rehman malik
Pakistan's Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik. - Photo by APP

ISLAMABAD, June 20: Government auditors have found more than half a billion rupees missing from the accounts of the interior ministry. The money received by the ministry against the issuance of arms licences should have been deposited in the national exchequer, Dawn has learnt on authority.

The interior ministry could not reconcile receipts of Rs515 million by its arms division with audit officials during an inquiry by a departmental level accounts committee.

The issue is likely to be taken up by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly.

“We are just talking about the money the ministry is supposed to have received against the issuance of arms licences for both prohibited and non-prohibited bores over the past two to three years,” an official of the Auditor General Office told Dawn. Referring to a scandal which shook the interior ministry in 2009-10, the official said that thousands of arms licences of prohibited bore, including sub-machine guns, had been issued in an irregular manner and in violation of rules, causing huge losses to the national exchequer.

An inquiry was ordered by the prime minister and the Federal Investigation Agency had in July 2009 discovered that fake bank receipts, forged signatures and fictitious stamps had been used by several middle-ranking and junior officers of the ministry to issue the licences.

In its report, the FIA had also said that part of the official record was found missing, making it impossible for investigators to determine how many such licences had been issued and to whom. The senior auditor said the latest scandal corroborated the fact that a large number of arms licences had been issued in violation of rules that needed to be taken up by the PAC.

The FIA report said the interior ministry had issued 28,527 licences of prohibited bore weapons from March 28, 2008, to June 26, 2009, and 6,000 of them had been approved by then minister of state for interior, Tasneem Qureshi.

In a major breach of official procedure, a server provided by the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) to check the identity of applicants had been replaced by one sent by a private vendor.

The FIA report said the ministry officials had not maintained the record in order to conceal the number of licences issued and the identity of those who had acquired prohibited lethal arms.

Pages from the Arms Endorsement Register were also removed and the investigators found it difficult to ascertain how many applications had been processed without approval by the competent authority.

Under the law, only the prime minister has the authority to issue licences of prohibited bore weapons, but he delegated the power to the then minister of state in April 2009.

After receiving complaints from various quarters, including parliamentarians, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani ordered the interior ministry on June 26, 2009, to stop issuing permits and asked the National Assembly's standing committee on interior to look into the matter.

The committee, headed by Abdul Qadir Patel of the PPP, in its findings put the blame on three sections officers of the ministry. Cases have been registered against them.

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