ISLAMABAD - A French judge, Marc Trevidic, is expected to arrive in Islamabad by the end of this month to probe into allegations that some Pakistani officials might have been behind a 2002 terrorist attack in Karachi that killed 11 French engineers, sources in the government disclosed.
The French engineers were working on Agosta submarine project when their bus came under a suicide attack outside a Karachi hotel on May 8, 2002. An earlier probe by some French officials and media reports pointed the finger at Pakistan’s civil and military leadership who, the French alleged, could have staged the attack to take revenge for non-payment of 6 per cent of agreed kickbacks and commission in the 1994 submarine project of 850 million euros.
“Yes, there is a request from French embassy and the same has been forwarded to the interior ministry some time ago,” said Tasneem Aslam, the Foreign Office spokeswoman. “There was a trial in France and Pakistan. Probably, they (French authorities) want a closure to the case for insurance and compensation to the families of victims.”
Official sources told The Nation that a recent meeting held at the Foreign Office, which was also attended by senior officials from ministry of interior, discussed in detail the upcoming visit of the French judge and French embassy’s request for assistance.
While no decision has yet been taken about the exact nature of assistance to be provided, another meeting of Pakistani officials is likely to be held next week, the sources said.
“The French judge might be accompanied by Interpol officers who specialise in such crime (investigations),” a government source told The Nation.
The French accusations about kickbacks were also directed at former President Asif Ali Zardari who was spouse of the then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto during the 1994 deal. The Foreign Office spokesperson denied that there had been a request from the visiting French judge to interview Zardari.
Farhatullah Babar, a spokesman of Pakistan Peoples Party Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, also described the reports about involvement of Zardari in Agosta incident as speculative. “There has never been an allegation against the PPP and it’s leadership and there has never been a question raised about it,” Babar said.
In 2009, the PPP government had rejected the allegations that Zardari had received kickbacks in the French deal.
The three persons accused, arrested and prosecuted by the Pakistani authorities were convicted by a trial court but later they were acquitted by Sindh High Court for want of evidence.
“The French judge will be interested in examining the evidence presented to the court and the manner in which prosecution was conducted,” official sources told The Nation.
Sources said investigations by another French judge, who visited Pakistan earlier, also remained inconclusive.
The interior ministry could not answer queries by this reporter on Friday.
In a previous investigation Judge Louis Bruguiere had concluded, “Pakistanis did not tell the truth on this point...throughout this was a politico-financial crime.”
According to previously published news accounts in western news media outlets, the French contractors alleged that the attack on French engineers was the result of a new policy of French government under President Jacque Chirac wherein he had stopped payment of commissions in all defence deals.
The 1994 submarine deal allegedly included 6 per cent commission (3 per cent of which was paid) for French leaders, including President Nicolas Sarkozi, and Pakistani leaders including Asif Ali Zardari, Admiral Mansur Ul Haq and others.