By Prof. Farakh A Khan:
Since inception of Pakistan in 1947 we have been rocked by scams and ‘hidden hands’ with unfailing regularity. Before we got hyperactive media scams were buried deeply in accusations and rumours. Now we are bombarded with Pakistan shaking news items glaring at us from our TV screens. With an active independent judiciary exposures are made at the highest levels putting in jeopardy our new ‘democratic’ defenders of democracy leaders. A plaint Supreme Court and Election Commission headed by a person who will not rock the boat (i.e. corruption) of nascent democracy is the desire of most of our present rulers.
The massive Balakot earthquake of 2005 and floods of 2010 had shown us that governance in Pakistan was non-existence. Post disaster management efforts by the NGOs and government are riddled with mismanagement and corruption. We all know the status of governance across Pakistan. Every file needs ‘wheels’ before it can move. This is our legacy of Mughal administration and is nothing new when state had no concept of paid civil servants who were paid for any work done by the public.
Scandals in recent months are mindboggling-involving billions of rupees. It all started with National Reconciliation Ordinance, which was to forgive and forget all past wrongdoings of civil servants and politicians. Unfortunately $60 million in Switzerland apparently owned by Zardari and Benazir became the sticking point between the SC and President Zardari. This led to wheeling dealing by Zardari to stop the Supreme Court orders to reopen the case. The first causality in this tussle was Babar Awan followed by Prime Minister Gilani who was slapped with contempt of court for not following SC orders. Meanwhile Pakistan was hit by ‘Memogate’ when a mysterious memo was passed to the US administration to pre-empt military coup against Zardari. To cut it short the then ambassador to US Hussain Haqqani was found to be the author of this strange request by a commission of inquiry. This finding is similar to the case of Dr AQ Khan the nuclear peddler removed by Gen Musharraf. AQ Khan had to take the rap in which many high-ranking army officers were involved. In case of Haqqani only he was made the scapegoat when we know he could not have acted alone. During this period Zardari had a mental breakdown and escaped to Dubai for medical care.
The rulers and the army feels that Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhary is getting too big for his boots and needs to be put in place. He was dabbling in Steel Mills scam, insurance scam led by Moonis Elahi son of Pervez Elahi, ephedrine case involving son of the prime minister, challenging appointments of cronies at lucrative positions, case of disappeared persons by the agencies and many others. CJP was a pain in the neck of the high ups of the executive and politicians. He would not allow any honest piece of corruption, which was the seen as legal right of the powerful in Pakistan. The CJP was slapped by his son’s wrongdoings.
We were then landed with another bombshell when the media broke the news of Rs 43 corer given to the son of CJP Dr Arslan by Bahria group since 2009. Dr Arslan is 32 years old twice married. He left medical profession and got appointed as section officer in the health ministry. But this was not what he wanted and was transferred to FIA service. Finally he landed illegally in police service. All this was happening in 2005-6 and were charges levelled against CJP by Gen Musharraf in 2007. Subsequently Dr Arslan left service to start his own business in 2009 (Jilani, Amina. The son also rises. The Express Tribune. June 16, 2012).
Once the story took the media by storm the SC took suo motto notice and called in the Bahria chief Malik Riaz to face the court. Malik Riaz claims that he is a matriculate (third division). He was employed as a clerk in the Military Engineering Service. Using the Pakistani style of entrepreneurship by giving bribes and kickbacks he quickly amassed huge wealth in the real estate market (a true ‘rags to riches’ tale. He cultivated friendship with the high and mighty and was thick with many generals and politicians of all hew across the party lines. Many of the TV anchors and channel owners are also in his pay. We must give him credit that he established housing estates in many cities, which are of the international standards. His philanthropy is quite amazing. The man is a smart cookie. But his social work was also a cover up of his wrongdoings.
On being summoned by the SC he gave a subdued impression in the court but when he came out and addressed a press conference he exploded. He was directly challenging the CJP on three counts and a fourth was added later. He accused the CJP of knowing what his son was up to since 2009. We were also given a dose of wheeling and dealing of Zardari to save himself from NRO cases. Riaz also claimed that Dr Arslan was a ‘don’ who controlled the SC! This was taken as contempt of the court.
On June 13 two anchors (Mubashir Lucman and Bokhari) confronted Malik Riaz on Dunya TV. I must remind you that Lucman suddenly became supporter of PML-Q before the elections and was rewarded by ministerial position in the Caretaker Government in 2008. He is smart and in his defence used Islam to the hilt. He was right when he claimed that everyone has to pay for any normal government task to the men in charge (putting ‘wheels’ under the file). This matric pass tycoon produced the most successful land development projects in Pakistan. This hours long interview was to give a clean chit to Riaz. He highlighted his social welfare work in giving free food to the poor. It is also claimed that he gave money (Rs17 crore) to Zardari for the release of kidnapped Pakistanis by Somali pirates. Hamza Sharif was like a son to him and whatever way he helped him was because of his emotional attachment. He tried to get an agreement between Zardari and CJP during the judicial crisis in 2008. He claims that he wanted independent judiciary in exchange for CJ not touching NRO cases. At the same time he attacked the CJP and his son. He claimed that resident Pir Abdul Wahab is the spiritual guide of the CJP and his family. Malik Riaz with his financial clout has become arrogant and this may be his undoing.
In an off the record of the interview of Riaz released on YouTube by a private TV channel has cast a gloom in Pakistani society. What we had suspected for many years came out to be true. The Lucman and Ms Bokhari TV interview of Malik Riaz proved a set up by Riaz. In between Lucman and then Riaz talked on the phone to Abdul Qadir Gilani the son of PM and the daughter of Nawaz Sharif (Wasim, Amir. The day media itself got embroiled in scandal. Dawn. June 15, 2012). It is alleged that the daughter of present chairman NAB is working for Bahria Town and there are rumours that the chairman’s appointment was also through the blessing of Malik Riaz. It seems sons of our elite are in Riaz’s pocket. From ‘Familygate’ we now also have ‘Mediagate’.
It was suspected that Malik Riaz of Bahria Town had encroached on 31 kanal and 10 marla land of the Forest Department in Angoori village, which was confirmed, by the department and FIR was lodged on May 8, 2008. This became part of Golf City project. The case was lost in inter department wrangling perhaps aided by Malik Riaz. The case has finally been reopened at the SC. Perhaps this may be a major factor in attacking the CSP (Asad, Malik. Another case starts churning for Malik Riaz. Dawn. June 15, 2012).
The only sticking point against the CJP is his son’s wrong doings since 2005 when the father illegally aided him in different government positions. Dr Arslan finally succumbed to Malik Riaz lucrative offer. The example of Dr Magsi the Egyptian born world famous cardiac surgeon in UK is relevant. He was so engrossed in his work that he neglected his family. When he discovered that his son was a heroin addict he was shattered and soon left his job. The CJP is a chronic workcoholic and puts in 18 hours daily. His son Dr Arslan must have wearied off the track during this time.
There is the case of a high-rise building over looking the Crop Commander house in Lahore cantonment. The original owner could not get permission to complete the project for years. Malik Riaz of Bahria Town stepped in and within months luxurious The Mall of Lahore with apartments was completed. It is alleged that Riaz gave some of the expensive apartments to some senior army officers who may have then facilitated necessary permission. There is also evidence of how late Lt Gen ® Imtiaz Hussain chairman of Army Welfare Trust got Riaz into plundering the DHA. Gen Imtiaz perhaps committed suicide recently.
Are we being confronted by well-planed conspiracy? More than Rs 43 crore given by Riaz’s son-in-law was a form of bribe to influence CJP through his son Dr Arslan in court cases against Bahria estates. This did not happen. Is this case a simple act of betrayal even though the amount involved in ‘bribe’ was quite insignificant for Riaz who claims that he knew nothing about payments to Dr Arslan? What was then the motive of Malik Riaz’s outburst against the CJP? Some claim that Zardari and company is aiding Riaz against CJP. Others feel that this was an emotional outburst for wrong done to him.
Now there is direct clash between CJP and Malik Riaz. In this clash between money and an honest judge is a distorted match in which the CJP has more to loose than wheeling dealing money loaded Pakistani. PML-N and PTI have strongly come out in support of the judiciary while Zardari has asked his party to remain ‘neutral’ which means CJP should go. The PML-Q has come out in support of Malik Riaz because of ‘decades old family terms’ (Mahmood, Amjad. Shujaat backs Malik Riaz. Dawn. June 16, 2012). The Bars have come out in favour of CSP. This is going to be an unpleasant affair, which shall show the true face of Pakistani elite who are morally, financially and intellectually corrupt.
There is a distinct danger that in this mudslinging match the CJP may step aside, which will be a tragedy for the future of Pakistan. Furthermore our so-called independent vibrant media has already lost its credibility and its future looks grim. With CJP Chaudhary Iftikhar gone Zardari will steal the next elections and that would end the story of Pakistan. I shall seek nationality with Burkina Faso or some other obscure African country, which can accept a Pakistani.