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Pakistan: Militants Take Millions

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    Payment to Wana militants: probe into missing millions initiated ... By Ismail Khan http://www.dawn.com/cgi-bin/dina.pl?file=nat15.htm&date=20050503 PESHAWAR,
    Message 1 of 1 , May 5, 2005
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      Payment to Wana militants: probe into missing millions initiated
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      By Ismail Khan
      http://www.dawn.com/cgi-bin/dina.pl?file=nat15.htm&date=20050503


      PESHAWAR, May 2: Reports about payments made to militant commanders in
      the restive South Waziristan tribal region to enable them to clear
      debt taken from Al Qaeda are being investigated following allegations
      that a key contact had made off with millions, leaving a paltry sum to
      the end beneficiaries.

      Credible sources tell Dawn that a national security agency has
      launched the investigation into revelations that the key contact for
      the five militant commanders had short-changed them.

      The militant commanders who battled security forces hunting Al Qaeda
      in the rugged tribal region for over two years before signing peace
      deals have accused the go-between of having cheated them of the bulk
      of the money paid to them.

      The allegations surfaced after Dawn in a report on February 8 quoted a
      senior military commander as saying that the government had paid Rs50
      million to the militants to enable them to pay back the debt they
      claimed to have taken from Al Qaeda to finance activities against the
      security forces.

      The militants, however, maintained that the money they had received
      was compensation for the damage they had suffered and denied having
      borrowed any money from Al Qaeda.

      The once most wanted militants — Haji Sharif, Maulavi Abbas, Javed
      Karmazkhel, Haji Mohammad Omar and Maulavi Abdul Aziz — signed peace
      deals with the government in November last year, pledging to live
      peacefully and not to shelter foreign militants.

      When details of the peace deals were made public, the government did
      not say that it was also secretly negotiating to pay a hefty amount of
      money to the five militants as a quid pro quo.

      Corps Commander, Peshawar, Lt-Gen Safdar Hussain had told reporters
      that the militants had initially demanded Rs170 million to pay off Al
      Qaeda debts but later agreed to reduce their demand to Rs50 million.

      Dawn's own investigation revealed that the payments had been made in
      three instalments. Maulvai Abbas and Javed Karmazkhel received Rs25
      million at the Governor's House in Peshawar on November 29 last year,
      Haji Mohammad Omar got his share of Rs10 million on January 11 and
      Haji Sharif was paid Rs15 million on February 4.

      The story took a new twist when at least two of the four commanders
      complained to the military authorities of having been short-changed by
      the go-between.

      The Director-General of the ISPR, Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, said that
      the army was in no way involved in making payments to the militants.
      "If at all anything was paid, Governor's Fata Secretariat should be
      asked about it," he said.

      Brig (retd) Mahmood Shah, who relinquished the charge of Secretary
      Security (Fata), confirmed that the militants had complained to the
      military authorities as well as Fata Secretariat about having been
      cheated.

      "I think the matter was under investigation at some level," he told Dawn.

      Javed Karmazkhel, talking to Dawn on telephone from Wana in South
      Waziristan, alleged that soon after their meeting at the Governor's
      House, Col (retd) Inamullah Wazir, who had helped broker the peace
      deals, left with stacks of cash, asking them to wait at a particular
      place in Peshawar.

      "He claimed that he had to pay others before we could get our share,"
      Mr Karmazkhel, who had signed the peace deal together with other
      militant commanders, said. "He was dropping names, big names," Mr
      Karmazkhel claimed.

      Col (retd) Wazir, when approached for comments on his cellphone,
      refused to say anything on the record.

      According to Mr Karmazkhel's version of the story, also corroborated
      by another commander, they were eventually paid a total of Rs4.1
      million, while another Rs200,000 was paid to some tribal elders who
      had also played a role in the entire effort.

      A hand-written receipt, a copy of which is available with Dawn,
      corroborates the story. The receipt, dated December 2, 2004 and signed
      by Col (retd) Wazir, acknowledges a payment of Rs4.1 million. "This
      money is for those who have suffered physical and material losses. You
      should distribute this money through mutual consultation," the five
      line receipt reads, while giving out the names of the recipients.

      Mr Karmazkhel confirmed the existence of the December 2 receipt and
      said that the matter was brought to the notice of the Corps Commander.

      "We asked the Corps Commander to intervene and resolve this matter or
      else let us deal with him in accordance with our tribal customs," he said.

      "Gen Safdar promised to help recover the money. But I am surprised
      that the whole might of the law cannot get hold of one person and seek
      explanation," Mr Karmazkhel complained.

      He denied having received the money for paying off any Al Qaeda debt.
      "We did not demand anything. We are Pakistanis and Pakistan is our
      country. But our people have suffered both physical and material
      losses which run into millions of rupees."

      "Whoever has siphoned off that money has usurped the rights of the
      poor and hapless people. Allah will deal with them in His own way."

      While the mystery of the missing millions remains unsolved, one thing
      is clear that the militant commanders had to cut a sorry figure before
      their fighters and supporters who too, like their leaders, wanted to
      be compensated.

      Sources in the tribal region tell Dawn that new lists of tribesmen are
      being prepared for compensation and efforts are being made to procure
      an additional sum to make up for the untraced money.

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