Zardari`s Turkey trip: Pak asked to pay dues to women `guides`

Five women were hired as guides during Pak leader`s visit to Turkey in 2008.

Islamabad: A Turkish court has ordered Pakistani authorities to pay USD 8,000 to five women who were hired as "guides" during President Asif Ali Zardari`s visit to that country in 2008 but were never paid for their services, a media report said here on Friday.

The court ordered the Pakistani consulate in Istanbul to pay the amount to the women who were hired through a travel agency to "facilitate the entourage" during Zardari`s visit, `The News` daily reported.

Payment was later refused to the women, sparking a legal battle which was settled after the recent court order.

The payment was made after the partial freezing of the accounts of the Pakistan consulate in Istanbul as the court cautioned that further non-compliance could lead to the freezing of all official accounts as diplomatic missions do not enjoy immunity in civil suits.

The Consul General of Pakistan had hired the Turkish women as "guides" for two days in December 2008 even though there is no budgetary allocation for such services.

The women were hired from a non-registered tourism operator, casting doubts about the nature of their services.

A grade 20 official of the Customs Group, who was then the Consul General in Istanbul, had hired them. He is currently posted at a senior position in the Employees` Old-Age Benefit Institution in Karachi, the report said.

"Services of interpreters were hired by our Consulate in Istanbul for two days to facilitate the delegation. The requisite payment to the Turkish agency concerned has since been made and regularised," Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit told The News.

While the spokesman called these women "interpreters”, nowhere in the documents has it been mentioned that they were hired for interpretation. These letters, copies of which are available, describe them as guides and facilitators for the entourage of the President.

A former Pakistani ambassador to Turkey, Lt-Gen Humayun Bangash, when asked whether he had ever hired such guides for official visits of the President to Turkey, rubbished the idea.

At the time the hiring of the girls was done, Iftikhar Shah was the ambassador and Wahid Khurshid Kanwar, the Counsel General in Istanbul. Shah`s consent was apparently not sought.

Tariq Aziz-ud-Din, Shah`s successor, pursued the issue, writing a bundle of letters back home seeking advice on how to pay the women and under what head since there was no allocation for such services.

Meanwhile, M/s Ozgun Travels went to court and had the consulate served with a notice for revised payment, inclusive of hiring charges plus the penalty of late payment.


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