Earlier 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…..
The 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?
Everyone 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.
Corruption 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.
When the Panama Papers story broke, I wrote that just because someone wasn’t named in the leaks it doesn’t mean that they are corruption free. I noted a few examples of privileged institutions showing signs of severe corruption that have never been given the attention like politicians. However there was no way I could have predicted what would come next.
Dawn’s report exposing Bahria Town is amazing for many reasons, beginning with the fact that it ever saw the light of day. Like the Panama Papers, what is shocking is not to find out that there is corruption, but to see it laid out so plainly before our eyes. The Bahria Town report is even bigger than Panama Papers though because it directly exposes the one institution that is considered beyond criticism: the military.
The Bahria Town expose is a big story by itself, but it is made even more stark as it is read while Army troops are literally going to war against their peasants. No, this is not a typo. TV anchors will not be covering this development as closely as PM’s shopping spree medical care in London, but it is no less reality.
Chotu gang operations may be in the headlines but Army is also carrying out operations in Okara where they have deployed heavily armed troops against Pakistani farmers who dared to protest their conditions.
This is not the first time that Army has turned its guns on the farmers who work their land. Conditions at Okara Military Farms have been lamented by the peasants who work there for years, and only two years ago Army troops opened fire on the farmers for daring to protest against being treated like disposable serfs by their feudal military lords.
Panama Papers has shown us just how wide spread is the problem of corruption in our society. But Bahria Town and Okara Military Farms are showing us that overseas accounts and posh London tailors are peanuts compared to what is taking place right before our eyes. Our political leaders may be feudals, but in reality they are mere vassals compared to the real Lords of Pakistan.