ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Wednesday approved payment of over Rs84 million (£385,000) to a British law firm fighting cases against disgraced former chief of Muttahidda Qaumi Movement Altaf Hussain.
This is in addition to about Rs51m (about £233,450) already paid to the firm for the period between February and October 2018. With this, total payments so far to the firm amount to about Rs135m.
In this regard, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) on Wednesday approved “payment of Rs67.459 million to Ministry of Interior (MOI) for the payment to hired solicitors for pursuing cases in the UK,” said a statement issued by the ministry of finance.
The ministry had originally demanded payment of about Rs84m (£385,000) to M/s Guernica International. However, due to limitations in legal and financial rules, the ECC approved a supplementary grant of Rs67.459m while the interior ministry will separately make a payment of about Rs16.4m (£75,000) out of its own budget.
As such, a supplementary grant of Rs67.459m (£310,000) was approved to discharge the liabilities of second engagement period from February 2019 to January 2020. The remaining amount of Rs16.4m (£75,000) of the first contract for the period between November 2018 and January 2019 will be paid by the ministry out of its own budget.
M/s Guernica International was hired to pursue cases like Dr Imran Farooq murder case, money laundering case and incitement to violence case against Altaf Hussain. The contract for legal services between the law firm and the government of Pakistan, through the interior ministry, was signed at the rate of £25,000 per month for a period of 12 months with effect from Feb 14, 2018.
An amount of £133,450 for the period between February 2018 and June 2018 was cleared in March 2019 with the approval of the federal cabinet. Another amount of £100,000 for July-October 2018 was also paid in December last year.
Meanwhile, the law firm continued working on the cases and sought renewal of the contract for another term of 12 months from February 2019. The renewal is pending and liabilities remain outstanding due to audit objection that engagement of the law firm had not been done in compliance with procurement rules and had not been processed through law ministry and Attorney General for Pakistan. Hence even earlier payments were found irregular.
The ECC was told that “being a sensitive issue, the process was carried out as per PPRA Rule 42 (C) by institutions associated with the national security and after evaluation of the British law firm M/s Guernica International possessing requisite credentials was shortlisted” and the office of Attorney General of Pakistan remained associated with the exercise. “Law Ministry was also part of the process in a sense that services of Khawaja Imtiaz were hired by the Ministry as Assistant Attorney General/Special Public Prosecutor to represent federal Government in the cases against Altaf Hussain”.
Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2021