but not for the declared goal of setting up schools, health centers etc.

Newsmen did not spare Dr Ashraf as he was immediately told if this was so was he more interested in keeping the goodies flowing and not in his mission.

Finding himself cornered, Dr Ashraf immediately introduced another Fund member and donor, a Dr. Lodhi, who tried to bail him out by declaring that he had full trust in the accounts of the Fund and he himself had donated thousands of dollars into it.

But the key question as to why Dr. Ashraf was reluctant to allow the Auditor General of Pakistan to carry out an audit of his accounts was answered by him in the following words: “The Pakistan audit system is so slow and corrupt if we allow them, we will never be able to do anything. We do not want to get into the red tape. We have the world’s best auditors to check our accounts and senior bureaucrats sit in our meetings to monitor the accounts.”

An important member of the Pakistan delegation said General Musharraf was stuck in a difficult situation as the Ashraf scandal could blow up intohis face if he allowed an independent audit and because Musharraf himself has been participating in fund raisers and "telethons" it would become an huge embarrassment if it was found that the whole thing was a scam. "The foreign donors and corporations like Microsoft will dump the Pakistanis instantly."

Another important question about promises made by Dr Nasim Ashraf to General Musharraf that he would raise Rs 4 billion from “other donors” if the Government of Pakistan granted Rs 2 billion, which it did, went unanswered as Dr Ashraf stopped a South Asia Tribune journalist from asking any more questions.

A key official of General Musharraf’s delegation, who was a frequent visitor to the media center, publicly admitted before journalists that no member of the Musharraf entourage was willing to come and defend Dr Ashraf before the media and “he has been told to go and face the music himself.”

Top sources of the Pakistan delegation revealed to the South Asia Tribune that Dr Nasim Ashraf had approached the then Principal Secretary of General Musharraf, his friend and aide Tariq Aziz, to issue an Executive Order exempting his Fund from official audit by the Auditor General of Pakistan.

“Tariq Aziz refused to do that as he argued that if his Fund and accounts were transparent, he should not be scared of the audit and should willingly submit to it to establish his credibility,” the source said. When he failed to get that order through Aziz, Dr. Ashraf then used the then ISI chief, General Ehsan, who also belongs to the Pashtun clan of NWFP, to get his Fund exempted.

When a journalist asked him at his news conference why he was using names of international figures like Princess Sarwath of Jordan, Jemima Khan, ex-PM Moeen Qureshi to establish that these personalities were keeping an eye on his accounts, Dr Ashraf denied that this was so.

A journalist pointed out at his own web site which claimed under the Sub-Title of “Transparency and Accountability” he had used the names of all these important personalities to convey the impression that they were acting as watchdogs.

Dr Ashraf blatantly denied that this was so and challenged the journalist to prove and show him where he had done that. The journalist insisted that his own web site had that information. The relevant portion of that web site is reproduced here in the following image which proves that Dr Ashraf was trying to mislead the media even at his news conference.

The overall result of his news conference was that all the journalists found his responses so unconvincing that no one filed a story in any major newspaper. A senior journalist remarked: “He answered no question and left the charges against him hanging in the air.”

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