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COMMON MAN’S UNCOMMON PM

Imran Khan won over the hearts of the masses by his very candid and honest manner in his address to the nation as PM. Delivered from the heart in plain words, his talking points scribbled in his own handwriting he meant what he said. The nation has been waiting to hear from their leaders for the last 71 years about the poor-rich divide and the vital issues haunting the masses on the poverty line or barely above it. Not attacking the Opposition directly, he held them responsible for the current debt crisis of Rs 28 trillion that 10 years ago (2008) was only Rs. 6 trillion.

Pledging to cut govt spending, end corruption and repatriate public funds,  he promised Pakistani expatriates a conducive investment environment, exhorting them to deposit  their hard-earned money into Pakistani banks through official channels to provide some relief to our current financial crunch. Outlining deficiencies in Pakistan’s human development and the health-care sector, he promised adopting austerity measures to relieve the strain on the economy and tackle foreign debt.  Appealing to the people to team up with him to improve health-care system and provide proper nutrition to children, he said his govt will improve the public sector educational institutions to absorb the more than 20 million children not going to schools. Madaris too would include modern subjects so that students across the broad spectrum could become engineers, doctors, etc.

To symbolise austerity, the PM will himself stay in the 3-bedroom Military Secretary’s residence in the PM’s House keeping only two employees out of the 524 reserved for the sitting premier.  Retaining only two of the 80 cars at the PM house, 33 of them very expensive bullet proof ones, he requested the business community to purchase them at an auction. Promising to convert all existing Governor Houses into public places,  the PM House would be converted into a world class university.

Urging the wealthy to start paying taxes,  a perennial problem with less than 1 percent of the population filing income tax, Pakistan has become notorious for tax dodgers. Instead of trying to rebuild the economy by external loans, he vowed to bring about changes in the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) having lost its credibility because of corruption. Promising to protect the people’s tax money to ensure it is spent on them, he urged the people to start paying taxes not only for a better life but also to lift the destitute out of poverty.

Imran planned to meet the Chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB)  facilitating making NAB more effective and more transparent in its fight against corruption. Imran Khan hopes to enact a law for “whistleblowers” in the manner he has done in Khyber Pahktunkhwa (KPK), whoever helps identify corruption gets a share of the money that is recovered. The PM has decided to keep the Interior Ministry and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) under himself as “I want to personally oversee our efforts to eradicate corruption”.

Reforming the civil service serving as the backbone of bureaucracy is a priority for the PM, to enforce meritocracy and restore it to its formerly held high standards. “In the 1960s we were considered one of the best in the world,” he said. “It is unfortunate how we have fallen behind. This is largely because of a few corrupt individuals and unbridled political interference” unquote. Dr Ishrat Hussain, former Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has been tasked to form a Committee to bring merit back. Warning that that political interference will not be tolerated in any appointments, the PM announced bonuses for the selfless and efficient employee and penalties for those who failed.

Imran Khan stressed upon transferring the devolution of power saying that previous govts were loathe to introduce local govt or kept creating roadblocks in its implementation, “Power must be given to the bottom-most tier. Nazims will be directly elected in districts, while checks and balances will be kept.” Every attempt to introduce local govts has been met with resistance from the bureaucracy, especially by the District Management Group and the Police Service of Pakistan, who claim superiority over the district administration as a backdrop of their colonial legacy.

The PM stressed increasing Pakistan’s exports by facilitating all the industries to remove bottlenecks and hurdles. He promised to bring back investment into the country by making an environment for investment. Our embassies across the world will engage all overseas Pakistanis (and others) who may wish to take our goods and products. A “Business Advisory Council” is being set up to provide assistance and help address their challenges.

The PM explained his vision of using the examples of governance set by the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) “to bring the nation out of its plight,” in essence creating a Medina-style Islamic Welfare State. Calling the Holy Quran as his fundamental and eternal guide for lifting the country based on such a model, he put forth a five-point agenda 1) Supremacy of law where the law has to be the same for everyone 2) Zakat, where the rich pay more to subsidize the poor 3) Compassion, today this is practiced more in the west where even animals are cared for in ways that would put us to shame, 4) Merit, rulers must be Sadiq and Ameen, they have to be truthful with no conflict of interest and 5) Education, the Holy Prophet stressed education above everything else, even making it incumbent on his people to attain an education.

Treating challenges confronting the nation as opportunities,Imran  Khan spoke aboutrevamping the judiciary, implementing KP model of police in Punjab, repatriate our Pakistanis stuck in jails abroad, increase green cover in cities, water scarcity, building new dams, environmental issues, a crackdown on child sex abuse, etc. In essence all reforms and proposals focussed on safeguarding Pakistan’s resources and their redistribution from the rich to the less advantaged.Such was the sincerity in his tone and such was the power behind his message that even his detractors failed to find any negative aspects, the best they could do was be critical about topics the PM did not dwell upon.

The road to “Naya Pakistan”is littered with challenges and threats which are in fact opportunities. This is indeed a new beginning holding promise for the common man who was energized by hearing Imran speaking the language they wanted to hear. This uncommon man, someone who does not ask for much in return for his promises is now on his way to really becomean “uncommon” PM.

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ACCOUNTABILITY BEGINS AT HOME

A democratic form of govt being accountable to the people, the elected representatives are accountable to the people who elect them. Our enduring constant crisis in governance stems from our inept and corrupt rulers trampling the essential pillars of good governance, rule of law and accountability. This gives rise to unbridled and widespread corruption, low human development and higher poverty levels.

Formed in Nov 1999 “to eliminate corruption through a comprehensive approach encompassing prevention, awareness, monitoring and combating,” the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) record of convicting politicians and civil servants has been hampered by political interference and/or bureaucrats conniving with some NAB officials to cover up white collar crimes. Justice (Retd) Javed Iqbal as Chairman NAB has breathed fresh energy to make NAB as effective as it was during its first few years. Given the space to carry out effective accountability dedicated employees of NAB have made considerable progress in investigating the corrupt dealings of a combination of politicians, bureaucrats, ex-servicemen, etc. Rumoured to be worth Rs. 2.5 billion and still counting. Fawad Hasan Fawad and Ahad Cheema, the blue-eyed of Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif respectively, were loaned billions by some known businessman and financiers, for what consideration? Additionally a matter of concern no one from the judiciary has ever been touched by NAB.

To quote Prime Minister-designate Imran Khan “accountability will start with me” and extends downwards to his cabinet members. Though individuals with political and/or financial strength may be important for Imran personally and/or politically, public perception will be unforgiving him if he continues association with those who may be tainted with corruption be seen in any position of authority. Imran’s success lies in practicing what he preaches.  That the army does not have an internal audit system to curb corrupt practices is wrong. With military promotions merit-based and having an excellent administrational strength, the Army could play an exemplary role by devising an effective information mechanism for making public cases of accountability within the Army. This will encourage/force other institutions to willingly become part and parcel of the anti-graft drive. The judiciary does not have requisite on-board skills, the investigating of white collar crimes must depend upon an “Internal Affairs Division” within the Supreme Court (SC) and the High Courts (HCs) headed by a SC/HC Judge rank respectively with ability to form Joint Investigating Teams (JIT) for curbing corruption, especially in the lower judiciary. Without putting its independence in jeopardy the judiciary’s shortcoming can be filled through overlapping arrangements with investigation agencies, particularly in cases considered to be ‘open and shut’.

Being listed among the world’s most corrupt nations almost every year is a matter of shame. The tiniest positive change in its ranking is not because corruption has declined but because corruption has shot up in other countries in the list. Corruption is entrenched in the political system, having infiltrated deep into the bureaucracy, political parties and into sections of the judiciary. Accountability being mostly selective and used as a tool to tame political opposition or economic rivals makes across the board accountability a dream.

According to Wikipedia, the real estate tycoon, Malik Riaz is currently the 7th richest person in Pakistan, with an estimated wealth of over a billion dollars. How this man has amassed billions without paying taxes? The Federal Tax Ombudsman’s orders in 2013 to recover Rs. 119 billion in taxes owed by Malik Riaz was set aside by then President Asif Zardari. Something is wrong with the Constitution and the rule of law if a person deeply involved in corruption can get away with “pardoning” another. Without embarrassment Malik Riaz admits bribing both senior civilian and military officers and got a “substantial return on his investment”. The Army must investigate all those ex-servicemen (particularly two star and above) working (or associates) with Malik Riaz. Those who have benefitted by having plots, etc gifted to them by Riaz must be public. What happened to the Rs 62 billion (about US$ 700 million) paid to him by Defence Housing Authority (DHA) Islamabad, forcing them to re-schedule re-payments to the banks?

Thanks to Malik Riaz’s stable of high-paid lawyers and retired senior civil and military professionals aware knowing the intricacies of how to manipulate the governance process, he has always got away on legal technicalities. Diverting potable water to Malik Riaz’s Bahria project in Karachi is criminal. Sindh govt officials colluded by laying four three-inch diameter connections. Could they have done this without Zardari’s explicit instructions?  Cutting into the already inadequate supplies to the 20-million plus city, Karachi’s residents resulting in an acute water shortage and making their purchase exorbitantly priced water tankers or stand at communal taps to obtain water for daily use. How Riaz get land in prime locations in lieu of worthless land from barren areas is a saga out of the “corruptions handbook”. Is justice deaf, dumb and blind to this blatant and calculated corruption? One has the greatest respect for Chief Justice Saqib Nisar but Malik Riaz must be laughing himself sick for having got away with only Rs 5 billion deposit.

Every enquiry, every investigation, every trial and every arbitration in Pakistan today reeks of rampant falsification with absolute impunity. Perjury is rampant, why are those disqualified by SC not charged with perjury?  Every elected representative thinks that he is only answerable to their voters after their tenure has expired. Remember Nawaz Sharif ‘s tirade after being removed from office by the SC,  ‘I am only answerable to the people of Pakistan”? Truly independent and autonomous, anti-corruption agencies will allow conduct of across-the-board accountability without any political interference. Surgical restructuring of the entire accountability mechanism must include NAB and other Federal/Provincial anti-corruption entities. This should not defer/delay any ongoing investigation.  Moreover accountability across the board must include the judiciary and the military, a suitable mechanism duly devised so that these institutions are not degraded because of a few hypocrite scoundrels pontificating on TV about corruption.

Without getting involved politically indulging in or interference, accountability working independently is an opportunity for the new govt to cleanse the system.  As a leader of integrity and vision Imran Khan can only develop in the mould of Malaysia’s Mahathir Muhammad or Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew if he is aided by people of integrity around him promoting merit-based decisions at all levels and increasing accountability. With people starting to hope that their dreams can be fulfilled, he cannot afford tainted individuals in his inner circle. Imran Khan compromising on self-accountability adversely affect his vision for governance and Pakistan.

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SETTING THE TONE FOR THE FUTURE

Without significant progress on the political scene for years Imran Khan was mercilessly mocked by many, none so viciously as Declan Walsh, the Guardian’s former correspondent for Pakistan. He went the ultimate in ridiculing Imran in an August 31, 2005 article as a “a miserable politician whose ideas and affiliations since entering politics in 1996 have swerved and skidded like a rickshaw in a rain shower”. I would like to invite my friend Declan to come and ascertain for himself the genuine political appeal and adulation the PTI chairman now universally commands in the country, certainly among friends but surprisingly among some erstwhile foes alike. One should not scribe one’s perceptions from the vibes obtaining on the cocktail circuit.  The popular vote of 16 million plus far exceeds the number of seats the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) should have got on a commensurate basis.

Imran Khan laid out an outline of what his economic and governance reforms as well as his foreign policy priorities a day after the July 25 elections, the positive response, particularly on the social media, was huge. After all the frenetic electoral activity, his calm pep talk touched on almost every aspect of an effective governance system. The manifesto of his party was re-scaled on a prophetic virtual model. Passionate about the welfare of citizens, equality before law, justice and education, he called for uplifting the underprivileged, promising provision for their basic needs and jobs.

Mentioning the difficulties the people of Balochistan faced, he praised their courage for coming out to vote despite the dire imminent threat from terrorism. Imran Khan’s words will be a source of renewed hope and solace for the people of this neglected province. Calling for national unity, the cricketer in him demonstrated a true sportsman spirit. Offering an enquiry into the Opposition’s allegations of vote rigging he called for accountability, starting with himself. Despite being the target of personal attacks and character assassination all through his political career. Imran Khan promised not to engage in political vendetta against his detractors. The national leader resolved to unite the people of Pakistan, making policies for the poor and giving rights to even those who do menial work in homes. A symbol of refusing to give up, he will continue to struggle for achieving national goals. That Imran will abide by his pledge to refrain from political victimizing should not be in doubt, he has a history of living up to his promises.

With our foreign reserves at their lowest, coming under further stress by the day and the current account deficit widening and eroding the reserves, there is talk about approaching the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The bailout package estimated at US$10-15 billion by Finance Minister-designate Asad Umar. An economic crisis looms on the horizon. Rumours about a US$ 2 billion Chinese loan are still doing the rounds. The new govt will have to find ways to offset this problem, Imran Khan explicitly mentioned concentrating efforts for combating tax evasion, strengthening trade relations with neighbors, and reforming dysfunctional state institutions responsible for the economic downturn will give some comfort to the people.

Endemic in Pakistan, corruption has spread like a cancer, in the govt, police force, etc bureaucracy has become a significant risk to all commercial activities. Imran Khan has promised to make NAB, FIA and other institutions truly independent, strengthening the scope of NAB to ensure accountability. Unfortunately selective accountability remained the order of the day with previous govts, accountability was not carried out in a non-partisan manner. In April this year just before the general elections and against strong advice by political aides, he created political sensation by dismissing 20 lawmakers of his own party found selling votes in the Senate elections. While accountability will be a huge challenge, he must do what is right, using it as a unique opportunity to make our present accountability mechanism more formidable to cleanse this nation of the corrupt and the undesirables.

Promising to cut govt expenses, he pointed to the gigantic PM House and said “I would be embarrassed to live in it”, Imran’s decision not to live in the PM House will translate into huge savings amounting to Rs. 1.85 billion annually. Mentioning the Governor’s and Chief Ministers’ residences as being next was extremely symbolic in assuaging the feelings of deprivation and disdain of the poor masses towards the royal lifestyle of Pakistan’s governing elite. No govt tried this the past, except perhaps for the Junejo govt. Living upto promises of conservatism and austerity measures he earned the ire of the bureaucracy and was ultimately dismissed by Gen Zia ul Haq on charges of incompetency and economic stagflation.

In a decidedly conciliatory tone Imran has sought improved relations with India and Afghanistan, offering to take two steps to one from India for the sake of peace and friendship, emphasizing that better trade ties would be beneficial to both. Modi responded to this positive gesture for clearing the way to lasting regional peace by congratulating Imran by telephone. Despite his conciliatory offers, Imran Khan did not forget the core issue of the suffering of the people of Indian Held Kashmir (IHK), suggesting that both neighbours need to sit and try to fix the problem. The crux of his message was that Pakistan desires improved ties, with India a willing partner interested in peace. The problem is that having US patronage, India might not like to review it believing its regional hegemonic designs could be fulfilled.

Impressed by China’s rapid development Imran Khan said he wanted to learn how 700 million people were pulled out of poverty and the measures taken against corruption. The PTI Chairman has taken steps to enhance mutual cooperation by constituting a special “Pak-China Cooperation Unit” aiming to further strengthening bilateral relations. He wants Chinese experience help speed up and widen the scope of the CPEC project.

The performance of the previous government against the targets set in “Pakistan Vision 2025” plan proposing optimal utilization of the country’s resources to achieve sustainable progress fell short in almost all sectors because of lack of commitment and greed. Imran Khan’s predecessors did not exercise caution when making promises and setting targets. Having brought about the downfall of PML (N), PPP dynastical politics, the would-be “conditional” premier brings a strong message of hope unlike any of his predecessors. The aspirations of the people of Pakistan sits on his shoulders to deliver on the promises he has made. His July 25 speech set the tone for a positive future.

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CHALLENGES INTO OPPORTUNITIES

Poised to become the Prime Minister (PM). Imran Khan, Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) will lead a new Coalition govt. Among the acute challenges will be severe distress in the economy. Foreign exchange reserves have depleted due to widening of current account deficit and repayment of previous loans.  The International Monetary Fund (IMF) may be approached for a US$10 to 15 billion bailout package to stabilise the external sector. Rather difficult given that the US has a say in IMF affairs and US-Pakistan relations are at their lowest ebb. Out of the blue came a warning shot, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warning Pakistan, “There’s no rationale for IMF tax dollars, and associated with that American dollars that are part of the IMF funding, for those to go to bail out Chinese bondholders or China itself”. While the coupling of one with the other is mystifying, for the foreseeable future the IMF option therefore appears closed. With the talk of a bailout by China not confirmed, the PTI govt needs engage the US govt with pragmatism, apprising them of the new dynamics emerging in the region and the need for both the countries to have a more constructive relationship.

The first 10 months of fiscal year 2018 saw Pakistan’s current account deficit widening almost 50% to a record high of $14.03 billion. This deficit has taken a toll on foreign exchange reserves sinking to a low of around US$9 billion. Before starting to appreciate after the July 25 elections, the Pakistani rupee depreciated alarmingly against the dollar rising briefly beyond Rs 130. Pakistan’s debt has increased to an unsustainable level of Rs 24.5 trillion or 72% of total size of economy (domestic debt Rs16.5 trillion and external debt Rs8 trillion). Fiscal and trade deficit have recorded an all-time high. Imran Khan promised mass reform, giving top priority to the making of strategy and policies in consultation with the business community and the private sector.

A fiery Opposition does not accept the electoral results, however Imran Khan has already waved an olive branch to the Opposition by offering to have any constituency investigated where they believed irregularities have taken place. A huge dose of pragmatism is now needed, the new govt must do everything in its power to develop a working relationship with the Opposition based on the new realities. Imran Khan must now go the extra mile, taking on the mantle of a mature, non-partisan and patriotic politician having only the best interests of the nation and its people at heart; it is said that leaders must very often manage change, even if the change is unpopular. While a strong  Opposition is vital for any democracy, it must ensure that it plays its role as an alternative viewpoint to proposals and to generate debate. It must refrain from hounding and criticizing the majority only for the sake of it, as has sadly become the norm in Pakistan. The combined Opposition must serve the country by providing honest checks and balances needed in a functioning democracy, shunning opposition for the sake of opposition.

Imran Khan has promised to work towards the success of CPEC and that he wants to send teams to learn about poverty alleviation from China and utilize their model to lift up the poor and downtrodden in Pakistan. PTI’s manifesto also reiterates its desire to take friendship with China to new heights. The presence of any non-state actors in Pakistan is bound to put extra pressure on Pakistan. Another serious challenge that Imran Khan might face will be on the eve the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meeting scheduled for Sept 18 where the issue of non-state actors could be debated.

Speaking in a televised address on July 26 Imran Khan, opened his heart to the nation without the aid of scripts or notes. He came across as someone truly humble and mature, he was conciliatory in not blaming anyone for the past but looked ahead to the future.  He vowed not to pursue political victimization and strengthen state institutions to ensure they were really independent. Setting a personal example he offered himself for accountability and called for having harmonious relations with all neighbours and with major powers, including the USA.  Reaction both in Pakistan and abroad to his speech was largely favourable with many saying that Imran has graduated from being just a politician to a Statesman.

Imran Khan must deliver on promises made i.e. fighting corruption and bringing the looted wealth back to Pakistan, ensuring across-the-board accountability and providing jobs by reviving at least 100 industries. New legislation must ensure that the process is impartial. Strong liaison with foreign governments will be needed for crafting fresh treaties and agreements for extradition of criminals, repatriation of the robbed assets to the country of origin and curb money laundering. The looming water crisis, energy shortages, internal and external security factors, etc, are among the challenges. Foreign policy challenges have multiplied because of the PML (N) failure having a Foreign Minister for four long years damaged Pakistan’s image internationally. The road to “Naya Pakistan” appears littered with pitfalls and obstacles, the job is certainly not going to be an easy one, but the new govt  must have the will to take unpopular and difficult decisions.

Spare a thought for the soldiers of our Armed Forces and the peace that prevails rendered by their blood, sweat and toil. On top of the challenges we were facing only five years ago, terrorism is now more of an irritant to be eradicated rather than any major challenge.  The verdict of voters of Pakistan would not have been possible without our soldiers changing the environment drastically from fear and despondency to peace and tranquility, giving them the opportunity to exercise their choice. Our soldiers went the extra mile ensuring a clean and fair electoral process. Despite the abuse and calumny visited on them by the losers and those domestic and foreign entities having a vested interest in them, not a single shred of evidence has been produced with any credibility.

Setting a high bench mark for himself, Imran Khan and his party members will have to rise above petty personal and political prejudices. Challenges are only a means of achieving goals and vision, an opportunity for renewal and change for those who have the capability, the competence and the will to meet the challenges head on. Imran and his PTI will have to prove themselves worthy of the trust reposed in them by the voters of Pakistan.

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OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE GOVT

The balance of payment crisis has been aggravated by major currency devaluations taking place over the past few months, the Rupee plunging 15% since December last. Surprisingly the currency has appreciated by 4% .e. Rs 7.00 since Imran Khan’s elections on July 25.  The State Bank having had to raise interest rates, the current-account gap widened by 43% in the last fiscal year with foreign-exchange reserves dropping alarmingly to $ 9.1 billion. While a China- sponsored “bailout” is rumoured, the newly elected govt might approach the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These loans come typically with strings attached i.e. curbing fiscal deficits, tighter monetary policy, etc one can expect even tougher conditions given that many structural reforms promised to the IMF were either delayed or not done by the previous govt. The US being front and center in any IMF initiative, one can also expect another boat of “do more”.

With about 40 days plus of cash available for imports,  Pakistan has not enough foreign funds to pay for (1) much-needed imports to keep economic growth going and  (2) for the Central Bank to maintain currency stability. The “current account deficit” (CAD) keeps growing wider at a fast pace, further eroding our scarce reserves. There is an opportunity for the govt to build the foreign exchange reserves and stabilize the local currency by banning luxury goods and those imports that can be substituted locally.

Setting a personal example Imran Khan has offered himself for accountability, his cabinet and then downwards to everyone. His willingness to ensure accountability was in seen in dismissing 20 lawmakers for selling votes in the Senate elections. But in the absence of both sound internal controls and institutionalized accountability, our govt departments have turned into dens of corruption. Accountability requires a survey of those living way beyond their means, recovering looted national wealth stashed away in foreign safe havens must be a priority. Meaningful measures must include strengthening accountability institutions like National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Public Accounts Committee (PAC), etc.

Experts have already warned that Pakistan will become “dry” by 2025 unless some pragmatic and speedy steps are taken in accordance of the new “Water Policy” introduced a la Sartaj Aziz just a few weeks ago. India’s inauguration of the Kishanganga Hydroelectric plant in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) has compounded over water problem. Among our top priorities would be to ensure water-management and the speedy construction of new dams.  This should not be confined to big dams, even small catchment ones should be made, mainly in Balochistan.

Not having a full-time Foreign Minister for four long years undercut Pakistan foreign policy apparatus. A comprehensive national security strategy must spell out not only the foreign policy but all socio-economic factors affecting national security.  The incompetency of the outgoing govt exacerbated pressing issues including deteriorating relations with India, the Kashmir issue, relations with the US, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan. Explaining the emerging dynamics in the region to our US friends, US-Pakistan relationship must be given priority irrespective of the Trump administration making forceful demands (considerably toned down recently). Saudi and Iran are both important allies of Pakistan, while Iran is a neighbour, the need is to ensure a balanced relationship between them. We must have a genuinely neutral position. While Afghanistan has mostly been negative playing according to India’s tutelage, recently there seems to be significant change in policy towards Pakistan. Imran Khan is on record saying a good relation with Afghanistan envisions open borders reminiscent of those within the European Union. Peace in Afghanistan means peace in Pakistan.

The security challenges prevailing will require highly focussed attention considering that Pakistan has been a target of terrorism and violent attacks for a number of years now. The dramatic decrease is because of two of the world’s most successful major operations recently i.e. Zarb-e-Azab and Radd-ul-Fasad, against militant and criminal elements. This has considerably reduced the violence-related casualties across the country. However, militants still retain both their resources and access, as was seen recently on and before Election Day. To wipe out this menace the new govt will have to gear up “actionable intelligence” coordinating civil security entities with the Armed Forces. The Nation Action Plan (NAP) will have to be re-visited and implemented fully for achieving success against terrorism with India vehemently opposed to the idea. The security of CPEC will be another major challenge for the govt.

The opportunities for development include solving energy crisis, FATA and PATA development, judicial reforms and civil-military relations. The previous govt did try to overcome the energy crisis – more than 10,000 MW electricity was added to the system through various projects. Problems still relating exist to huge line losses, theft issues and up-gradation of the extremely old system that does not have the capacity to handle excess electricity. The FATA and PATA merger was done by the previous govt through the 24th Constitutional Amendment, however effective implementation of FATA reforms at the grassroots level is a must.

On the campaign trail Imran Khan zeroed in on Pakistan’s prevalent culture of tax evasion, only 2% of 200 miles plus population are registered in the tax system. Tax evasion will have to be tackled. Economic efficiency and interpersonal equity are rampant as reflected by the revenue yield. Imran Khan has promised to initiate reforms to broaden the tax base and reform the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR).

For harmonious civil-military relations Imran Khan must show a high level of pragmatism and not repeat mistakes made by his predecessors trying open confrontation with the Army and the judiciary. The new govt will have to work hard to evolve cordial relations with the Establishment, the entire thrust must be on working together for a truly national socioeconomic transformation.

When one lives in a global economy in this age of electronics and its accompanying social media, we become vulnerable to the influence of decisions made or perceptions gathered outside our country. Adopting being innovative and adapting to circumstances, we need to adjust to the changing realities. The democratic process needs to remain in place and to be strengthened.  The actual countdown in democracy starts with the governance mode after victory in the electoral process is achieved, the govt will have its hands full dealing with a number of challenges.  It will need all the skills, assurance and diplomacy at its command. The challenges are in fact opportunities for positive change, not only to be addressed and solved but taken advantage of for the good of Pakistan.

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DEFINING MOMENT

Pakistan’s third-ever democratic elected process leading to the transition of power took place on 25 July 2018. More than 100 political parties contested the 272 seats in the National Assembly (NA), the balance reserved seats being allocated on a proportionate basis with an outright majority would need to have 172 seats.  A quick look at the unofficial results show that with nearly 115 NA seats Imran Khan’s PTI is capable of making the Federal and KPK govts, but will be hard put to make the govt in the Punjab, even with independents.  As things stand today PML (N) can make a weak coalition govt in the Punjab.  Will PML (N) risk this?

Almost fifty years ago Pakistan’s first general elections were held on Dec 7, 1970 on the basis of adult franchise in both the Eastern and Western wings under Gen Yahya Khan’s martial law. Broken up into three factions, the conservative Muslim League (ML) in West Pakistan campaigned on a nationalist platform, promising to initiate the reforms originally envisioned by the Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in 1940s. Tested by political pundits and the intelligence agencies to win the elections they went down to miserable defeat. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), led by the charismatic Z.A. Bhutto whose popularity, socialistic ideas and his catchy slogan of “Roti, Kapra aur Makan” (food, clothing and shelter) were factors contributing to the popularity of the party. The forceful style of oration and the raw emotion Bhutto exuded served to instill hope and inspiration in millions. Raising religious slogans and the right wing Islamic parties led by Maulana Maodoodi campaigned on an Islamic platform, promising Sharia laws if voted into power but did not get much traction.

Bhutto’s dynamic leadership and charisma made him popular and influential in West Pakistan. His socialistic ideas and his slogan infused interest among the students, the poor, and the working class. Even then it was a huge surprise when Bhutto managed to get an outright majority in two Provinces and also a simple majority of the NA seats iin West Pakistan, winning 81 seats initially out of 138 seats reserved for West Pakistan in the National Assembly, with some independents joining the number rose to 88. The PPP won the Provincial Assembly polls in Punjab and Sindh. Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam (JUI) emerged victorious in Balochistan and the National Awami Party (NAP) in NWFP.  A landed aristocrat himself, Z.A. Bhutto’s victory, was a paradox as the elected in his PPP included powerful landlords alongwith a number of socialists. The perception was that feudalism was no longer the dominant factor in Punjab politics and the “biradari” of caste and tribal connections that controlled the vote/voters had broken down. However, Pakistan voters are still tied as serfs to their landowners and traditionally voted for their caste and biradari. Since no manipulation was done to rig results, the 1970 elections is generally regarded as the most free and fair in Pakistan’s history, however the outcome of the ballot (in both wings) was grossly miscalculated and for different reasons.

Despite the opposition’s claims to the contrary, the ECP must be given credit to ensure that elections are free, fair and unbiased and that the 2008 and 2013 manipulation or rigging/tampering is ruled out from the voting process. However the NADRA part has triggered a major controversy, as it is Chairman NADRA Dr Mobin was accused previously of being a PML (N) stalwart.  Was the delay technically engineered?  The answer is important because knowing they were onto a major electoral defeat the major parties who lost out yelled “foul”.  Reports were received of not being given copy of Form 45 certifying votes count, etc in each constituency.  The total demise of Mustafa Kamal’s PSP was really surprising given the pre-poll surveys.  When the RTS failed, supposedly because of “stress”, it took time to bring the system back on line.   This played into the hands of the opposition who had earlier warned about pre-polls manipulation. To ensure fairplay the ECP had requisitioned the presence of the Army in the Polling Stations, a quick and objective enquiry by a duly constituted JIT is necessary to ensure transparency and accountability about this controversy.

The mercurial rise in popularity of Imran Khan, leader of PTI from 1996 to 2018, particularly in the few months leading to Election Day has come, as a huge surprise to many, particularly the PML(N) and the PPP, 1970 Bhutto like. The mood of the electorate has undergone a drastic change just like it happened in 1970 when even the agencies had almost entirely rubbished the idea of PPP ever sweeping the polls in West Pakistan. Other political parties considered to be strong such as the PML factions were also taken by surprise on having to lose ground with the masses. Today when people have become that much more much aware of their rights and civil liberties as well to the injustice being meted out to them by those in power, corruption has become a major issue among the masses. Corruption within PML (N) by its top leaders and family members is another factor that has led to a sharp decline in popularity of this once hugely popular political party.

With an early unofficial indication of the likely results coming in, those expecting to lose electoral support, they have launched a propaganda campaign to accuse the Army of interference.  The PML (N) and PPP are both crying foul alleging that the playing field was not level for them. Very much like 1970, the military today has resisted direct intervention, allowing democracy to make its own path. Despite the virulent attacks by Nawaz Sharif and his party men the Army has kept its cool and should keep doing so.  A section of the electronic media, duly orchestrated by pets of many has joined in tarnishing the Army’s image. To influence the voters’ choice of their preference as rulers for next five years, a constant drumbeat of lies was disseminated, mainly through paid agents in the electronic media.  With certain international entities bent on making Pakistan weak and pliant, anti-military narratives are proliferating.

Much to the chagrin of our political pundits and despite the vast sums of money used, the party is over, Election Day has delivered the verdict of the people that Pakistan will not be looted anymore. Our sore losers would like to make the whole process illegitimate but one cannot ignore the facts of change.  Affecting this is truly a defining moment in the history of Pakistan.

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150 HRS TO A NEW DAWN?

Though the usual feudal modus operandi for obtaining votes, particularly in the rural areas, is through outright coercion and/or intimidation, it also depends upon who counts the vote, and even more importantly, who gets to collate it. With rigging/tampering with ballot and ballot boxes fairly widespread in 2008 and 2013, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) must be given credit for taking effective steps for minimizing electoral fraud of various kinds.

Shahbaz’s “electoral magic” at the 2013 ballot box engineered their seat count upwards by 30-35 NA seats. That contrived “majority” proportionately guaranteed more reserved women seats, encouraging maximum number of independents joining PML (N). The 2018 elections is for PML (N) to lose, that “magic” not working this time because (1) the provincial machinery Shahbaz wielded with impunity courtesy of the Provincial Caretaker Regime (subsequently suitably rewarded) that allowed him a free hand is no more in place. Moreover the grievances the PCS officials who man the electoral machinery in the field have against Shahbaz’s blue-eyed DMG favourites manifested itself by scuttling the Fawad Hassan Fawad-inspired DMG strike on Ahad Cheema’s arrest (2) Nawaz Sharif’s unelectable advisers and Shahbaz inner circle of DMG officers in a sense isolated the Sharifs, only Nawaz Sharif’s charisma keeps their rank and file in line. (3) 30-35 of PML (N) NA electables are now seeking elections as independents, while 35-40 have already defected, mostly to the PTI (4) losing Southern Punjab with 22 MNAs deserting en bloc to PTI, leaving PML (N) with only 5 NA seats at best (5) Nawaz Sharif’s attacks on the superior judiciary (and his conviction for corrupt practices) has swayed undecided voters against PML (N) even in their Lahore stronghold. (6) While Imran Khan has done his best to turn off the elite vote, they will hardly vote for Nawaz Sharif instead, at worst they will abstain (7) the “Khatme Nabuwat” gaffe will give more votes to TLP,  increasing the number of religious-minded voters who previously voted solidly for PML (N) (8) the public backlash at many TV anchors changing their tune clearly “sold” out to Nawaz Sharif.  (9) PML (N) attacks on the Army are ill-advised, particularly in Northern Punjab almost every family has retired or serving soldiers. Neither do they like Nawaz’s love for Modi. Even a 10% voter swing in our “first past the post system” will mean a PML (N) electoral setback of some proportion.

The PPP has done nothing in interior Sindh with respect to water, sewerage, electricity, education, transportation, health services, etc.  Paradoxically those who decry the PPP (read Asif Zardari) will still vote for Benazir’s son (read Bilawal Bhutto Zardari). Bilawal notwithstanding, the PPP will still lose even more NA seats in the Punjab.  Unless Zardari’s monetary magic works, the newly formed Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) will make inroads into PPP’s rural stronghold.  A giant meltdown of MQM (P) notwithstanding, hardcore Altaf foot soldiers of the 1980s will still remain loyal, MQM (P) managing about half a dozen NA seats. Helped no end by Anis Qaimkhani’s incredible logistics network Pak Sarzamin Party (PSP) is the biggest beneficiary of MQM’s break up.  July 25 is PSP’s moment of truth, Mustafa Kamal is hoping for about 14 NA seats but even with Hyderabad and Mirpurkhas will probably get 9 or 10.  His shunning ethnicity reaching out to the Punjabi and Pathan voters in Karachi could translate into more seats. MMA, PPP and PTI could stand to gain a couple of seats because of the divided Mohajir vote. Notwithstanding support from the MQM (P) the PPP will not be as comfortable making a govt in Sindh.

A crude poll suggests that the NA seats in “Battleground Punjab” will be divided District-wise as (1) Rawalpindi [Attock, Chakwal, Jhelum) total 13 seats (PTI 6, PML (N) 4, PPP 1, Independent 2] (2) Sargodha [Mianwali, Khushab, Bhakkar) 11 seats (PTI 5, PML (N) 2, PPP 1, Independent 3] (3) Faisalabad Toba Tek Singh, Jhang, Chiniot) 18 seats (PTI 6, PML (N) 11, PPP 1) (4) Gujranwala [Gujrat, Mandi Bahauddin, Narowal, Sialkot, ] 20 seats [PTI 6, PML (N) 8, PPP 1, Independent 5] (5) Lahore (Kasur, Sheikhupura) 24 seats [PTI 12, PML (N) 12] (6) Sahiwal [Okara, Pakpatan] 10 seats [PTI 3, PML (N) 5, Independent 2] (7) Multan [Lodhran, Vehari, Khanewal] 16 seats (PTI 11, PML (N) 2, PPP 1, Independent 2 (8) Bahawalpur (Bahawalnagar, R.Y. Khan) 15 seats (PTI 8, PML (N) 5, PPP 1, Independent 1 (9) DG Khan (Layyah, Muzafargarh, Rajanpur) 15 seats (PTI 10, PML (N) 2, Independent 3.  This totals PTI 67, PML (N) 51, PPP 6 and Independent 18. The MMA will come at 3 seats. For KPK, prediction is that out of a total of 39 NA seats, PTI is expected to win around 23 seats with PML (N) 4 seats, MMA 4, PPP 3, ANP 2 and Independent 3. Tough MMA competition is expected in areas like Dir. For Sindh’s 61 NA seats PTI should get 4, PML (N) 2, PPP 26, GDA 7, PSP 10, MQM 8, MMA 4 while Balochistan’s 14 NA seats will go to PTI, MMA 3, PKMAP 4, BAP 2, PML (N) 1, NP 1, BNP 1 and Independents 1.

PTI has done good work in KPK in reforming the police, health and education, the MMA working together will still make some gains. Imran Khan’s charisma will help make a PTI-led coalition. Balochistan will have more of the same, a coalition supporting whoever makes the Federal Govt.  Anticipating their coming off worse in the July 25 polls, the masters at pre-election rigging, Zardari and the Sharifs, are vociferously yelling “pre-election rigging”. The mood of the electorate indicates but there could even be a PML (N) meltdown.

PTI’s likely count is 90-95 seats, could even manage a 100 plus against PML (N)’s about 50-60 and the PPP maximum 35-36 seats. With 25-30 independents joining PTI post-election, alongwith GDA, PSP, and maybe even MQM (P), PTI should make the govt in the Center.

Sharif/Zardari combined illegal wealth will go to any lengths to deprive PTI from forming a govt.  With about a 100 seats and given the “available for sale” status of our politicians, can anyone stop PML (N)/PPP from purchasing democracy for another five years? Imran may well win the battle but without coming close to 110 PTI seats, he may well lose the war. Only 90 days of total accountability post-July 25 will ensure the next 150 hours will see a new Pakistani dawn.

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WRITING ON THE WALL

Even a cursory analysis of the three Nawaz Sharif sackings as PM reveals one constant sordid fact, his incurring penchant to listen to a bunch of “unelectable advisors” who constantly feed his already inflated ego about his supposed omni-potency. The 1993 sacking did him wonders, turning an Establishment “puppet on the throne” into a politician of some standing in his own right.    In the second sacking in 1999 the Army swiftly countered Nawaz’s civilian coup, the Punjab CM brother Shahbaz Sharif was put into handcuffs lost out for no fault of his own. Shahbaz survived the last sacking in 2017 a year ago, giving the workaholic a unique opportunity to show off his development projects, mostly in Lahore, and shrug of Nawaz’s charismatic giant shadow to lead a political life of his own. Maryam had nothing to do with Nawaz’s second sacking, everything to do with his third.

Suffering for years because of his elder brother’s impetuosity, Shahbaz’s future must now contend with Maryam’s ambitions. Couple this with the obstinacy Maryam inherited from her father and it makes for a devastating landmine bang in the middle of Shahbaz’s once sure path to the PM’s office. The irony is that Nawaz Sharif’s popularity among the masses propelling Shahbaz to a prime political standing notwithstanding, his brother’s stupidity will probably keep Shahbaz from the PM’s office.  Despite his son and political heir Hamza being as corrupt as they come, Lahore has certainly far more to show in socio-economic infra-structure improvements than any other city.

Sharif turning all his guns on the Army that initially sponsored his political career and ensured his upward rise is quite understandable.  Serving to camouflage an inherent inferiority complex our culture promotes biting the hand of our benefactors. Is Maryam’s hatred for the uniform out of deep-rooted psychological resentment against her ex-soldier husband, how many times do we see husband and wife together? By extensive use of the social media, Maryam relentlessly attacks those she perceives as opponents to her inheriting her father’s political crown abdicated by her two apolitical brothers. Nearly coming to grief over the “DawnLeaks” should have taught her some lessons. Being good looking and courage is a potent political combination for female politicians in any country, one still cannot even remotely compare her with Ms Benazir. The former PM had not only had the brains to match her political acumen but could reach out with respect to both friend and foe alike.  Maryam’s arrogance has not only damaged her family and friends but has put into shambles the political potential of what still is the largest political party in Pakistan, at least till July 25.

Despite the virulent attacks by Nawaz Sharif, Maryam and a few unelectable Advisors, the Army has kept its cool, and should keep doing so. What the Nawaz Sharif gang wants desperately is the Army to intervene, despite grave provocation the Army has not obliged them.  The PML (N) then turned its guns on the superior judiciary, refusing to be cowed down by their outright threats and intimidation, finally did what the people of Pakistan have been hoping and praying for 70 years they would, apply the rule of law equally on the rich and powerful as they have done over the years on the poor and under-privileged.

Nawaz Sharif’s extensive involvement in money-laundering and conviction thereof is an open and shut case barring a few technical contradictions.  If the rule of law is to prevail, justice cannot be served by applying the wording of the law (and its various interpretations) but by upholding the spirit of the law once one is satisfied that the individual is guilty and hiding behind legal technicalities served by clever, unscrupulous lawyers.  Those who root for Nawaz Sharif will also continue to do so, despite his conviction those against him will remain against him.    The drawing rooms are of the opinion that Kulsoom Sharif on the ventilator generates sympathy that can sway the individual voter.  On the other hand the vast majority of those presently “undecided” tend not to vote for a criminal.

Incidentally the problems for Mian Nawaz Sharif will grow exponentially. Consider the UK Chapter of Transparency International (TI) asking the British government to investigate Nawaz Sharif’s known London assets. Reacting to corruption charges related to four London properties. Head of Advocacy at TI UK, Rachel Davies Teka said: “We are calling on the UK authorities to investigate the London-based assets identified in this conviction and ensure that Mr Sharif and his family are no longer able to enjoy any luxury homes that are found to have been bought with the proceeds of corruption. Furthermore, we believe the UK must look into any other potentially criminal UK-based assets owned by the Sharif family.” The recent passing of legislation requires British Overseas Territories to publicly reveal the true owners of companies is a key step towards preventing the purchase of UK property with suspicious wealth. The UK must now ensure it follows through on this legislation, so that we no longer need to rely on leaks like the Panama Papers to reveal cases such as this one” and no longer provide a safe haven to Nawaz Sharif and his family.

What Rachel Davies is suggesting is just tip of the iceberg.  Zardari is the central figure in a huge money-laundering case, consider the assets Asif Zardari (friends and family) have acquired abroad through illegally acquired income transferred abroad. While one feels very sorry for my good friend Husain Lawai, his unfortunate misfortune is to have become the banker of a vile creature like Zardari because of the new laws, Nawaz Sharif, Asif Zardari etc cannot camouflage their assets behind offshore companies anymore.   The declaration of assets by Zardari represents Hans Andersen’s fairy tales. UAE National Mr Nasser Lootah is a very nice man who has graciously hosted Pakistan politicians and bureaucrats out of power for decades in Dubai.  Where money-laundering is concerned, this honourable person will not lie, the SC should ask Nasser Lootah how much is his investment in Summit Bank and how much is Zardari’s?

Given the amount of evidence piling up, and most of it has to do with blatant criminal and why, Zardari will be convicted because of money-laundering and all his assets abroad will be subject to confiscation and the proceeds returning to Pakistan.  The writing is on the wall for those who blatantly looted the country’s wealth, will the Supreme Court and NAB continue to persevere with their duty by this nation?

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BEGGARING PAKISTAN THROUGH “DEMOCRACY”

When criminals or the corrupt disguise the original ownership and control of the proceeds of criminal conduct by making them appear to have derived from a legitimate source, this is known as money-laundering. Billions of dollars of criminally derived money is laundered through financial institutions every year globally, however criminal money can be laundered without assistance of the financial sector. The nature of the services and products offered by the financial services industry (namely managing, controlling and possessing money and property belonging to others) means that it is vulnerable to abuse by money-launderers.

Financial crimes related to narcotics trafficking, terrorism, smuggling, tax evasion, and corruption remain a significant problem. This is compounded by respectable bankers becoming part of the process, either through greed or in many cases threats and intimidation. Working around the world with partners in the public and private sector to counter corruption and other financial crimes, and to improve the quality of governance, the Basel Institute on Governance, an independent not-for-profit competence centre in an August 2017 report placed Pakistan on the 46th spot on a list of 146 countries that face significant money laundering/terrorism financing risks. The US State Department’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report in early 2017 estimated that around 10 billion dollar per annum is money laundered by Pakistanis. Billions are shipped off every year in by criminals and corrupt individuals in an effort to escape paying taxes and avoid govt scrutiny.

Anti-money laundering and countering financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) in line with Pakistan’s action plan agreed with Financial Action Task Force (FATF), continues to be a serious problem. The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) “Partnering Against Corruption Initiative” (PACI) Fall Meeting held in Oct last year in Geneva agreed that without conforming to international standards there can be no effective implementation of laws. Without adequate proof of assets and money trail it is almost impossible to prove a crime in court when our methods and tools of investigation in the emerging countries remain outdated. Developed countries, where most of the ill-gotten money/assets reside, pontificate endlessly about adhering to the “rule of law”, where is the morality of not practicing what they preach by not cooperating in implementing the laws on their own statute books? Notwithstanding that effective anti-money laundering law might be in place, corrupt politicians and others, criminals included, will find loopholes in the banking legal system around the world and banks willing to handle their ill-gotten money and bribery payments in safe havens. They then set-up anonymous off-shore companies and trusts that allow them to hide their identity. This is done without technically breaking any rules to access the global financial system with almost impunity. Failing in their due diligence they are complicit in corrupt practices in the transfer and deposit of stolen funds. Millions have been stashed abroad with no questions, whether tax was paid at its source in Pakistan. Many expensive apartments in London are owned by known white-collar criminals comprising former dictators, bank defaulters, tax evaders, money-launderers, politicians, etc.

On July 6 disqualified Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to 10 years rigorous imprisonment in jail in the Avenfield Apartments corruption reference by a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) accountability court, Maryam was awarded 7-year imprisonment while Maryam husband, Capt (Retd) Muhammad Safdar was handed 1-year imprisonment. The court also disqualified all three from holding any public office for 10 years or availing themselves of bank loans for the same period under Section 15 of the NAO. Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz are presently in London and are scheduled to return to Lahore on Friday, July 13. Sure Lahore is considered to be the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)’s stronghold and preparations are being made by the party leadership to give a “historic welcome” to Nawaz Sharif and Maryam. It is more than obvious that this is going to be more a show of political power than anything else. The PML-N wants nothing but a confrontation with law enforcement agencies and then plays an innocent victim by claiming denial of Nawaz Sharif right to speak to his followers. The PML-N is playing a very dangerous game, the govt must not fall into the trap. With the situation likely to get out of hand, the alternative could be to divert the flight from Islamabad to any other city than Lahore, arrest the duo and whisk them away to Islamabad, all this without making it public.

PML-N leadership claims the ousted PM is extremely popular in Pakistan, brazen facedly declaring that Nawaz Sharif has the mandate of 200 million Pakistanis, an outright lie in the 2013 elections PML (N) obtained 14.9 million or 32% of 46 million out of 86 million who voted as opposed to PTI’s 7.7 (17%) and PPP’s 6.8 million (15%). PML (N) should have got 84, PTI 42 and PPP 37 seats respectively but PML (N) disproportionally got 53 seats more and PTI and PPP 13 and 6 less. Having a million votes more PTI got four seats less than PPP. The “first past the post system” does not ascertain the real majority, the “run-off” measure does. Negating “proportional representation” bedevils good governance as has now been proven with Nawaz Sharif being sentenced to serve time for his shenanigans, including money laundering.

If popularity is to be taken as the yardstick to measure the strength of democracy, some of the world’s most notorious criminals and drug lords were extremely popular with their countrymen. Building roads, motorways, etc is all very well, that is what you were voted in for but this does not give anyone the licence to loot the nation and indulge in corrupt practices. Is this the kind of democracy that we yearn for where there is no rule of law and no accountability? Accountability sits at the heart of the democratic process, if accountability is lost once the winners step into the governance mode, we will have a democracy in name only, a farce.

Branded Public Enemy No. 1 by the Chicago Crime Commission Al Capone got 11 years for tax dodging, Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman who faces trial in the US is accused of running a global cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine smuggling operation as the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel El Chapo played a central role in a decade-long Mexican drug war in which more than 100,000 people have died. Guzman raked in $14 billion, his network spanning four continents. Wanted by the govts of USA, Mexico and Interpol, he was extradited by the Mexican govt to the US to face criminal charges there related to his leadership of the Sinaloa cartel. One of the most wanted criminals on the planets, Guzman Guzmán took pains to burnish his image in Mexico, residents tell stories of his sudden appearances suddenly at village fiestas, doling out rolls of cash to adoring crowds. Most viewed him as a leader and a hero because “he started from below, very poor, a peasant, and he helped people“.

He built concrete roads and would pay hospital bills for treatment of the sick. In contrast, the govt often failed to provide even basic infrastructure for those in poor, remote villages. Another darling of the people was Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar whose ambition and ruthlessness made him one of the wealthiest, most powerful and most violent criminals of all time. Entering the cocaine trade in the early 1970s Escobar formed the Medellin Cartel. His popularity was due to sponsoring charity projects and soccer clubs, he built houses and cared for the poor. Seen by many as a Robin Hood figure, he was killed by Colombian police in 1993.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur have been banned from travelling abroad by the Supreme Court (SC) in the wake of recent revelations in a fake bank accounts case. That they are accused of using 29 such accounts for suspicious transactions and money laundering amounting to Rs 35 billion, this is only tip of Zardari’s illegal iceberg. The vast assets Asif Zardari (friends and family) have acquired through illegally acquired income transferred abroad are well known but in different companies and names. Then consider the assets Asif Zardari had declared, this comes out of Haris Anderson’s fairy tales. One feels very sorry for my good friend Hussain Lawai, it is his misfortune to have become the banker of a vile creature like Zardari. Unlike drug lords Chapo and Escobar Zardari has done nothing for the people of Sindh, he has only enriched himself. Because of new international laws Nawaz Sharif, Asif Zardari etc cannot camouflage their assets behind offshore companies anymore. UAE National Mr Nasser Lootah is a very nice man who has been a gracious host to Pakistan politicians and bureaucrats out of power for decades in Dubai. While he is just a frontman for Zardari in Summit Bank I am sure he would not like to run afoul of UAE laws and money-laundering. An honourable person who is very rich in his own right, Nasser Lootah is not likely to lie about Zardari’s money-laundering. Why not the SC ask him how much is his investment in Summit Bank and how much is Zardari’s?

Zardari and Faryal Talpur have been summoned by the FIA on July 11 and by the SC on July 12. If the subsequent investigation proceeds in the manner of the Panama JIT, Zardari friends and family will face a far worse fate than Nawaz Sharif and family. A change is definitely happening in Pakistan where the mighty and powerful are being charged for their crimes, unheard of not too long ago. Having beggared Pakistan through their version of democracy, they will be punished for their despicable crimes against the people of Pakistan.

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NAB BECOMING EFFECTIVE AGAIN

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) came into existence on 16 Nov 1999. Simultaneously Special Investigation Wings (SIWs) were raised from the ISI to assist National Accountability Ordinance (NAB) in collecting relevant information about the accused persons. FIA and ACEs directors of all four provinces with NAO provisions of ‘power to seek assistance were placed under direct command with investigation officers and allied staff for conduct of probes, inquiries/investigation and filing of references by NAB. Corps NAB Cells were transformed into RAB (Regional Accountability Bureaus),eventually becoming Regional NABs under directions of the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan.

Command of these Regional NABs were  given to selected career officers of the three Services, Peshawar to Airforce, Rawalpindi to Navy and remaining three, Karachi, Lahore and Quetta to Army. While middle and lower tiers of command from grade 17 to 20 were a mix of career profiles. In 2004 NAB created its own hard core permanent cadre by transferring their services under its TCS provisions. The Armed Forces got their all uniformed officers and men repatriated in 2008 and NAB continued with deputationists from public sector and officers and ranks that it recruited under TCS as a permanent cadre.

Politicians across the board were involved in bank wilful default cases through imprudent practices of bankers with political patronage. Cooperative scams mushroomed in the country defrauding the public at large. With NAB’s first Chairman Lt Gen Amjad a person of great integrity and honesty, NAB became a huge deterrence to corruption during its initial days when the anti-graft law allowed unlimited detention period with no allowance of judicial interjection. Unfortunately some of those Amjad selected as his top aides were his drinking buddies (mostly from his old alma mater), they soon discovered their penchant to line their own pockets. Because their lifestyles was in sync with Musharraf’s, these dubious characters managed to get some very honest and dedicated senior officers, DDG NAB e.g. Maj Gen Inayetullah Khan Niazi (and No 2 to Amjad), posted out of NAB and out of their way.

While pursuing Musharraf’s personal agenda for ensuring longevity for his rule, they had virtual impunity and even afterwards were never held accountable. Cooperative Housing Scams, bank default and mega corruption cases were utilized as pressure instruments for bargaining to turn sides. Since the SIW was overall responsible to prepare cases and also keep over watch on all NAB activities, parallel upward movement of cases to SIW Headquarters independently enabled Musharraf to politicise the Bureau for political benefits. Most of the accused were blackmailed into forming the Q-League Government. Eventually Amjad did find that those he had trusted were using NAB for Musharraf’s political purposes, an honourable person he immediately resigned and left.

It is a tragedy that many investigated by SIW for corruption are today in senior decision-making positions.  The FIA’s rich experience with seasoned and professional investigators in white collar crime cases became handy to NAB for its assets recovery and bank default cases and related activities. FIA also assisted NAB in reaching out to absconders and fugitives. Musharraf first “democratic” Cabinet had at least 20 members on ECL because of NAB cases.  This extended Musharraf’s stay till the promulgation of NRO.NAB’s inquiries conducted from 1999 to 2004 by SIW were discontinued in 2004 after Musharraf resorted to government through pressuring of selected PML (Q) members.

Proving himself more loyal then the king, Lt Gen Amjad’s successor Lt Gen Khalid Maqbool was rewarded with the Governorship of Punjab where he managed the “electables” for Q-League in support of Musharraf during elections. The Musharraf regime blatantly now started dictating to NAB what path of accountability was to be followed. NAB’s effectiveness was further waylaid when Finance Minister (and later PM) of Pakistan Shoukat Aziz took stock exchanges and other financial institutions virtually out of the ambit of NAB with the rationale that accountability hurts financial institutions and therefore the economy. Is this so in the US and elsewhere where major stockbrokers like Michael Milken were jailed? Incidentally the Honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan seems to have taken into account all the charitable work done by Malik Riaz.

Interestingly Michael Milken one of the top US stockbroker have very heavily to charity through a number of philanthropic organisations, “Fortune Magazine” carried him on its cover in 2004 for charitable work.  He still went to jail.  Will the criminals among our stock brokers go to jail or end up in the PM’s House? Issuance of various SBP and FBR circulars, the infamous SBP Circular 29, where banks loans could be waived further allowed the state kitty to be suffer huge losses. Gen Musharraf agreeing to this outrageous contention allowed widespread stock manipulation and fraud. Today’s stock market “fat cats” all contribute billions to charity, they made their ill-gotten wealth off the money of millions of middle class people who lost their entire savings on criminal stock exchange manipulation.

One of cases investigated by SIW was that of Usman Farooqi the then Chairman NAB appointed by PPP inflicted huge losses to Pakistan Steels in collusion with suppliers and contractors. This plunged Pakistan Steel into collapse. It is said that Usman Farooqui’s mentor Asif Zardari pocketed the lion’s share of the money extracted up by Farooqi. Farooqi owes prime responsibility in turning Pakistan Steel into a black hole for Pakistan’s economy. Approximately twenty one inquiries conducted by NAB Sindh pertaining to Steel Mills, more than dozen investigations and references entered into prosecution and trial stages. Farooqi was arrested in one of the references and was sent to jail. Granted bail by the High Court he went underground and reportedly got refuge in the house of a serving Brigadier who was the Chief Executive of a major utility in Karachi. This man abetted and facilitated Mr Farooqi in absconding. At the very least in this particular case has very strong backers, powerful politicians and bureaucrats, otherwise how could the facilitator of Mr. Farooqi’s (and his) SIW’s record with the intelligence agencies be erased (or lost) from the files, and he continues to occupy a very important position today?

Lt Gen Munir Hafeez had the longest tenure as a NAB Chairman, first in uniform and then under provision of law as a retired BPS – 22 officer. For the first time in its history the NAB Chairman got into conflict of interest by using his office in getting various quotas and businesses for himself and only allowing the manipulation of NAB cases by government (and his own cronies eg PIA) as regards to opening, closing or keeping cases dormant. This not only destroyed NAB’s image amongst the public but created resentment in the rank and file of NAB. His successor Lt Gen Aziz showed extreme resentment and annoyance about the politicization of NAB, after a period of about one year he went on long leave and did not return. Musharraf later created history by legalising Corruption by the NRO, NAB’s accountability became a laughing stock.

During the time Zardari was President, NAB understandably was made ineffective, many cases against him were brought to court and then dismissed “for lack of evidence”.   Has the SC ever asked Pakistan’s former High Commissioner in the UK Wajid Shamsul Hasan on whose authority took and for what “national security” reasons he took into his custody the dozens of boxes of evidence from a court in Switzerland from our Embassy pertaining to the Rockwood Estate case. Can this man explain how did some of the boxes of evidence conveniently disappear? What is the punishment for tampering with evidence?   Is justice so blind? Under one Chairman NAB cases against Malik Riaz were dropped overnight, NAB’s senior personnel who objected were dismissed or sidelined.  There is a prima facie case here but does anyone pay heed?  Former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry declared the black the NRO law and illegal, then filibustered the court cases for years to keep Zardari, the primary beneficiary of NRO, in power. Is that why President Zardari quashed the criminal indictment of Malik Riaz and former CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry’s son, Arsalan, by the Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) Shoaib Suddle who was asked to investigate the case? And what stops from NAB taking up this case?

To some extent Qamarzaman Chaudhry restored NAB’s image but even he faltered when it came to the Sharifs, primarily out of personal loyalty but also because of lack of support from the than SC.  Has anyone even questioned how a former CJ SC is rumoured to have more than 2 dozen plots in DHA Karachi? With the present SC virtually on a “Jihad” against corruption, NAB’s Chairman Justice Javed Iqbal has with confidence brought a renewed energy into NAB to make it as effective as it was during its first few years.

Given that the dedicated investigators and employees of NAB will now have the  space to carry out effective accountability, why not make a symbolic example of those corrupt NAB personnel, whoever it was and whatever his appointment, Chairmen included, who gave NAB a bad name and compromised its effectiveness? By carrying out self-accountability NAB will become symbolically far more credible, by doing so it will become effective against corruption as it was meant to be

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