Jan 8, 2010

Every man has his price

Anjum Niaz

Remember Naeem Bokhari? It was less than 36 months ago that his letter to the chief justice of Pakistan turned the nation topsy-turvy. What a heavy price we have been paying since. Foreign investment fled overnight, as if Pakistan had been hit by a plague; businessmen left for greener pastures with their dollars; schools closed; lawyers went on indefinite boycott; work halted and the nation of 180 million got paralysed.

Do we want a repeat?

It appears a section of lawyers, intellectuals, journalists, politicians and others want a repeat. Is it possible that the Zardari government is spearheading a campaign to malign the judiciary? Legal masterminds who have made millions advising Musharraf to make mischief in the land by distorting the Constitution are back, quietly managing the devilment. I don't need to name them. They are the same crooks who appeared on the idiot box to defend their deeds in the past and are currently advancing the cause of their new paymasters.

Where does S M Zafar stand today? He juggles three hats: PML-Q senator; constitutional expert and rights advocate. Over the years he has shared his legal expertise with people via television talk shows and newspaper statements, never disappearing from the public radar for long. His has been the longest presence. He has come across as sober, mature, intelligent and knowledgeable.

But he also is a politician. He is a senator. He is Chaudhry Shujaat's party man. In fact he currently heads the Senate Standing Committee on Education. And lest we forget, he is a Musharraf loyalist and an advisor to the former dictator.

But Zafar's views on NRO beneficiaries are unequivocal. According to the press reports he has said that any property seized, frozen or confiscated on Oct 5, 2007 (when the NRO was promulgated) stands "seized, frozen or confiscated following the apex court's decision" of Dec 16, 2009.

He has also said that under Article 248 of the Constitution, the president is immune from presenting himself before the court, but his assets stand frozen once again.

Now here's the punch line: According to the NAB spokesman, the Bureau has not ordered the freezing of presidential assets.

Critics can turn around to say, why just single out the president, as is happening. Why not drag in the rest of the NRO beneficiaries and make them pay for their alleged sins. That's a fair comment. Others "holier than thou" are demanding that we conduct accountability for the crooks in the military, bureaucracy and even the judiciary itself. That too is a fair demand.

The question is: when, who, where, which and how the process of accountability can begin? The Supreme Court judgement cast the first stone, but since then a babble of dissenting voices is muddying the waters and stalling the process in its embryonic stage. Untrusting of the NAB secretariat, the Supreme Court is playing the role of a supra-auditor, scrutinising the progress reports on corruption cases.

Somebody has to do it!

NAB should either be disbanded or purged of its top officials, who are too busy saving their jobs. We should get back the sacked NAB chairman, Lt-Gen (r) Shahid Aziz, who probed the corruption by government functionaries and oil industry people in the pricing of petroleum products which caused a loss of Rs83 billion to the nation from 2001-2006. His findings were never made public.

Now the Supreme Court has taken up the issue in all seriousness. But more worms are crawling out. We now know that Musharraf's chief honcho Iqbal Z Ahmad has been doling out liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) permits to people to buy their support or silence. They include Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, former NAB chairman Gen (r) Munir Hafeez, federal minister for investment Senator Gulzar Ahmad, former interior ministers Gen (r) Moeenuddin Haider and Aftab Sherpao, former governor of Punjab Gen (r) Khalid Maqbool, National Bank president Syed Ali Raza and Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, and many others.

Every man has his price.

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