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Cover-up or Accountability

Speech By former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto
at Seminar, Lahore, May 30, 1997

Honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Pakistan is facing economic hardship. This is due to the following factors:

  1. 1. Drying up of foreign aid amounting to more than $4.2 billion.

  2. Supply side economics practised by three P.M.L regimes since 1985.

  3. Dollarisation of the economy introduced by the first Nawaz Sharif regime with the passage of the Finance Act 1992.

  4. Commercial loans taken for the motorway and other such luxurious projects by the Nawaz Sharif regime between 1990-1993.

  5. Increase of debt in ratio to G.D.P due to dollarisation and commercial debt.

  6. High population growth rate.

  7. Lack of investment in the social sectors.

  8. Failure to transfer from textile state to a software state keeping in mind the global trends;

  9. Targeting agriculture which has been the main stay of the economy.

  10. In times of hardship and adversity, the public at large resents ostentatious living  by the rich and the privileged.

Since much of the wealth acquired by the rich and privileged is through corrupt means, the public at large has risen around the banner of anti-corruption.

Most of the corrupt money is due to bank defaulters, tax evaders, drug smugglers, arms smugglers, land allotment and demarcation and contracts for purchases or building purposes.

The question before us today is whether the Nawaz Sharif regime has responded to the public demands or not.

I would say  NOT.

Instead the Nawaz regime has used the brutal majority in the Parliament to give cover to the most corrupt elements while using the slogan of corruption to victimise its political opponents and impose a one party dictatorship in Pakistan.

 Let us address specific cases of massive criminal cover-up by the Nawaz regime:

a) . Nawaz Sharif was accused by his relatives of plundering the family wealth. The prosecution colluded with Nawaz defence to protect the plunders of the family wealth.

b) . According to the State Bank Report, the Prime Ministerís family stood as the Nationís highest defaulters covering more than Rs. 5 Billion to the Pakistani Banks.

The State Bank Report was presented to the National Assembly in September 1996 (it also showed family members of President Leghari as defaulters but not one family member of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto).

Since assuming Office, the PML-N regime has threatened bank officials, ironically with the sword of "accountability"  to "whiten" the 5 Billion Rupees it owes to the Banks.

According to newspaper reports, the Nawaz Sharif family has sued the banks for billions.

As the prosecutor and the defendant are one and the same (Nawaz Sharif) it appears that the Nawaz Sharif family hopes to get away with the billions of rupees in tax payers money unless there is a re-trial.

The income tax authorities that detected massive tax evasion by Nawaz Sharif family have been suspended, ironically on the grounds of being corrupt.

When the prosecution and the defaulters are one and the same, the honest can be declared corrupt, the corrupt honest, and corruption can thrive to the detriment of Pakistanís name, honour, prestige, economy and people.

On May 27, 1997 the High Court of Lahore headed by Justice Ejaz Nisar who, co-incidentally was promoted to the Supreme Court, a day later, acquitted Nawaz Sharif in the Houdaibia Engineering Works scandal. The Pakistan Peoples Party has demanded the re-trial of Mr. Nawaz Sharif in the scandal.

It is one more demonstration of how the prosecution and the defence colluded to get the Nawaz Sharif family off the hook.

Of course no action has been taken against the relatives of President Farooq Legahri who were shown as bank defaulters by the independent and autonomous State Bank of Pakistan .

Despite massive new taxes, the Caretaker regime of President Leghari and the one party state of Nawaz Sharif has gathered less monthly revenues for Pakistan  than the democratically elected government of Benazir Bhutto.

The Pakistan Peoples Party has demanded that the Chief Justice of Pakistan  constitute a high level judicial inquiry for Ehtisaab of missing billions, some say missing hundreds of billions between Rs. 124 -160 billions which are the expected revenue short falls.

It is a very serious matter if the Benazir government recovered more per month for Pakistan with less taxes and the Leghari - Nawaz regime acquired less per month with more taxes. That means over a hundred billion is embezzled.

No wonder the debt to GDP ratio which had fallen under the Benazir government has again risen.

This is the most serious corruption.

But it is getting the least attention .

The heart of matter is that the problem of corruption can never be solved unless the following steps are taken.

a) . All those with dollar accounts are asked to account for the source of their income.
b) . All those with Bearer Bonds are asked to account for their income.

When Pakistan boosts money laundering schemes, when stinking corrupt, black money is given sanctity and protection under the dollars accounts and bearer certificates, we will never be able to tackle the problem of corruption.

It will remain a hollow slogan and a convenient sword for a political agenda of victimisation, persecution and politics of distortion and dis-information.

There is one more need.

That is to separate the prosecution from the defence.

When the Defence and the Investigation and Prosecution are all answerable to the government, then collusion will take place. The corrupt will go scot free and the honest will be punished as part of the political agenda.

As Prime Minister I had proposed in the National Assembly that a special parliamentary committee should be formed by the leader of the House and the leader of the Opposition with equal representation.

The Investigative and Prosecution teams should be chosen by this committee so that there is a check and balance.

The then opposition declined my offer. I made it because I had nothing to hide.

I again propose:-  let the present Prime Minister and the former Prime Minister form a committee with equal representation.

Let each of us pick teams of investigators and prosecutors and let us bring the charges against each other in an even handed and just manner.

And let these teams have security of tenure and guaranteed protection so that undue pressure can not be applied on them.

And let the dollar accounts and FEBCs have no protection.

Then and then only will we be able to differentiate between clear money and dirty money.

With the collusion of investigative prosecution and defence, the judicial system cannot convict the ruling classes.

With the collusion of dependent investigation, prosecution and Judges whose tenure lies in one hand, false cases can be fabricated.

The promotion of judges should also depend not on partisan consideration but on bi-partisan consideration based on an independent and defined criteria.

After all judges are only human. Even if not consciously, unconsciously they are affected when handling matters about prospects of promotions and post retirement jobs.

As we have seen, judges today can also become Senators.

Surely this must be a good development but when a judge who exonerated the Nawaz Sharif regime of the co-operatives scandal is made a Senator, eye-brows will be raised.

Therefore the appointment and promotion of judges should also be made by a committee with equal representation by:

i). The leader of the House
ii). The leader of the Opposition
iii). The Chief Justice of Supreme Court accompanied by the senior Judges of Supreme Court or the senior Judges of the concerned High Court as the case may be.
iv). The President of the Pakistan  Bar Council or Provincial Bar Councils as the case may be.

This committee should consider names only according to an established criteria. Without necessary reforms the public disenchantment will grow with the executive, with the judiciary and with the intelligence agencies, which have been involved in a partisan political agenda.

This will lead to a collapse of institutions. The revolutions in Iran and Afghanistan have had an impact on the region.

Unless we deal with the corruption issue squarely and justly and unless we reform our systems and structure, the public at large will become cynical, alienated, dis-enchanted and turn away from moderate, democratic leaders who have failed in their duties.

Now I would like to turn to the anti corruption drive we have witnessed in the last hundred days.

First there has been the massive cover up which I have already talked about.

Next comes the programme of political agenda of persecution in the pursuit of a one party state.

Action has been claimed through a media trial, torture by intelligence agencies of sleep deprivation and disorientation, and repeated arrests against some of the following:

i). Asif Ali Zardari, twice elected MNA, twice a cabinet minister, Senator elect, spouse  of the former Prime Minister. Called the king of corruption he has not been charged with one corruption crime. Twice freed by the courts, he has been kept behind the bars for seven months.

The Investigating Agencies are investigating:

a). Whether he killed his brother-in-law. Four investigating officers; two SDMs and four judges have been changed for refusing to frame him;

b). For sending abroad personal affects which did not belong to him and which any way is not a criminal offence.

The Investigation has been stuck up for seven months because the FIA do not know whether the MD at the time was Farooq Umar or Mr. Tiwana

Are we expected to believe this? Or are investigating agencies deliberately delaying the case in the hope of "breaking" of few people into fabricating evidence in exchange for release.

ii). Mr. Hakim Ali Zardari, father-in-law, thrice elected member of Parliament since 1970, former Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and the Finance Committee, head of the Zardari tribe. Arrested, thrown behind bars. Released by court. Case being investigated? The one for which he was acquitted three years ago when Nawaz Sharif regime No. 1 was in Office.

iii). Munawar Talpur, brother-in-law, Member of Parliament five times, son of an elected member of Parliament. Belongs to one of the oldest family of Sindh. Locked up in police custody sent to Hyderabad jail. Hand cuffed even though the Ehtesaab Commission has not ordered his arrest.

iv). Ms Naheed Khan  Political Secretary and close aide of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Arrested twice. Sleep deprivation, torture. Involved in third case of giving jobs in PIA. Considering that all jobs have been given according to a laid down procedure, one presumes that the precedent is being set to haul up the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff formerly Chairman of PIA and the present Prime Minister. Not charged with corruption.

v). Ahmad Sadiq, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Arrested and bailed out thrice, harassed, hounded persecuted, this 65 years old official has been victimised repeatedly to make him give false statements . Not charged with corruption.

vi). Jamote & Najam, government official charged with not making money but fixing jobs.

vii). Najamuddin Sheikh, Foreign Secretary under Benazir Bhutto. Out of job because he was appointed by Benazir Bhutto. Penalised as part of political agenda.

viii). Zafar A. Hilaly, Addll. Secretary Foreign Affairs, appointed by Benazir Bhutto. Out of job and penalised as a part of political persecution.

ix). Masood Sharif, head of Intelligence Bureau under Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Sleep deprivation torture, imprisoned to get him to frame Asif Zardari. Arrested not on corruption but murder investigation. Political persecution.

x). DIG Shoaib Siddle, SSP Wajid Durani and others who brought peace to Karachi and saved Pakistan , suspended or arrested because they happened to be posted in routine to the wrong place at a wrong time.

Charge - not corruption but investigation for murder of Mir Murtaza Bhutto. Persecuted in the hope that they might help the regime, fabricate a case to protect the killers of Murtaza Bhutto.

Suspended or imprisoned for seven long months as part of the political vendetta.

xi). Mrs. Raana Sheikh, MD, PTV sacked from Pakistan  Television as a sop to extremist elements. Being threatened with false cases for liberal television coverage. Political persecution.

xii).Wajid Shamsul Hassan, former High Commissioner to Her Majestyís Court. Twice freed by the courts but not the authorities. He, who got the Labour Party in Britain to make solution of Kashmir dispute part of its agenda, punished and penalised for being a Benazir appointee. Suffering from diabetes, kidney and heart problems. Denied medical treatment. Political persecution.

xiii). Ghulam Asghar, head of FIA, suspended on non specified corruption charges, as a sop to extremist elements because he extradited Ramzi Yousaf of the New York Trade Centre Bombing.

vix). Rehman Malik, Addl. Director General FIA, arrested to satisfy extremist, for extradited Ramzi Yousaf. In prison for seven months for allegedly stealing one car. Man who  led anti-corruption drive of PPP against Nawaz Sharif and PML. Political persecution.

xv). Zafar Leghari, former Minister,  from Chief Minister Sindhís home district. So called accountability to settle district politics scores.

xvi). Nisar Khuhro, leader of opposition in Sindh Assembly, charge with murder of a man who died of a heart attack. Corruption or political persecution.

These are some examples - but they are at the heart of the so called anti-corruption drive.

It is obvious that each one of them is related to or worked for the former Prime Minister Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.

The public have right to say cover up and vendetta in the name of accountability.

The public have a right to be dismayed.

There are three other cases worth mentioning.

Senator Saifur Rehmanís investigation into a so called sex scandal. This raises moral questions and valid political questions.

Is the purpose of Saifur Rehman Accountability Cell to inquire into bank defaulters, tax invaders and corrupt elements or is the purpose to inquire into private lives of different individuals?

If so should not Qazi Hussain Ahmad be made incharge of the Sex Scandal Cell in the Prime Ministerís Secretariat so that the colourful character in the Prime Ministerís team can also be investigated.

Or is the purpose of Senator Saifur Rehman and the intelligence agencies (whom  he is using and abusing) to fulfil a political agenda of persecution, a campaign of dis information and distortion, and a massive criminal cover  up of real corruption.

The two cases of corruption that seven months have thrown up are the Nayyer Bari case and the Schon Group case.

If the FIA has indeed found Rs. 1 billion in Bariís account, as reported in the media, why has the case not been prosecuted with.

As far as the Schon Group is concerned,  it was lavishly favoured by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Nawaz-1 Privatisation.

The regime should disclose what the Schon Group got from Nawaz-1 and Benazir-2. This will clearly show who favoured who.

The Schon Group was not the only group to whom Nawaz gave public sector units. List of all those that Nawaz-1 gave public sector units should be published to show real picture. Many of them did not pay their instalments. In the case of Suraj Ghee Mills, they shut the Factory, abandoned the workers and fled with the money.

The Schon Group is a respected business group of Pakistan. If any thing it should have a grudge against the PPP. The Schon Group got EXIM Bank approval, such is its international standing, for the financing of an oil refinery. It was unable to build the oil refinery despite EXIM Bank backing because the banks in Pakistan did not help and the Benazir government did not interfere in the workings of banks.

To sum up the hundred days of the Nawaz Sharif regime, one would conclude that there is no attempt to eliminate corruption.

In fact corrupt practices are being whitened.

And political opponents persecuted
To end corruption we need

1.  Reform of judiciary.
2.  Bipartisan leadership of prosecution and investigation to prevent collusion.
3.  End of money laundering schemes.



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