| GEO Pakistan|
The business of buying Fata MNAs, senators
| Updated at: 0323 PST, Friday, January 21, 2011|
By Umar Cheema
ISLAMABAD: A Pandora's box has opened but behind the tight walls of secrecy in a tribal jirga on the question of how the money changed hands in the Senate election last year when four Fata senators allegedly purchased eight votes in return of Rs600 million, a vote-for-sale scandal involving two cabinet members. Each senator had to pay Rs150 million to a tribal MNA negotiating on behalf of his eight colleagues but full payment has not been made by any senator. For example, one senator is said to have paid Rs140.88 million and another Rs140.55 million. Two other senators paid Rs70 million and another Rs125 million.
The issue would have remained buried under the carpet had a jirga not convened after a dispute emerged between Federal Minister for Environment Hameedullah Jan Afridi and Senator Haji Khan, in the aftermath of the non-payment of pledged amount intended for the Fata MNAs.
The jirga has met more than six times but in vain. It called the minister and the senator in person on Sunday to resolve their dispute in a separate sitting and in case of their failure, the jirga members would issue their verdict. Both sides have also paid Rs600,000 to jirga members for their services hired for resolving this dispute. Another issue being settled by the jirga is the utilisation of development funds of Senator Haji Khan by the elder brother of Hameedullah Afridi. The utilisation of funds was part of condition for supporting Haji in Senate election, a fact confirmed by Hameedullah's elder brother, Jehanzeb.
The jirga members, among others, have travelled from Peshawar to Islamabad on a fact-finding mission to meet Munir Orakzai, a Fata MNA and an alleged leader of those tribal lawmakers voted in return of money. Though Orakzai vehemently denied his involvement in such dirty deal while talking to The News, it has been confirmed from jirga members and others.
Another federal minister from Fata, Noor-ul-Haq Qadri is also being alleged during jirga conversation as an important player in vote-for-sale scandal. He couldn't be reached for comments despite repeated calls.
Arifullah Khan, a local ANP leader and jirga member, confirmed their delegation met with Orakzai but said he couldn't participate in it because of some other engagement. Arifullah, who represents Senator Haji Khan in the jirga, said that the senator had paid Rs125 million as the cost of votes that earned him the Senate seat and is being pressed by federal minister Hameedullah Jan Afridi for the remaining Rs25 million, a demand Haji Khan is not ready to oblige.
Haji Khan is said to have paid Rs125 million through a middleman for disbursement among the lawmakers that voted for a minister and asserts that Rs100 million was the cost of vote and the remaining Rs25 million was a loan to the minister, a fact confirmed by Arifullah.
Haji Khan is said to have further argued before the jirga that he can only be forced to deposit the sum of Rs150 million for buying the vote after full recovery is made from other senators falling in this category.
Senator Haji Khan further told the jirga that Senator Idrees Safi had an outstanding amount of Rs80 million as he had so far paid only Rs70 million to the lawmakers who sold their votes, but nobody had pressurised him for the recovery. Even the money paid by Senator Safi, Rs30 million was a loan he had to pay to Malik Bilal, his cousin and an MNA from Mohmand Agency.
Likewise, another Rs35 million paid was a loan he had taken from Duran Shah, a close relative of federal minister Hameedullah Jan Afridi. The News couldn't reach Senator Safi. However, MNA Malik Bilal, denied the assertion of supporting Safi in return of money. "I had proposed and supported him but didn't get money."
As regards Senator Haji Khan, he didn't pick the call despite repeated attempts to reach him. The details relating to him were confirmed by three people close to him including one representative in the jirga, Arifullah Khan, who also confirmed Haji Khan's assertion regarding the Senator Safi's outstanding payable amount to the lawmakers who voted him to power.
Arifullah lamented this malpractice on part of the lawmakers, saying "it is a matter of shame for us. Common folks think their representatives are in Islamabad to resolve the problems of their voters but the lawmakers are involved in dirty deals."
Another jirga member Mujeeb Khan confirmed that discussion took place on vote-for-sale issue but said he could not divulge inside details. Nazir Khan, another jirga member who represents Hameedullah Afridi, said the jirga had called Hameedullah and Senator Haji Khan for a meeting on Sunday to have meeting in isolation. In case they fail to resolve their dispute, the jirga will give its own decision.
Hameedullah Afridi confirmed that there was a dispute between him and Senator Haji Khan as the latter, under an agreement, had surrendered the development funds to the former. Now in breach of this agreement, that has no legal value otherwise, he is not only exercising his discretion in use of funds but also allegedly selling these funds.
Regarding the money used for buying MNAs and Haji Khan's claim of disbursing the amount through the minister, Hameedullah Afridi said that money has not been distributed through him. "He (Haji Khan) should contact the man who dealt with such matters," the minister said in an oblique reference towards Munir Orakzai, without naming him.