Way out from Panama cri­sis

Pakistan Observer - - OPINION - Email:balti1551@gmail.com Ali Ashraf Khan

THE Panama dis­clo­sure and the fol­low­ing cries for checks on il­le­gal money have started a re­newed process of ac­count­abil­ity in the coun­tries where the names of politi­cians and lead­ing pub­lic fig­ures were men­tioned in the leaked papers. Yes, hack­ing the ac­counts of the Foneca law firm was il­le­gal but it did serve a noble cause– namely to cor­rect tax eva­sion and white­wash­ing of ill-got­ten money that HAS been in­di­rectly al­lowed by the laws that couldn’t pre­vent it, be­cause the same set of rul­ing elite had ar­tic­u­lated changes in laws un­der cover of so-called eco­nomic re­forms that proved detri­men­tal for the health of the na­tion.

While in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­tiv­i­ties and pro­cesses are un­der way world­wide to deal with the out­fall of the leaks and to get to the own­ers of il­le­gal wealth. In Pak­istan the same leaks have cre­ated what we call a ‘storm in the tea cup’ with loud shout­ing and ac­cu­sa­tions of ev­ery­body who feels im­pli­cated against all oth­ers as if a new ac­cu­sa­tion against some­body else would help to get my­self cleared or if the fact that oth­ers are do­ing the same thing would make my ac­tion less il­le­gal. Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif finds him­self in the mid­dle of the Panama cri­sis not be­cause he is the only one named in the leaked papers (or at least his chil­dren what comes to the same un­der Pak­istani joint fam­ily sys­tem) but be­cause he is the Prime Min­is­ter and that for the third time un­der a western par­lia­men­tary democ­racy where col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity of par­lia­ment rules.

Cor­rup­tion and ne­po­tism has rightly been called the worst fea­ture of the Pak­istani state and the so­ci­ety that is run­ning that state. The ini­tia­tive of the Pak­istan army un­der COAS Gen­eral Ra­heel Sharif has rightly cen­sured this fact and – un­der­stand­ing the im­por­tance of ‘lead­ing from the front’- has gone ahead and started ac­count­abil­ity within his own in­sti­tu­tion of army. This is the spirit that we need! But such spirit that im­plied brav­ery and dis­re­gard for the own im­por­tance but a feel­ing of hu­mil­ity im­ply­ing that ‘I am a per­son like any­body else, no spe­cial ex­emp­tions ap­ply’ is miss­ing in our politi­cians. Gen­eral Ra­heel has that feel­ing, Nawaz Sharif doesn’t and per­haps con­sid­ers or claims him­self from wealthy aris­to­cratic back­ground hence he and his fam­ily has im­mu­nity. Flight of cap­i­tal from Pak­istan was dream of Sharif’s to their safe heav­ens that in july 1992 a law called “Pro­tec­tion of Eco­nomic Re­forms Act was got passed that turned this dream into reality al­low­ing free­dom to bring, hold, sell and take out for­eign ex­change claim­ing im­mu­nity from any fu­ture in­quiry, but this law was also vi­o­lated and scrapped by Nawaz Sharif in 1998 by freez­ing all for­eign cur­rency ac­counts un­law­fully.

Re­ports are that mil­lions of dol­lars were trans­fered in fic­ti­cious ac­counts and Apart­ment No. 17 at 118 Park­lane was ac­quired through Nescol in june 1993, then in 1996 three ad­join­ing flats at Park­lane were also ac­quired. The ques­tion arises here that who opened and op­er­ated these fic­ti­cious ac­counts and paid money to who while ac­quir­ing prop­er­ties from pre­vi­ous own­ers. In 2006 re­ports are that these prop­er­ties again changed own­er­ship when Nescol trans­fered them to Min­erva co. It needs to be in­ves­ti­gated who held own­er­ship of these off-shore com­pa­nies.

Hav­ing past ex­pe­ri­ence of in­ves­ti­gat­ing white col­lar crimes, in my opin­ion if will is there, it is an open and shut case to reach the bot­tom of cor­rup­tion. A sim­i­lar case of Sharif’s was in­ves­ti­gated by me in FACC (Fed­eral Anti-Cor­rup­tion Com­mit­tee) about shady deals to ac­quire “Bird Lodge” at Kash­mir/Hall Road, Muree in 1994 start­ing from the time when he was Fi­nance Min­is­ter, Pan­jab on the ba­sis of ques­tion­able power of at­tor­ney ob­tained from Mst. Mum­taz Je­han Qureshi on 12-5-1985, and deal was ma­tured/gifted to Sharif fam­ily in 1992 when he was elected PM. Few more iden­ti­cal cases were also in­ves­ti­gated where mo­tive was to ac­quire J&K State prop­erty on which PM Junejo had im­posed ban in 1986 on its sale/trans­fer in La­hore at Haveli Dhyan Singh, Said Mitha Bazar, La­hore for con­struct­ing a degree col­lege in the con­stituency of Mian Shah­baz Sharif.

Now Prime Min­is­ter is sur­pris­ing us with the state­ment that he has al­ready taken the na­tion into con­fi­dence over his as­sets. Well, how come? Does he re­fer to his ‘ad­dress to the na­tion’ where he was whin­ing that he is all falsely im­pli­cated? Even the much touted ToR’s are an eye­wash. In his let­ter to the Chief Jus­tice he asked for in­ves­ti­ga­tion into cor­rup­tion of each and ev­ery­body go­ing back till the foun­da­tion of Pak­istan un­der the In­quiry Act of 1965, the scope of which is not clear to me. The fact re­mains that suc­ces­sive rulers have in­tro­duced and en­acted new laws claim­ing that the ex­ist­ing laws have pro­tected the cor­rupt in­stead of elim­i­nat­ing cor­rup­tion.

Cor­rup­tion has ex­isted from the be­gin­ning among gov­ern­ment ser­vants and at the time of the in­cep­tion of Pak­istan laws were pro­mul­gated to fight against it: those laws called “Pre­ven­tion of cor­rup­tion Act of 1947” (Act No.II of 1947) then Pak­istan Spe­cial Po­lice Es­tab­lish­ment Or­di­nance of 1948 (Or­di­nance No.VIII of 1948) Pub­lic Ser­vants In­quiries Act of 1950, Pak­istan Crim­i­nal Law Amend­ment Act of 1958 (Act No. XI of 1958), Gov­ern­ment Ser­vants (Ef­fi­ciency and Dis­ci­pline) Rules 1960 and Gov­ern­ment Ser­vants (Con­duct) Rules, 1964 ex­isted but were never im­ple­mented.

Not sat­is­fied with these laws Pres­i­dent Ayub Khan no­ticed in­creas­ing com­plaints of cor­rup­tion in the pub­lic ser­vices and in Septem­ber 1966 the Pres­i­dent ap­pointed a spe­cial com­mit­tee to for­mu­late rec­om­men­da­tions for erad­i­ca­tion from all spheres of pub­lic ser­vice un­der S. Fida Hussain as Chair­man with Es­tab­lish­ment Sec­re­tary, Chief Sec­re­taries of East and West Pak­istan, Sec­re­tary Home & Kash­mir af­fair, and I.G, Pak­istan Spe­cial Po­lice Es­tab­lish­ment as Mem­ber/Sec­re­tary of com­mit­tee sub­mit­ted a nearly 80 page re­port.

In 1986-7 un­der ex­ten­sion of Prime Min­is­ters ex­ec­u­tive pow­ers the Fed­eral Anti-Cor­rup­tion Com­mit­tee with Gen­eral (Ma­jeed Ma­lik (Retd) was in­stalled, soon af­ter that Mr. Junejo’s gov­ern­ment was sent pack­ing un­der 58 (2) b, FACC was twice re-ac­ti­vated in 1989 and 1993 with Ma­lik Mo­ham­mad Qasim as its Chair­man. Then Nawaz Sharif en­acted Eht­esab Act of 1997, which was su­per­seded by NAB Or­di­nance of 1999.

Now Nawaz Sharif is PM for the third time and is im­pli­cated in cor­rup­tion again. And in­stead of com­ing out clean once he is look­ing for an exit again. In his let­ter to the Chief Jus­tice Nawaz Sharif asked for in­ves­ti­ga­tion into cor­rup­tion of each and ev­ery­body go­ing back till the foun­da­tion of Pak­istan. But that would take years if not decades and would not serve the pur­pose: to clear a sit­ting gov­ern­ment from the be­ing in cor­rup­tion and thus not cred­i­ble any more. There is a wis­dom in the say­ing that ‘the fish stinks al­ways from its head’.

The need of the hour is first clear the Prime Min­is­ters fam­ily and its gov­ern­ment so that it can carry on gov­ern­ing the coun­try cred­i­bly. The cred­itabil­ity of the Prime Min­is­ter has been lost even if he doesn’t want to know that. And it is also clear that ac­count­abil­ity would be dif­fi­cult if not im­pos­si­ble when the FIA and NAB are un­der the in­flu­ence of the sit­ting Prime Min­is­ter. We have seen this in the past. Trans­parency and Ac­count­abil­ity can­not suc­ceed un­der the um­brella of this so-called po­lit­i­cal demo­cratic gov­ern­ment, to make it mean­ing­ful and across the board ac­count­able an In­de­pen­dent Com­mis­sion with a se­nior cit­i­zen of im­pec­ca­ble char­ac­ter with full pow­ers to sum­mon all and sundry to ap­pear and clear the al­le­ga­tions is an es­sen­tial re­quire­ment.

Panama in­ves­ti­ga­tion in my view can suc­ceed only if pros­e­cu­tion is un­der the com­mis­sion to pre­pare the charges and facts of the case and onus to prove in­no­cence rests with the ac­cused. Re­spon­dent should pro­vide fool proof ev­i­dence of the le­git­i­macy of all trans­ac­tions in­clud­ing com­plete trail of money reach­ing into Off-shore ac­counts or prop­er­ties to as­cer­tain pre­vi­ous own­er­ship and its present own­er­ship.

The best way would be that he and his cabi­net would re­sign for the time the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is un­der­way and a care­taker gov­ern­ment of tech­nocrats would run the af­fairs un­til the al­le­ga­tions are cleared, even re­place all divi­sional and Sec­tor heads from driv­ing seats so as to make sure no un­due ob­sta­cles are put in the way of ac­count­abil­ity process of this Com­mis­sion. When the sit­ting Prime Min­is­ter and his gov­ern­ment is cleared in­ves­ti­ga­tions in a se­cond step can reach out to all the oth­ers. This way is a re­spectable and dig­ni­fied way of work­ing for the Prime Min­is­ter of Ice­land and it should be able to work for our Prime Min­is­ter as well. This would be the real mean­ing of ac­count­abil­ity, trans­parency and hon­esty to­wards Pak­istan and its peo­ple. God bless Pak­istan and Hu­man­ity. —The writer is a se­nior colum­nist based in Karachi.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.