The Senate was stunned, the treasury benches speechless, when it was disclosed on Thursday that President Pervez Musharraf, during his recent four-day visit to London, stayed in the royal suite of a hotel where one night’s rent was 17,000 UK pounds or Rs 2 million.
A total of about 68,000 pounds (Rs 8 million) were paid only on account of room rent for four nights of the hotel facing the Hyde Park, London.
The impact of this disclosure was so severe that even caretaker ministers like Nisar Memon, Nisar Ghumman and others became speechless, not standing up on the floor of the House to say anything in Musharraf’s defence.
Even the caretaker Minister for Petroleum Ehsanullah Khan, who toured the European countries with President Musharraf and stayed at the expensive hotel in London, could not gain the moral courage to stand up and say a few words.
Besides the Rs 8 million paid for four nights, the rest of the expenditures in these four days of stay were not disclosed. The official entourage of the president, including ministers and advisers, also stayed in the most- expensive hotel of London, where usually international celebrities, Hollywood actors and actresses pass their time.
The total bill of Musharraf’s eight-day-long trip to four European nations was also not given in the House.
When contacted by The News, president’s spokesman Maj Gen (retd) Rashid Qureshi said he had no idea how much rent was paid for one night’s stay of Musharraf.
He said he would check with the Pakistani high commissioner to the UK to get the details as he did not know at all about the total expenditures or other such details.
Earlier, the Upper House was taken by surprise when Senator Azam Swati stood up on a point of order to drop the bombshell that President Musharraf had stayed in a hotel where the rent per night was 17,000 pounds and he lived in this royal family suite for four nights.
"Look how our president has lavishly spent the taxpayers’ money in London," Swati said, waving a report in his hands which clearly mentioned that the hotel was paid Rs 2 million rent per night.
Swati said the same royal suite was used by the president to distribute official photocopies of letters and documents among British journalists to show
how the deposed chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had been receiving bogus petrol and medical bills of a few thousand rupees, which ultimately became one of the reasons for his ouster.
Swati, who was fully backed by the opposition benches, wondered how the president of a poor country like Pakistan could stay in a room whose rent was Rs 2 million per night.
During his four-day stay, President Musharraf had only one big official engagement – one-hour meeting with PM Gordon Brown. The British Foreign Office had also made it clear that Musharraf was not invited by the UK but he himself had requested to visit London.
During the rest of the three days there, Musharraf spent time with his old buddy Brig Niaz with whom he played bridge. Then, former prime minister Shaukat Aziz took him out for a lavish dinner at a Japanese restaurant. Musharraf also addressed a think-tank and members of the Pakistani community.
The presidential entourage, which visited London along with him, included PM’s Adviser on Finance Dr Salman Shah, Petroleum Minister Ehsanullah Khan, Governor State Bank of Pakistan Dr Shamshad Akhtar, Commerce Minister Shahzada Manoo Alam, Maj-Gen (retd) Rashid Qureshi, Adviser Dr Ashfaq, Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan, Secretary Board of Investment Mushtaq Malik and others.
They all stayed at the same hotel, but it is not known how much was spent on their rents per night.