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Misuse of funds
[January 28, 2014]

Misuse of funds

(Express Tribune (Pakistan) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) It seems that shovelling cash out of the public purse to family and friends is hardly a matter of embarrassment for those wielding levers of authority. Their monumental lust for money is scarcely tempered by popular revulsion to corruption. The news, then, comes as no surprise that officials used a secret counterterrorism fund to buy wedding gifts, luxury carpets and gold jewellery for relatives of ministers and visiting dignitaries.

Graphic details of how officials dipped their hands liberally into a fund reserved for a higher cause have emerged. The National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC), which works under the interior ministry, received some Rs425 million from the treasury between 2009 and 2013, the time when Rehman Malik served as the nation’s security czar.

The documents obtained give such mindboggling details like a list of payments made for the purchase of gifts for US and British embassy officials, as well as flowers and sweets for journalists.

This is not all. The documents also show that Mr Malik, during a visit to Rome to attend a conference in 2012, took a necklace, wooden tables and a tablet computer as gifts. A slice of this largesse was also used to buy three rugs as wedding gifts for the son of former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, early last year.

If this is not telling enough, consider the weird and wacky. Some $800 were paid for the cost of four sacrificial goats, plus butchery costs, funnily listed as `stabbing charges’, on the occasion of Eidul Azha.

This is no laughing matter and deserves all-round denunciation. Under the influence of patriotic zeal, we often bristle at the uncharitable characterisation of Pakistan as a cesspool of corruption. But there is no escaping from the harsh reality that we face.

These revelations show that neither public representatives nor civil servants worry about being named and shamed. Their acts only go to show a blatant disregard for the sanctity of public funds, which they are supposed to use as trustees. The NCMC has a crucial job to perform. If its funding base is eroded by frivolous, unrelated expenditure, it will cost the nation dearly.

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