CIRP Special: Secret Internal Memo Reveals How STC Cultivated AC Members
ISLAMABAD: In November 2012, a senior official of Save the Children wrote a confidential email to his colleagues notifying them about his meeting with ‘our friend’, a prominent member of the Abbottabad Commission. The meeting was a part of intense lobbying inside the Commission to exonerate the NGO from the allegation as CIA’s proxy and its link with Dr. Shakil Afridi.
This email and the correspondence exchanged earlier gave an eye-opening account inside the Commission’s working that was formed to sift facts from fiction but turned out to be a body of bailing out as the dissenting note of a member criticized his two colleagues for ‘being soft on certain institutions.’
A reading of the NGO’s internal correspondence reveals how deeply it penetrated into the Abbottabad Commission wherein accessing the classified record, approaching members, acquiring advance copies of the draft and attaining desired result was not considered a major concern, despite the fact that it was strictly prohibited.
“Some of us suspected that khakis had access to the record and receive daily updates but never realized an NGO infiltrated too,” said an official privy to the Commission’s working.
The leaked communication indicates that Lt. Gen. ® Nadeem Ahmed, an un-official representative of the Army and ISI in the Commission, was allegedly cultivated by Save the Children who then cooperated with it in all means, even sharing details about internal politics, something in radical contradiction with his reputation as a thorough professional and a man of integrity.
He briefed the deputy country director of Save the Children, according to the email, about the views of different members, staunch opposition from a panel colleague, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, resulting in his dissenting note on the NGO and other institutions and Gen. ® Nadeem’s plan to effectively counter this note in collaboration with Justice ® Javed Iqbal, the Chairman.
Also came under discussion, the email notes, the role of the Commission’s Chairman Justice ® Javed Iqbal who was not a ‘part of problem.’ Another member, Abbas Khan, was neither willing to sign the report in its current shape nor wanted to put a dissenting note hence decided to prolong his stay in the US where he went on the ‘pretext of medical ground’.
More alarmingly, the NGO was granted access to the Commission’s report well before it was sent to the Prime Minister. The NGO had uninterrupted access to the four drafts earlier prepared by the members including the Chairman in June 2012. All favors granted to Save the Children on behalf of the Commission were in clear breach of public trust raising question marks about the integrity of the members.
When the top executives of the NGO exchanged emails sharing intelligence gathered from ‘our friend’, they did not realize that it would leak one day to the Center for Investigative Reporting in Pakistan (CIRP). An anonymous whistle-blower shared this record through CIRP’s email address. It was further verified before its release.
Why Gen. ® Nadeem played as go-between? If the email record is any guide, he is the person referred to as ‘our friend’ by Save the Children management who leaked internal details of the Commission in addition to sharing with them the draft of the report other than advising the NGO to fight out efforts of their expulsion initiated by the ISI. As his name was announced as a member of the Commission, he was interpreted as unofficial representative of the army and ISI. However, his role as a voice sympathizer/supporter to Save the Children was not thought about.
To be fair with Gen. ® Nadeem, he enjoys untainted reputation and is widely respected in the military and donor circles for his extraordinary work on both fronts. Other than serving as the Corps Commander Mangla, Gen. ® Nadeem also ventured into humanitarian business. He was assigned the task of rehabilitation following the October 2005 earthquake that made him the first Chairman Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA).
Also, he earned laurels for successfully dealing with Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), a gigantic challenge emerged during army operations in Swat and afterwards in tribal areas. He headed National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) formed after massive flood that rocked many parts of Pakistan in 2010 and later resigned over strategy differences with the government. These days, he is affiliated with the UN and other organizations working in the humanitarian field. His work with humanitarian organizations might have brought him closer to Save the Children.
It is hard to believe that a person of his stature and integrity facing allegations of such unethical practices of becoming a lobbyist for the NGO while discharging his duties as a member of the fact-finding Commission. He was not available for comments, however a person closely associated with him termed the allegations as ‘rubbish and non-sense.’ He said that Gen. (R) Nadeem was in contact with the NGO in order to obtain the required record in connection with Dr. Shakil Afridi and there was no point of sharing inside details with the officials of the NGO.
However, the question remains that what necessitated the NGO to use his name in attributing inside information to him. Save the Children has not explained it either. Its spokesman instead of reacting on the contents of emails said the NGO did not have any link with Dr. Shakil Afridi. “Our assistance to the Abbottabad Commission and its members including Gen. (R) Nadeem was within the legal parameters and Abbottabad Commission’s mandate to find facts,” the spokesman said.
A transcript of internal wrangling: Muhammad Hassan Noor Saadi, deputy country director of Save the Children, met Gen. (R) Nadeem on November 20, 2012 that followed his email to four senior colleagues. The report was primarily compiled by ‘our friend’, his email reads, and was endorsed by the Chairman but one of the member, Ashraf Qazi, was not in agreement with them. He wrote a dissenting note criticizing Chairman Justice (R) Javed Iqbal and Gen. (R) Nadeem ‘for being soft on certain institutions (including Save the Children).’
The commission could not issue the report with that note and therefore now they are working on developing counter arguments on the note, read the email. The commission needs to have a lot of comments removed from the note before it is in a shape that allows the report to be shared, the email continues, otherwise it can jeopardize the integrity of the members of the Commission. Justice (R) Javed Iqbal and Gen. (R) Nadeem ‘have to work extra hard to factually prove a lot of things wrong that this third member is referring to.
Then the email explained the position of the fourth member, Abbas Ali Khan, absent from discussion. He is not willing to sign the report in the current shape, read Hassan’s email, but also does not want to put in a note of dissent and therefore continues to prolong his stay in the US. As a way forward, the email continues, the two members will work with the third member (Ashraf Qazi) and try to come to a point where the note is significantly reduced and numbers of comments are taken out of the report.
Gen. (R) Nadeem’s advisory role of the NGO: The email also brings to light his role as adviser to the NGO. To a question that what Save the Children should do, he advised the deputy country director to build relationship and confidence with the Ministry of Interior and Economic Affairs Division. “It would take few months for you to be back to complete normalcy,” Gen. (R) Nadeem advised.
In another email generated on August 29, 2012, David Wright, the country director, wrote that ‘on my instructions Hassan asked Gen. (R) Nadeem to give an honest assessment as to what he thinks our chances are of surviving this.’ Gen. (R) Nadeem replied that he felt confident regarding the answers we (NGO) will give to the questions proposed, ‘he could convince the other commission members to go with the fact rather than the content of Afridi’s statement.’ Gen. (R) Nadeem also advised to fight the expulsion of our expatriates, Wrights email continued. ‘He felt if we did not do this and the expats left, the ISI would then move quickly to close down the country program before the Commission report comes out.’
Report draft shared with the NGO: Wright’s another email indicates that the draft was shared more than once with the NGO. Referring to a meeting of two senior officers of Save the Children with Gen. (R) Nadeem, the country director said they were shown the report written by the Chairman of the Commission. The email said there were four versions of the report in June 2012 and these were reduced to two in August that year. However, they have reservations about the latest version shared in August as ‘the report which was originally thought to be our savior, will be the tool for this expulsion.’ We will do our best, the email reads, to work ‘with our friends and try and get our responses in before the report is finalized.’