Pakistan weekly spills 9/11 beans
New Delhi, March 12: The Pakistan foreign office had paid tens of thousands of dollars to lobbyists in the US to get anti-Pakistan references dropped from the 9/11 inquiry commission report, The Friday Times has claimed.
The Pakistani weekly said its story is based on disclosures made by foreign service officials to the Public Accounts Committee at a secret meeting in Islamabad on Tuesday.
It claimed that some of the commission members were also bribed to prevent them from including damaging information about Pakistan.
The magazine said the PAC grilled officials in the presence of foreign secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan and special secretary Sher Afghan on the money paid to lobbyists.
“The disclosure sheds doubt on the integrity and honesty of the members of the 9/11 inquiry commission and, above all, the authenticity of the information in their final report,” it said.
The report quoted an officer as saying that dramatic changes were made in the final draft of the inquiry commission after the lobbyists got to work. The panel was formed to probe the September 11 terror attack and make suggestions to fight terrorism.
After the commission tipped the lobbyists about the damaging revelations on Pakistan’s role in 9/11, they contacted the panel members and asked them to go soft on the country. The Friday Times claimed that a lot of money was used to silence these members.
According to the report, the lobbyists also helped Pakistan win the sympathy of 75 US Congressmen as part of its strategy to guard Islamabad’s interests in Washington. “US softened towards Pakistan only because of the efforts of the foreign office,” an official was quoted as saying in the report.
The Pakistan foreign office defended the decision to hire the lobbyists, saying it was an established practice in the US.
An observer at the Islamabad meeting said money could play an important role in buying powerful people. The remark came in response to comments made by some US officials after 9/11 that “Pakistanis will sell their mothers for a dollar”.
Pakistan had emerged as front-runner in the fight against terrorism unleashed by the US after the terror strikes. Washington pumped in billions of dollars to win President Pervez Musharraf’s support in launching a crackdown on al Qaida network thriving on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.