By Yasmeen Aftab Ali
The Avenfield verdict against former PM Nawaz Sharif has laid bare the big question on the corruption and vast asset portfolios of politicians, their clans along with those holding important public positions, both in the past and present, including the military. However, in Sharif’s case and defense provided, does the claim that the children inherited the wealth from their grandfather, without providing a money trail, justify these possession, both in and outside Pakistan?
Sharif isn’t the only name to have appeared recently on the list of those accused of widespread corruption.
Besides Avenfield, many cases have come to light in the recent past. In 2015, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had filed a report in the Supreme Court containing details of 150 mega corruption cases and scandals. These cases included those dealing monitory irregularities, alleged embezzlement, along with abuse of power and land scams. This list included high profile names such as the then Nawaz Sharif, his brother and the then Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif, senior bureaucrats, former premiers and also some ministers. Accountability has remained an elusive dream in Pakistan. It has also become a cancer spreading vertically and horizontally eating at the innards of Pakistan’s society.
More recently, senior bureaucrat and former principal secretary to two former prime ministers, Fawad Hasan Fawad, was arrested by NAB in the Ashiana Housing scam. His arrest was linked to the investigation of whether “he had misused his authority, while being accused of amassing assets beyond his income.’’ (Dawn News July 5, 2018). On the day the Avenfield judgment was to be announced, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) arrested PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari’s aide Hussain Lawai in a money laundering scam. According to FIA, roughly Rs. 25 billion were allegedly laundered using twenty seven accounts, belonging to seven individuals. This was termed as the biggest money laundering case in the history of Sindh province.
According to reports, those involved in the scam opened accounts in Sindh Bank and the Summit Bank. It is reported that these accounts were operated by Anwar Majeed, working in Omni Group, and claimed to be an aide of Zardari. According to reports, 16 accounts with transactions of Rs. 20 billion have been processed via the Summit Bank alone. Shahrukh Jatoi’s father Sikandar Jatoi and Malik Riaz’s son Zain Malik are said to have allegedly transferred money in these accounts. More recently, the CJP also ordered the Lahore High Court to fix petition date filed against former army chief General (retd) Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in an alleged medical scam. The petitioner accused Kiyani of “disbanding a legally established Armed Forces Medical Store Depot, as well as manufacturing, supplying and procuring substandard and spurious medicines.” (Express Tribune July 12, 2018)
Also, a 2013 report by a local newspaper states that the former president and military chief General (retd) Pervez Musharraf declared assets worth Rs. 645.011 million in and outside the country – and that also without paying any tax. In the 2013’s nomination papers, his wealth from 2012 reportedly increased by Rs. 129 million. There was also no declaration of offshore companies. According to GEO news website, “The former military dictator Pervez Musharraf accumulated billions in offshore accounts besides the property that he has already purchased abroad or inside Pakistan but he never mentioned these assets and accounts even at the time of assets declaration while submitting his nomination papers during general elections 2013.”
One can go on with a never-ending list of such names. It makes a sad read of vested interests, greed and corruption. Dishonesty cannot and must not be palmed off as being a “norm”. Unfortunately no Pakistani government has had the spine to combat this cancer. The reason is, many within the system have remained a part of this disease. Accountability must come from top down, and not the other way around. Political will by any government to combat corruption is critical. They must award the law enforcement agencies the powers to implement any anti-corruption laws across the board, but also award them the independence to operate along with adequate budget and competent personnel.
New Zealand effectively combated corruption without any anti-corruption agencies (ACAs) because it had strengthened institutions to deliver good governance. Hong Kong followed Singapore in doing away with the British supported system of relying on police to curb corruption and, instead, used a single anti-corruption agency. Both Rwanda and Botswana followed suit.
However, a single anti-corruption agency is no guarantee of successfully eradicating or at least minimizing the menace of corruption. Anti-corruption officials should get the right to work independently, with competent professionals appointed on merit, playing a strong role as a watchdog against corruption. If such an independence is taken away, any anti-corruption body merely becomes a pawn used against the government’s opponents.
Pakistan is standing at an important crossroad of her history. Only time will tell if the country has learnt from her past mistakes, and whether the wrongs of the past are corrected for a better and positive future.
However, at the moment, what we are witnessing is not Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan.
The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: email@example.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9