ISLAMABAD, April 9: The Foreign Office on Sunday rubbished a report implying that Pakistan had bribed members of the US 9/11 Inquiry Commission to drop from its finding negative references to Pakistan. “Pakistan has never indulged in the illegal activity of bribing or buying influence anywhere in the world,” said a statement issued by the FO spokesperson here on Sunday.

Reacting to the report titled ‘Did Pakistan Influence the 9/11 Commission Report?’ appearing in the March 3-9 issue of a Lahore-based English weekly, the spokesperson termed it ‘utterly baseless and irresponsible’.

Taking strong exception to the ‘unfounded and totally fabricated story,’ the spokesperson asserted: “It is full of distortions which are obviously aimed at making a sensational story.”

Referring to the writer’s claim to have learnt from ‘reliable sources’ that FO officials had told a ‘secret’ meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that “Pakistan gave tens of thousand of dollars” to members of the inquiry commission to drop negative references to Pakistan, she pointed out that the PAC meeting referred to in the report was not secret.

“It was open to the media. In fact, several media representatives were present during the meeting and reported on its proceedings,” she said, adding that none of the other journalists covering the meeting reported what the weekly magazine allegedly learnt from its sources.

The PAC meeting on Feb 28 had considered the audit reports of the ministry of foreign affairs for 1989-99.

The spokesperson said that during the discussions the PAC had inquired about the role of lobbyists that Pakistan engaged in Washington, adding that the query was in connection with a specific appointment in 1989.

Recalling that the PAC had been briefed about the role of lobbyists and the ministry’s lobbying efforts for disseminating and projecting Pakistan’s standpoint, she stated: “At no stage anybody claimed to have bribed the members of the 9/11 commission.”

The spokesperson said: “Pakistan has hired various lobbyists over last several decades to promote bilateral relations.”