The superb March 23 military display in Islamabad after a 7 year hiatus aroused the patriotic fervor of the nation, it also raised a number of questions. Clouding the continuing sacrifice rendered by those in the marching columns and those flying overhead was the virtual immunity under the Constitution to the rulers to enrich themselves. The legal nuances notwithstanding, the farcical indirect elections to the Senate, the cache of convicted murderers caught at one place in Karachi, the televised confession of Saulat Mirza, the reported admissions of Uzair Baloch to the UAE police, the cover-up of the Model Town massacre, etc, symbolizes the deliberate criminality inherent in our present governance structure, graphically defining how the farce masquerading by the name of democracy functions in Pakistan.
Emasculating the capacity of the militants to wage war against the state in the mountains of Swat and FATA, Pakistan’s Armed Forces are physically engaged in supporting the law enforcement agencies (LEAs) targeting terrorists (and their infrastructure) deeply embedded in the vast urban hinterlands of Pakistan. Deng Xiaoping famously said it did not matter whether the cat is black or white as long as it eats mice. Given the nexus between corruption, organized crime and terrorism, paraphrasing the late Chinese leader, whether a murderer belongs to a religious faction, political party, criminal gang, etc, those committing and sanctioning murder, and those facilitating terrorism are all equally culpable. As are guilty those providing political and legal support as well as media space to the criminals.
The “Ayyan model” episode symbolizes how money-laundering is blatantly facilitated from Pakistan. Money went in suitcases and duffle bags in official aircrafts when PPP (Pakistan People’s Party of former president Asif Ali Zardari) was in power, how did they avoid customs checks and special units for money-laundering in destination countries UAE and UK, very strict about applying their money-laundering laws? How come such illegal funds allowed our corrupt to purchase prime real estate in these countries? Once out of power, carriers like Ayyan were used by PPP. Khalid Malik is not just anybody, he is Rahman Malik’s brother, of the US$ 500,000 Ayyan was carrying, rumor has it US$150,000 was earmarked for the UAE lawyer legally filibustering Uzair Baloch from being extradited to Pakistan. Ayyan has reportedly confessed acting as the courier for almost US$40 million in the last two years. Rumours are that Sindh Govt is requesting Ayyan being shifted to Karachi Jail. If suo moto action could be taken for Atiqa Odho’s two measly bottles of alcohol, why is everyone and his uncle acting “deaf, dumb and blind” about all the recent revelations?
With witnesses blatantly criminally intimidated, direct evidence to convict anyone for corruption is seldom available for the courts, already difficult given our ambiguous and ineffective laws of evidence. Al Capone publicly committed dozens of murders, laughing at witnesses refusing to give evidence in court he scared them out of their wits with the threat of summary execution. He was finally incarcerated for “tax evasion”. Those who cannot provide tangible proof of taxes paid should be held accountable under existing laws for their accumulated assets (and their luxurious living). Incidentally what happened to the Federal Tax Ombudsman’s recommendations in the Malik Riaz-Arsalan Iftikhar case?
National Accountability Bureau (NAB) does seem committed under the present hierarchy but one does question their priority of persecuting culprits. To regain trust and credibility NAB must target those within their own ranks, past and present, who prevented NAB’s mandate from taking its course. With an honest reputation himself, Lt Gen Muhammad Amjad collected quite a selection of crooks and outright scoundrels (patriots all) in his team, they made money on the “plea bargain” ploy. Living way beyond their known sources of income, at least two of the Chairmen who succeeded him were absolute rascals. Can they be investigated for taxes not paid on their illegally acquired wealth?
The military is held in great esteem in Pakistan, the superior judiciary has gained some trust, both must work harder to shore up their credibility. Principles and standards for honesty and integrity must apply equally, otherwise it is patently unfair to hold others accountable. When you combine the influence of past associations with illegally acquired wealth, raw power force-multiplies frustrating the course of justice. Why was (Pakistan’s former army chief General Ashfaq Pervez) Kayani in haste to post a new Corps Commander in Karachi during his last few days as COAS in Nov 2013?
During the eleven months this “favorite” served before doffing his uniform, he went berserk, among other criminal activity converting an amenity car park into a lucrative DHA (Defense Housing Authority) plot for himself. Kayani himself can hardly answer his connections to Malik Riaz, what to speak about the shenanigans of his two brothers. If he feels aggrieved he should please have the courage to sue me! One of Musharraf’s Corps Commanders was responsible for Meinhardt attempting the Creek City Project (read my article “Creek City, Bleak City” of Aug 02, 2003), having failed their commitment has Meinhardt settled their monetary obligations to DHA more than a decade after? This rascal tried influencing winding up of the investigation of the well-known scam forging documents in connivance with DHA officials to get possession of numerous unclaimed DHA plots. It is also documented he failed to prevent sacking of the 6-7 DHA officers involved with those running the scam. Coincidence that these same scam artists bought this three star’s DHA plot way beyond the market price? The present military hierarchy has an excellent reputation, both professionally and personally, they owe it not only to the uniform but to posterity to hold accountable the handful of crooks who besmirched the uniform they wear and brought it into disrespect.
Gen. Raheel Sharif did for Gen. Pervez Musharraf what needed to be been done. It is unthinkable that a former COAS be degraded in a civilian court in the manner that the Sharif govt was attempting. Whatever questions Musharraf has to answer must be within the ambit of a military court of enquiry. Notwithstanding Raheel Sharif’s soft corner because of Musharraf’s association with his late brother being understandable, this emotion cannot be held hostage to the wrong public perception that the Army is sympathetic to Musharraf’s political ambitions and redemption thereof. Despite all his “Pakistan First” talk Musharraf saddled Pakistan with the black NRO law for his own survival, NRO being directly responsible for the virtual state of criminality that the country has descended into under the camouflage of the Constitution.
We are at a dangerous crossroads, lip-service to the rule of law and accountability thereof erodes the credibility of governance that we desperately need.
The writer is a leading defense and political analyst of Pakistan. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org