April 26, 2008

Over Rs1bn spent on Musharraf’s world visits: January 2003-08

Filed under: NEW GOVERNMENT AFTER MARCH 24-2008 — civilsocietypakistan @ 2:26 am
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April 24, 2008 Thursday Rabi-us-Sani 17, 1429

By Amir Wasim
ISLAMABAD, April 23: President Pervez Musharraf undertook 37 foreign tours between January 2003 and January 2008 costing the national exchequer a total of Rs1.468 billion.

According to the information provided by Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi to the National Assembly on Wednesday, President Musharraf was on foreign tour every 50th day on average and spent a total of 201 days abroad during these five years.

The foreign minister placed this information before the lower house through a written reply to a question by Raja Mohammad Asad Khan of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) who had asked the minister to provide complete details of the president’s visits, expenditure on each visit, names and number of the entourages and the purpose of the visits.

Interestingly, no member of the National Assembly raised the issue on the floor of the house and the question went unnoticed. No member of the PPP or the PML-N, the parties which had been strong opponents of Gen Musharraf in the last eight years, questioned the utility of these foreign visits and the logic behind spending the huge amount on foreign trips when the country is already in the grip of severe economic crisis.

The data shows that President Musharraf visited a total of 45 countries during this period with most of the visits to Saudi Arabia and the United States. The president went to Saudi Arabia eight times, whereas he visited the US six times. The other most frequently visited countries by the president were UAE, Turkey, Switzerland, Malaysia, UK, France, Afghanistan, Belgium, Indonesia, Morocco and China.

The president went on eight foreign tours in 2003, seven in 2004, eight in 2005, five in 2006, eight in 2007 and one in January 2008.

The president’s 15-day visit to the US, the UK, Belgium and Cuba in September 2006 cost the national exchequer a total of Rs227.95 million. Surprisingly, the president’s five-day tour to China in February 2006 cost Rs168.89 million. About the purpose of this visit, the minister says:

“The close Pak-China relationship requires frequent exchanges between senior leadership and the president undertook the visit in that context.”

Similarly, the president’s trip to four European countries in January 2008 cost Rs146.56 million to the national kitty. The president visited Switzerland for participation in Davos Economic Forum’s annual meeting, whereas his visits to Belgium, France and the UK were ‘for bilateral purposes.’

Another 14-day outing of the president in November-December 2004 cost the exchequer Rs90 million. The president visited Morocco, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, France and the US for ‘bilateral’ purposes with a 53-member entourage from Nov 26 to Dec 9, 2004. In September 2004, the president had already spent Rs60.76 million on his visits to the US, Netherlands and Italy. In January-February 2007, President Musharraf visited Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Iran and Turkey and these trips cost Rs111.75 million. The purpose of these visits was to make efforts ‘to resolve the outstanding Palestinian dispute and unity of Muslim Ummah.’

The reply does not provide complete information as to where and how this amount was spent. The data shows that the president’s one day visit to Afghanistan in November 2004 with a 30-member strong entourage cost just Rs35,272.

Following are the countries President Musharraf visited during Jan 2003 – Jan 2008 with number of visits to each of the country:

Russian Federation (1); Malaysia (3); Saudi Arabia (8); US (6); UK (3); Germany (1); France (3); Tunisia (1); Algeria (1); Morocco (2); Canada (1); China (2); Korea (1); Turkey (4); Switzerland (3); Sweden (1); Finland (1); Azerbaijan (1); Netherlands (1); Italy (1); UAE (5); Afghanistan (3); Brazil (1); Argentina (1); Mexico (1); Kyrgyzstan (1); Uzbekistan (1); India (1); Indonesia (2); Philippines (1); Qatar (1); Australia (1); New Zealand (1); Kuwait (1); Yemen (1); Norway (1); Belgium (2); Cuba (1); Jordan (1); Syria (1); Egypt (1); Iran (1); Spain (1); Poland (1) and Bosnia (1).


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