TIP chief receives death threats from "high-level" Pak officials for monitoring US aid

Islamabad, Nov 30 (ANI): Corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) has claimed that it is facing intimidation in Pakistan because of its agreement with the United States to monitor its increased aid flows to the country.

Syed Adil Gilani, Chairman of Transparency International Pakistan (TIP), said that he recently received death threats from "high-level" government officials, urging him to stop his organization's anti-graft investigations, including plans for the graft hotline, but declined to name the source of the threats, The Wall Street Journal reported.

"They don't want TI Pakistan to monitor" the US aid flows into the country, Gilani said in an interview.

According to him, the group, which has been operating in Pakistan for five years, is also facing a backlash for uncovering a number of large graft cases in recent months.

On November 29, TI's chairwoman Huguette Labelle wrote to Pakistan's Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, asking for action to address any "possible state intimidation against TI Pakistan."

Labelle had sent two similar letters in the first week of November to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and the US Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, to complain against the intimidation of Gilani and other local staff.

"The reported threats against and intimidation of anticorruption activists at TI Pakistan, who are engaged in promoting good governance, should be seen as a violation of Pakistan's obligations under the U.N. Convention against Corruption," Labelle wrote to Zardari, but did not specify the exact nature of the threats in the letters.

A US Embassy spokesman confirmed that the mission had received the letter from Transparency International and were monitoring the situation, while Zardari's spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

A year ago, the US Congress had agreed to a five-year, 7.5-billion-dollar civilian aid package for Pakistan, at least half of which will be funnelled through Pakistan government ministries rather than international contractors and foreign aid groups.

But Congress and aid groups have raised concerns about so much money going through the Pakistan government, which has a reputation for corruption. Last month, TI had ranked Pakistan as the world's 34th most-corrupt nation in its annual Corruption Perceptions Index, up eight places from the previous year. The ranking had enraged many politicians in the country.

To ensure the utilisation of the enhanced US aid in an appropriate manner, the US signed an agreement with Berlin-based TI's Pakistan affiliate in September, under which the group will set up a hotline through which people can report any misuse of US assistance. (ANI)

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