Kickbacks in arms inspection: army sacks four officers
RAWALPINDI: In September, a colonel and three majors were sacked from military service after it emerged that they had accepted kickbacks while inspecting arms purchased by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government for the police in 2010.
The sacked officers are alleged to have accepted Rs11 million from a contractor to give a clean bill of health to weapons, ammunition, bullet-proof jackets and bullet-proof helmets which were then supplied to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police department.
The story emerged when the former officers – Colonel Iftikhar Ahmed Malik, Major Awais Chaudhry, Major Tabassum Daud and Major Khurram Sheikh – who were sacked by the army on Sept 24 this year, approached the court.
The sacked officers were posted at the Inspectorate of Armament (I of A) of Rawalpindi in 2010 when they were asked to inspect the weapons, ammunition and other equipment sent by the KPK police department. The latter wanted the weapons tested before handing them over to the police force.
The scandal was so big that it claimed a few scalps in the province also. Among them was then Inspector General of KPK police, Malik Naveed. He was, however, later released by a NAB (National Accountability Bureau) court in October last year.
According to Senator Haji Adeel of the Awami National Party, which heads the coalition government in KPK, total cost of the weapons was around Rs7 billion. Armoured personnel carriers (APCs), vehicles and motorcycles for the police force were a part of the armoury. “The contract for the supply of these weapons was awarded to a general order supplier who was earlier supplying stationery to the government offices.”
He alleged that senior bureaucrats were behind the deal.
He said there was a provision for testing the equipment before it was handed to the police force and due to the deficiency of weapons testing centres in KPK, the consignment was sent to the Inspectorate of Armament (I of A).
The senator added that Safwat Ghayur, the commandant of Frontier Corps who was killed in a terrorist attack, had already rejected the weapons because of their poor quality, but the contractors managed to get clearance from the army inspectorate.
According to the court documents, the officers in Dec 2010 received letters from the director general of ITD, General Headquarters (GHQ), that asked for a response from the chief inspector of I of A about the alleged malpractices committed while testing the weapons.
Initially, Brig Saleemuz Zaman, the chief inspector, on Jan 7 last year refuted the charges.
On Feb 24 last year, Major Tabassum Daud was summoned by the director general of personnel directorate (DG PS) in GHQ and then handed over to the special investigation branch (SIB).
After three or four days, Col Iftikhar was also questioned about the weapons as well as a different issue involving the sale of helicopters to the army.
In October last year, the army authorities blacklisted two suppliers of helicopters; it informed Bell Helicopters Supply Centre in the Netherlands that the army had severed its ties with the Aerotron companies.
Blacklisting of the firm was challenged in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) by Azhar Wali Mohammad and Mohammad Ayub Azhar, the owners of Aerotron companies. The matter is pending there for adjudication.
According to petitions filed by the sacked officers, they were pressured by the DG PS to accept charges of accepting kickbacks for clearing the ammunition and weapons for the KPK police. However, they claim that they denied the charges and were handed over to the SIB.
They were also asked to return the money they had accepted as kickbacks from the contractors.The petitions said that under the pressure of SIB, Major Tabassum Daud, Major Awais Chaudhry and Major Khurram Sheikh arranged Rs7.3 million whereas Col Iftikhar deposited
Rs45.4 million into the private account of commanding officer of SIB with a branch of the Askari Bank in Rawalpindi.
The petitioners were then released in March last year and resumed their duties. But in September this year, they were dismissed from service.
They contended that under the Pakistan Army Act of 1952, military authorities should follow the set criteria for removal and the petitioners should be given an opportunity to face a court of inquiry or show cause notice.
The petitions said that neither any court of inquiry was ordered nor any show cause notice was issued to them before initiating the action for their dismissal which was a violation of Articles 4, 10-A and 25 of the Constitution.
The sacked officer requested the court to order their reinstatement and direct the military authorities to refund the money that they paid to the SIB under pressure.