Soon after the demise of the well-respected Begum Kulsoom Nawaz after prolonged hospitalization in London, Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to 10 years in jail in July 2018 for corruption, his daughter Maryam was given 7 years and her husband Safdar one year. Begum Kulsoom was spared the legal ordeal of seeing her entire immediate family being convicted by the courts one after the other. On Dec 24 the former PM has again been jailed for 7 years and fined US$25 million and Rs. 1.5 billion in the Azizia reference. His sons, Hassan and Hussain, have been declared proclaimed offenders. Many more indictments against Nawaz Sharif for misusing his authority and govt assets while in office as PM are in offing.
Our wily politicians have perfected the art of fooling the people, staying in power by giving false hope, defrauding, lying and cheating with impunity. Given his being the prime accused in the “Ashiana Scam” former Chief Minister (CM) Punjab Shahbaz Sharif, currently under judicial remand, being elected as the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is a Constitutional disgrace. PAC is involved in public audits, invites ministers, permanent secretaries or other ministry officials for questioning, it then issues a report of findings subsequent to a govt budget audit. Is there anything comparable anywhere in the world where any person prima-facie guilty of corruption be asked to preside over any public sector inquiry into corruption? How did his close aides, Fawad Hasan Fawad and Ahmad Cheema, accumulate fabulous wealth on their bureaucrat’s salary? Can this man sit on judgment on himself and his comrades in crime while using Constitutional sanctity?
Repeated bails before arrest granted by the Lahore High Court (LHC) notwithstanding, former Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique was finally detained by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Dec 11 along with his brother Salman Rafique for involvement in Paragon Housing Scheme scandal. Speaking in the Assembly on Dec 21 after NA Speaker Asad Qaiser issued his production orders, Saad Rafique used the “Constitutional dispensation” to lambaste NAB, calling it’s a law a “black law” used to victimize political opponents. Seeing the noose tightening, he conveniently remembered “even the accountability during the PML-N govt was not transparent,” saying that the opposition and the govt should stop fighting and fight against poverty, illiteracy and other challenges that were his “constitutional responsibilities”, he forgot to add “thieving”. He has convenient amnesia about his vitriolic speeches assiduously counting Zardari’s corruption counts from 2012 to 2016 against Asif Zardari. He now vociferously voiced support for the PPP Co-Chairperson with whom his political party PML(N) and PPP has mostly used a foul street language of the basest kind against each other’s leaders. After his sudden U-turn Saad Rafique warned that if Zardari was arrested “then mark my words, tensions will worsen in the country”.
Zardari and his sister, Faryal Talpur, are currently under investigation, along with about 40 others in the “benami” accounts cases pertaining to alleged money laundering of more than Rs. 4 billion. A Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed to investigate this case submitted reams of evidence to the Supreme Court (SC) recently about the black money accumulated from kickbacks, commissions and bribes and the “transaction three” how money was laundered. Crying foul about being falsely implicated in this case Zardari and the PPP have not been able to refute the cut and dried allegations clearly showing many transactions that Bilawal House expenses, travel, etc, even dog food were being met from these accounts. Even a solid “Ayyan Ali” connection exists about expenses with the Bilawal House accounts. After having let the “poor waif” go abroad, the judicial authorities are now asking about her whereabouts. They should have learnt lessons from the Hussain Haqqani judicial exit facilitated by the former CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry on his Haqqani’s solemn view to returning. To the guilty such vows have no value, they are only means to an end to avoid serving jail terms.
An application seeking disqualification of Asif Zardari as a member of Parliament was filed on grounds that hiding assets is a violation of Article 62 (1) (f) of the Constitution of Pakistan because his owning an apartment in New York was not declared to the Election Commission of Pakistan. The documents made public pertain to this property located at 524 East 72 Street, Apartment 37F, New York 10021, along with the latest property tax bills in the name of Asif Zardari. What earthly reason can anyone have for not declaring truthful details as required under law unless there is something to hide? Seema Boesky who wrote a column in 2008 detailing her meetings with Benazir Bhutto and Zardari believed the “penthouse” apartment was jinxed, anyone buying it would die either before or after the purchase.
Not surprisingly in all the cases against PPP and PML (N) leaders the common refrain is the “untouchable” Malik Riaz. The very dangerous unholy nexus that emerges is the connection with the then senior military hierarchy led by Ashfaque Pervez Kiyani. That is why two successive corrupt governments from 2008 got away with loot and murder. While there are good chances of more political associates being found guilty and serving jail terms are we going to condone “khaki” connection, particularly about one particular individual, is open and shut? That would undercut the credibility of any conviction for corruption. Unfortunately, there are also black sheep in the PTI, Imran Khan may need them politically but the fact remains there are certified crooks around him. What purpose do they fulfill for him, they were liars 25 years ago and remain, blatant liars, today? To avoid the label of “selective accountability” Imran Khan must get rid of them, starting with the “Johnny-come-latelies”, those “nouveau” loyalists who excel in serving every regime.
We should not have any illusions that the expensive, highly abusive and provocative campaign targetting NAB, the judiciary and the Army in the electronic, print and social media is being sustained by corruption’s illegal money. Why do you think some in the media change sides so often? The rumors about Zardari’s impending arrest might have triggered his usual self-defense mechanism where ambiguous and cryptic responses to journalists’ questions is the norm. The inflammatory tone of his recent public speeches will, he believes, serve to stir up public outrage and unrest should the inevitable happen. Recently while addressing a public meeting Asif Zardari questioned how can someone, “who has a service tenure of just three years” (meaning the COAS Pakistan Army) reserve the right to make decisions for the nation. He said “there have been 900,000 cases pending in courts, you should look into those. You have no future, how can you decide about the future of things?” Asif Zardari, suggest you go down and have a look at the Army List. Things have changed drastically after Gen Raheel Sharif took over from Ashfaq Kayani in 2013, even if you were to last out Gen Bajwa, which in the face of evidence he is determined you will not, there will be others. Lt Gens, Maj Gens, Brigadiers, Cols, Lt Cols, Majors, Captains, Lieutenants and Second Lieutenants are all patiently waiting in line for their possible stint on merit for a three years COAS tenure. You may rest assured that anyone in the foreseeable future for the next 25 years at least whoever takes the COAS chair, in turn, have will seen his men dying in Swat and FATA, they will focus on the likes of you so that this nation cannot be looted and defiled the way you, your sister, friends and associates have been doing.
One can rightly ask what is the substance of and where is the Constitution of Pakistan in the face of rampant corruption and money laundering, facilitated by any govt? Many believe that we really have no Constitution, which other Constitution in the world will allow such crooks to not only survive but prosper using the power of the state? And which allows them to defame with impunity govt institutions like the Armed Forces? Having no leg to stand on they shout and criticize Imran Khan, forgetting that while PM had certainly led the campaign against corruption he has nothing to do with the investigations going on and the convictions were handed down. All investigations and punishments are the domain of NAB and the judiciary, both truly independent institutions.
The people of Sindh love Bilawal because of his mother and grandfather, they fear Zardari and hate him because of his threats and intimidation thereof. Once the people believe he no longer poses a personal threat to them and their families we will see his so-called support evaporate. Having no love for the country, this cabal of crooks and hypocrites must be given due punishment. Anyone found lying, falsifying documents, swindling or stealing, particularly those holding public office, sector should be barred for life after following due process of law. Anyone else found benefitting from such people should also be prosecuted, for witnesses lying under oath guilty of perjury, lock them up and throw away the keys. It must also be remembered that anyone convicted of money-laundering stands to get his entire assets abroad confiscated, western governments now have enacted laws which consider any asset in their country by those convicted of money-laundering as purchased from the money-laundering proceeds.
Wonders will not cease, what about the “High Apostle of Constitutional Probity”, Raza Rabbani? This man of conscience is consistently and conveniently deaf, dumb and blind to corruption in Zardari and his dishonest cronies. What nonsense! The former Chairman of the Senate’s sole purpose in life is to frequently and publicly malign the Army. That sheer hypocrisy is meant to “cover up” the crimes of those while in public office are guilty of violating the Constitution because of their corrupt practices. People like Rabbani are guilty of aiding, abetting and condoning the gross violation of the Constitution they pretend to protect. Govts who not only facilitate but aid and abet cover-up of the corruption and criminality run afoul of any Constitution in the world. Such governments have no legal status. When criminals function in the name of justice, justice becomes a crime! Corruption being anti-state is treason, aiding and abetting it in any form amounts to gross violation of the Constitution. A few months ago I wrote an article labeling Pakistan as “Gangsters’ Heaven”. Heaven and/or Haven, Pakistan is presently both.
The writer is a defense and security analyst.