Although various forms of mal-practice such as horse-trading, nepotism, bribery, graft, illegal obligation etc. are very common in Pakistan’s politics, yet after the NRO regarding Swiss bank accounts of the President Asif Ali Zardari, the Mehrangate scandal has clearly exposed the corruption of country’s politicians who claim to be representatives of the people in the national and provincial assemblies as well as the related-governments.
Now-a-days, Supreme Court of Pakistan has been hearing a decade old petition, filed by Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan in 1996, pleading to punish all those political leaders who received money from Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in relation to the Mehran Bank Scandal.
In this regard, former chief of Mehran Bank, Younis Habib disclosed before the Supreme Court on March 8 this year that former president Ghulam Ishaq Khan and former Army Chief Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg pressurised him to arrange Rs. 1.48 billion, out of which Rs. 400 million were distributed among anti-PPP politicians to influence the elections of 1990. Habib claimed that the bank account numbers in which the money transferred was also provided by Aslam Beg.
Talking to media outside the Supreme Court, Younis Habib revealed that Rs. 340 million were given to form Islami Jamhuri Ittehad (IJI)), and Rs. 3.5 and Rs. 2.5 were given to Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif respectively.
Former ISI Chief Lt. Gen. Asad Durrani on March 10 also admitted before the Supreme Court that on the instructions of the former Army Chief Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg, he distributed money among politicians of IJI, a right-wing political alliance to counter the PPP.
During the Mehrangate investigations of 1993 which led up to the Supreme Court case, Younis Habib as per his statement indicated that besides Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif, other political figures also received money. In this respect, Mir Afzal received Rs. 10 million, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi Rs. 5 million, Jam Sadiq Ali Rs. 5 million, Mohammed Khan Junejo Rs. 2.5 million, Pir Pagaro Rs. 2 million, Abdul Hafeez Pirzada Rs. 3 million, Yusuf Haroon Rs. 5 million, Abida Hussain Rs. 1 million, Humayun Marri Rs. 5.4 million, Jamaat-e-Islami Rs. 5 million, Mustafa Sadiq Rs. 0.5 million, Arbab Ghulam Aftab Rs. 0.3 million, Pir Noor Mohammad Shah Rs. 0.3 million; Arbab Faiz Mohammad Rs. 0.3 million, Arbab Ghulam Habib Rs. 0.2 million, Liaquat Baloch Rs.1.5 million, Javed Hashmi MNA and others Rs. 50 million, Jam Yusuf Rs.0.75 million, Nadir Magsi Rs.1 million etc.
Mehrangate scandal was further highlighted among the people, opening a debate over the media and among rival politicians when in another startling revelation on March 10, Younis Habib disclosed in a private TV channel that he had delivered money with his hand to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif at the latter’s home, he also sent an amount to Shahbaz Sharif. He told that Aftab Sherpao was given a “bigger amount.” He elaborated that he was pressurised to arrange money ‘by hook or by crook’, and the money paid to the politicians was nothing less than a bribe, admitting that taking or giving bribe was a sin—“Bribe leaves no trace behind.”
On March 11, PML (N)’s spokesman Pervez Rasheed reacted to the statement of former Mehran Bank chief against Sharif brothers, and termed the allegations as fabricated, calling Younis Habib as President Asif Ali Zardari’s tool. Earlier Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah remarked that the Mehran Bank Scandal was reopened to hide the corruption of the present government. While hinting towards ISI, he accused that the establishment and secret agencies were involved in the opening of the Mehran Bank Scandal, and the case did not have any supporting proof. Besides, other leaders especially of the Jamat-i-Islami have also denied the receipt of money.
As regards the authenticity of the scandal, Interior Minister Rehman Malik indicated on March 12 that he had collected the main documents and was ready to appear before the Supreme Court and produce evidence with regard to Mehran Bank Scandal. He said that action should be taken against those who violated constitution, adding that the Nawaz-League, which has been dragging the PPP to court, should get itself cleared of accusations from the court. While, Federal Information Minister, Firdaus Ashiq Awan stated that those politicians who have been “exposed” in the Asghar Ali Khan case should present themselves before the apex court.
Nevertheless, it is Swiss bank case (NRO) or Mehran Bank case; these scandals have exposed those representatives and politicians who have been misusing the mandate of people. Instead of paying attention on the development of the country and redressing the grievances of general masses who have already been facing multiple problems such as acute poverty, unemployment, shortage of clean water, price hike, loadshedding of gas and electricity, our leaders remain engaged in looting the national exchequer, while employing other techniques of corruption like bribery, commission and so on. It proves that during the election campaign, our political leaders make verbal declarations, based upon falsehood, while addressing the processions. But their promises, made with public are no more than political tricks which in fact contain deceit and fraud.
While talking about the ongoing Mehran Bank case, Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Imran Khan said on March 10, it is proved that the leadership of PML (N) and some other politicians have taken money from the ISI in past. While claiming that he would leave the politics, if it was proved that he has ever taken funding from establishment, he pointed out, “The current regime of PPP is the worst government in the history of the country and it has enjoyed full support of PML (N) in looting the country.”
In this connection, besides other cases, sometimes, it is the case of missing persons and sometimes, Memogate scandal which have continuously been manipulating by some media anchors, PPP leaders, particularly those of PML (N) and Jamat-i-Islami, who have repeatedly been criticising the Pak Army and ISI with a view to getting the sympathies of general masses and to increase their vote bank in the forthcoming elections. After observing the largest processions of Tehreek-e-Insaf in various cities, opposition leader of the PML (N) in the National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has repeatedly accused army and ISI in backing its Chairman Imran Khan. But now real faces of these politicians have been unveiled through NRO and especially by the Mehrangate scandal.
However, as regards Mehran Bank money scandal, Pak Army or ISI simply obeyed the orders of the then head of the government; otherwise, defiance on any grounds would have led these security agencies to take unconstitutional course. So, Pak Army and ISI opted to obey the lawful command.
It is notable that while giving arguments in the court, no lawyer agrees with his rival, otherwise, he will lose the case. In these terms, question arises as to why action is not being taken by the Supreme Court against those heads of the political parties, who received the money. As they have denied the receipt of amount, the case will continue on the fake evidence, provided by their lawyers. Hence, manipulation by lawyers is likely to turn the table against Army and ISI, distorting their image. So ISI must be alert in this respect.
ISI may be directed by the Court to recover the amount and deposit it in the State Bank of Pakistan. But it will be a good sign for Pakistan’s external elements, creating wrong impression for the ISI about its role in the intervention in the elections. In this regard, bank records of the recipients may be traced back and exploratory investigation should be initiated to collect evidence that money was actually distributed amongst the recipients. Former chief of the Mehran Bank and former DG ISI should be provided full support to prove their case in the court. Defence ministry’s lawyers and ISI must work out all possible dimensions of the case for counter arguments.
Returning to our earlier discussion, Pakistan’s politicians have so far befooled the common men for grabbing power and to maintain their status and influence. As to how one can expect elimination of corruption from those political figures which are themselves found involved in this curse at the cost of public welfare. Nonetheless solid proof of Mehrangate scandal has exposed politicians’ corruption.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations