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Senate body seeks report on setting up of firing range by US Embassy

Senate body seeks report on setting up of firing range by US Embassy

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Interior on Tuesday directed the inspector general of police (IGP) Islamabad to investigate the motive behind allowing the US Embassy to establish a firing range and submit a report.

The committee also asked the secretary interior to submit its findings about the issue.

On April 22, the chairman of the committee Rehman Malik had taken notice of reports regarding construction of a firing range on the premises of the US embassy as a tender had been floated for it.

US Embassy rejects reports that the firing range was being constructed inside its compound

However, the embassy rejected reports that the firing range was being constructed inside its compound.

It explained that after receiving a request from the government of Pakistan it had agreed to provide fund for refurbishment of an existing firing range for the capital police.

The embassy had said the intention was to make the range safer for the police as well as the citizens and diplomats who lived and work near the fire range.

The chairman of the committee said he had directed the Ministry of Interior and the chief commissioner Islamabad to investigate the matter and submit a report.

He said the CDA had provided a report regarding allotment of land to the US embassy. In this regard, a letter was also written to the Ministry of Interior but a report was not submitted.

Senator Abdul Qayyum informed the committee that he had taken up the designing and construction of a firing range in the Diplomatic Enclave in the house.

“In this regard, an advertisement was floated on the website of the American embassy for the renovation of the firing range at a cost of $100,000 to $250,000 and firms were asked to submit their bids,” he said.

The chairman said when he took up the matter with the secretary interior it emerged that the police firing range was located outside the boundary of the Diplomatic Enclave.

The firing range was established for the training of police personnel and the idea was to upgrade the facility.

Consequently, the Ministry of Interior in July 2018 signed a MoU with the embassy by “mistake.”

He said such a MoU could not be signed without the consent of the Cabinet Division.

“I took suo motu notice of the matter because it was a very sensitive issue. As per reports, the embassy was constructing a firing range and weapon training centre. However, police and the interior ministry have not given written explanation about the issue. Though police have said the firing range was being established at the Police Training Centre it raised questions that who allowed the police to sign the MoU,” he said.

A representative of the Ministry of Interior said after notice, establishment of the firing range was not being considered.

As other members also raised concerns upon construction of any firing range in the precincts of Diplomatic Enclave, Mr Malik directed the IGP to hold an inquiry and submit a report on the motives behind signing of such an agreement and discarding the same lately.

He asked the secretary interior to submit a detailed report on the findings and expose the original facts before the committee.

The MoU to upgrade the firing range was signed by the US embassy and the interior ministry in July 2018 when the caretaker government was in power.

On the other hand, the US embassy had stated that it had nothing to hide and that was why it had posted the advertisement on its website for possibility of upgrade with Pakistani contractors. It had clarified that it was a firing range for the local police and not for the embassy.

The Capital Development Authority (CDA) informed the committee that since 1967 land had been allotted to the US embassy three times.

As per documents (available with Dawn), a 150,492 square-yard plot was allotted on July 24, 1967, in Diplomatic Enclave and the embassy paid Rs2.59 million for it.

On April 18, 1990, 17,803 sq yards was allotted to the embassy in Diplomatic Enclave. The embassy paid Rs2.67 million and a building was constructed there.

On Nov 25, 2010, 8.29 acres was allotted in Diplomatic Enclave to the embassy for which it paid 20.061 million dollars.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2019

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