Sadiq & Ameen vs Security and Economy

panama papersLet us save the theatrics for the script writers for a moment and admit what appear to be some basic truths. Nawaz Sharif’s family lives a lifestyle that exceeds their reported income. Okay, this is increasingly obvious, but is it really so unexplained? Let’s consider a few other facts:

  1. There are more people on planes at any given moment than people paying their due taxes.
  2. The ‘informal’ economy in Pakistan is nearly as large as the formal economy – around $160 Billion.

Yes, but it’s not our fault, you say. We expect more from our leaders, you say. And we would pay our taxes if we knew our leaders were not pocketing our money, you say.

Really? Okay. Then let’s talk about our leaders. Nawaz goes, who is the sadiq & ameen who will replace him? Asif Zardari? Imran Khan? Don’t make me laugh.

This is why we need Army to take over and clean house, you say. But how clean is Army’s house? Will we see another ‘Panama Papers’ type leak about Gen Musharraf’s unexplained wealth? The worst kept secret in the country is the rampant corruption and looting by Army officers.

Okay, then, so what does this mean? There is no hope? No. I don’t think we have to be so fatalistic. However, I do think that we need to decide what is important. Is it most important to see our political rivals humiliated? This seems to be how we are deciding things now, and what has it earned us? We are a nation that is divided, insecure within our own borders, overwhelmed by religious extremism, all while in a state of economic stagnation. Instead of taking our problems seriously, we have tried to outsource them – first to America, now to China. You take care of our security and economy, we say, while we entertain ourselves with petty political dramas.

This may well be the end for Nawaz Sharif. If he goes, he goes. But what comes next? The same will be repeated with the next, and the next, and the next. We have no intention of changing. And why should we? Are you not amused? After all, surely the Chinese will take care of us….

Was Khawaja Asif Right About IKF?

Imran KhanEarlier this year, Khawaja Asif called for a forensic audit of funds collected under Imran Khan Foundation (IKF) suggesting that the money raised for floods relief may have been misused. At the time the statement was mostly seen as an attempt to distract attention from ‘Panama Papers‘ scandal that was making headlines. Not much has been reported about this since the last two months.

Now, however, a new report has appeared that suggests the Defence Minister may have been onto something. Researchers at ‘Alternative Perspectives’ think tank have published some US government documents that show millions of dollars from IKF being transferred to an undisclosed account. According to the report IKF officials refused to give any comment when they were asked where the missing millions were sent.

Where did the millions that were donated to IKF for flood relief end up being sent? Will a forensic audit be done, or will IKF officials finally give some clarification of how the people’s donations were actually used? For some reason I don’t expect any answers…..

AQ Khan’s Offshore Accounts Exposed: Military Officers to Follow?

A Q KhanThe Panama Papers are not going away. Nawaz Sharif spent the day in parliament discussing the scandal, and there appears to be little sign of resolution as opposition parties walked out in response. After calling for Nawaz to resign, Imran Khan has also found himself facing problems as he was exposed as having offshore accounts also. At least Immy was honest and admitted that his offshore company was created so he could avoid paying taxes. However Imran turns out not to be the only ‘Khan’ exposed in the scandal that won’t go away. It is not learnt that AQ Khan has also been exposed in Panama Papers.

AQ Khan has denied having any offshore companies and claimed that his family members signatures were all forged as part of a huge conspiracy against him by Habib Bank.

“I have never even heard the name of this company,” A.Q. Khan told Dawn over phone. “Neither did my wife and daughters. My brother, who died a few years ago, was with Habib Bank and, as you know, bankers are always up to their tricks and hanky panky,” he said without mincing words. “My wife and daughters never signed any documents to create this company. The signatures (on the incorporation paperwork) are surely false. My brother never discussed it with me and my family only heard about this company after the Panama Papers release.”

It’s not just what AQ Khan knew about these companies that is now coming under scrutiny, though. Many are also asking how this was not discovered until so late. One name that appeared in Panama Papers list was wife of AQ Khan, Hendrina. This is not a very common name and surely a researcher would have noted it, especially a researcher like Umar Cheema who is not only a Jang/Geo reporter but also a member of the ICIJ that broke the story! Is this another case of Army’s strangle hold on media?

Surely the powers that be knew that things could not be hidden forever. Now questions are being asked who else has been ‘missed’ in the long list of offenders? So far it has been civilians who have been in the bulls eye of the Panama Papers scandal, but we know thanks to former DG-ISPR Maj-Gen (r) Rashid Qureshi that Army has been covering up corruption among military officers since long. Will we soon learn than the names of military officers appear in the Panama Papers but were not previously reported? Will these too be blamed on ‘hanky panky’ at Habib Bank?

Former DG-ISPR says Army has been covering up corruption problem for years

Major General Rashid QureshiEveryone knows that officers are honest and politicians are corrupt, but what if I told you that military officers might be just as corrupt as their civilian counterparts? You would say I am crazy, of course. But what if DG-ISPR told you? Now will you listen?

This is exactly what has happened in the fallout of six high-ranking officers being forced to retire due to fault. Explaining the shock felt within the military and the unusual silence from Army’s media wing, former DG-ISPR Maj-Gen (r) Rashid Qureshi said that corruption has been a problem in the military since long but the institution has kept an official policy of hiding it from the public.

“The policy of the armed forces is that matters related to the personnel of armed forces are dealt with, and remain within, the institution.”

The Major General’s statement was corroborated by former Judge Advocate General (JAG) Army Brigadier (r) Wasaf Khan Niazi:

“I have conducted several court martial proceedings and dealt with the removal cases of a number of officers but none of them appeared in the press.”

By forcing six high-ranking officers to retire due to fault for their role in corruption, Gen Raheel has shown what he meant by ‘across the board accountability’. It is commonly accepted that Gen Raheel’s move was a brilliant political strategy to force political parties to clean their houses. However questions are now being raised about the extent of corruption within the military itself, and whether this move by COAS was a publicity stunt or whether there will be a full and independent inquiry into military corruption and how the institution has been covering it up for decades.

Gen Raheel shows telling uncomfortable truths is patriotic

Ayesha Siddiqa Military IncCorruption within the ranks has been an open secret since I can remember. Entire books have been written on the topic, but little has ever been done because pointing out any corruption or faults in Army, especially officers, has been rejected as ‘demoralising’ our forces and ‘defaming’ sensitive institutions. Now, though, history has been made as no less than Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif has confirmed that at least six high-ranking military officers were involved in corruption and inquiries are ongoing against even more.

Details are still coming to light, but one point is very clear: Unless we are prepared to start accusing Gen Raheel as a RAW agent, we must admit that noting the faults of national institutions, even sensitive ones, is a patriotic duty.

It was not long ago that Ayesha Siddiqa who has written extensively about corruption in the ranks was termed a RAW agent in the Green Book, the official journal of GHQ. I do not expect an apology or a correction, though this would not be unwarranted given Gen Raheel’s actions. The need of the hour is to start recognising that the real patriots are those like Ayesha Siddiqa and Gen Raheel who have the courage to tell uncomfortable truths in order to make the nation stronger.