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.
The leaked ‘Panama Papers’ have confirmed what everyone was already sure of: Political leaders are crooks who are bleeding the country dry. Equally predictable is the response of many who are calling for the Army to step in and stop the crooks from looting the country. However, buried under the popular narrative are some inconvenient facts that should be considered.
A high level defence delegation led by Lt. Gen (Retd) Muhammad Alam Khattak has headed to Washington to attend the 24th Meeting of Pakistan-US Defence Consultative Group. The Pakistani delegation has a clear brief: Ask for more money.
Pakistan side will stress for a way forward on issues related to Coalition Support Fund, its reimbursement continuation and enhancement. It remains high on agenda that Pakistan requires security equipment for capacity building and counter-terrorism operations.
Pakistan is in the front line on the war against terrorists. We have sacrificed more than any other nation and operation Zarb-e-Azb has also done more to break the backbone of terrorists than any other operation. None of this is denied. Still there need to be some questions asked about where all the billions are going. In the case of the military budget, the question does not always have a pleasing answer.
Auditor General of Pakistan has found over Rs5 BILLION in funds embezzled from defense budget in one year alone. Earlier this year Defence Ministry admitted that 81 officials were found guilty of embezzeling Rs1.53 billion from accounts of the Military Engineering Services (MES). Almost none of these funds could be recovered.
These are only two incidents that have been reported. Other reports suggest the problem may be much larger such as how former Chief of Army Staff and military dictator Gen Mushasrraf became a billionaire? Who knows how much has been stolen from defence funds?
Being the richest country in the world, America may not think much about billions going missing, but without proper accounting and accountability for these funds they could be funding the corruption that is destroying the nation’s economy.
Farrukh Saleem’s latest column includes a startling claim. He says that “the estimated amount embezzled over five years of PPP rule” is Rs8.5 trillion. TRILLION. Such a sum amounts to 8.5 percent of GDP during the five year period that PPP was in power. According to the author, this was not only due to the corruption of PPP but also could not be stopped because “Our entire anti-corruption infrastructure is designed and structured to protect corruption“. Farrukh Saleem knows the solution, though, and unsurprisingly it starts and ends at GHQ which if it is not allowed to succeed will result in “wholesale nation-wide disappointment“.
There is not much in Farrukh Saleem’s piece that is surprising. He has been a long-time supporter of the military taking over more and more of the country. What is surprising is the massive number that he is throwing out. Where did this come from? I know it is fashionable to accuse Zardari and Co. of looting everything they put their eyes on, but over 8 percent of GDP may be taking the “Mr 10%” smear a little too far don’t you think? But Farrukh Saleem…excuse me…DR. Farrukh Saleem is a respected political scientist writing for one of the largest media groups in the country. Surely some fact checking was done before this was allowed to be published.
PPP may have faded in recent polls, but party co-Chairman Asif Zardari brought the party firmly back into the spotlight with a fiery speech that lashed out at the security establishment for overstepping its domain. If Zardari’s rhetoric was over the top, it has been outdone by hyperventilating media responses terming the speech as ‘declaring war on the military‘. I think a reality check is needed. Ejaz Haider noted that, with the current Rangers operations expanding in Sindh, “Zardari finds himself in a bind. He could act meek or throw down the gauntlet”. Zardari is many things, but “meek” is not one of his better known traits. Even though, he spent five years as President taking all manner of attacks against his party and himself. Only now is he really lashing out. Whether or not this is a wise political strategy only time will tell, but underestimating the PPP co-Chairman has never been a good bet. This time may be no different.