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Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Another example of `General` loot
The Generals of Pakistan have been openly looting their own country, buying plush apartments in foreign lands and huge tracts of land in the country while claiming to be the guardians of the people. The Generals not only have their own exclusive housing colonies but also usurp farm lands at throw-away prices. The Generals, as a result, are today the biggest landlords in the country and ever eager to grab more.
Besides, rare would be a Chief of Army Staff who has not stashed away a few millions in tax-free havens, acquired a flat or two in London or Dubai, and some even owning many such expensive properties in swanky locations in different parts of the world. General Pervez Musharraf, for instance, once he fled his country fearing prosecution, had no trouble in settling down in a plush apartment in London. His successor, General Ashfaq Kayani has been not a step behind. A few years ago, a British investigative journalist discovered Swiss bank accounts of both Musharraf and Kayani with a few million dollars stashed away in them.
General Musharraf’s avarice is now fairly well known; it is the story of his successor, Kayani, which is now making headlines. A petition is likely to come up for hearing in the Pakistani Supreme Court in the future in which Kayani has been accused of disbanding the Armed Forces Medical Store Depot to benefit drug manufacturing units set up by other Generals who served him. The petition specifically blamed Lt. General Athar, who was the Karachi Corps Commander, when Kayani was the chief. The petition alleged that Athar, after his retirement, set up a pharmaceutical factory with the help of his junior officers. Since the armed forced medical depots were only authorised to buy emergency medicines from the market, the Army Headquarters decided to do away with an armed forces medical depot at Nowshera and created sub-depots with the authority to buy medicines directly from the market. It was a clear move to help the drug unit set up by the retired Army officers. On top of it, several samples of the drug from this factory were found to be spurious.
This is only a small case of corruption in comparison. Two years year ago, Kayani’s brothers were found to be involved in massive corruption in the Defence Housing Authority. Over 150 thousand investors were cheated of millions of rupees by Kayani’s brothers who promised plush apartments but failed to deliver any of them after seven years. Well-known Pakistan Army expert, Dr Ayesha Siddiqa, told a newspaper that “In the name of providing defence as a public good, the army is constantly furthering its own corporate interests and those of a small elite of retired senior officers.’’ Dr Siddiqa has extensively documented the army’s corporate interests which, she has often argued, over-ride all other interests, including that of the nation.
It goes without saying that the Kayani brothers remain scot free and Kayani himself remains untouched despite the allegations of millions of dollars illegally stashed away in Swiss banks. Kayani’s successor, Raheel Sharif, took the ruse of being incorruptible a step or two forward. He began projecting himself as a crusader against corruption, both in the civilian arena as well as in the military. He even sacked a dozen or more officers for corruption but when he retired, he managed to get 90 acres of prime land worth Rs 1.35 billion rupees in his name, like all the Generals do.
Kayani, Sharif and Musharraf are not the only Generals who have managed to corner prime real estate before or after retirement, countless others have done so in the past as a matter of privilege. The Generals for long, in fact ever since Pakistan became an independent country, have been milking the country’s resources for personal use, pretending all the while to serve the country. The Generals knew how to hoodwink the people, by projecting India as the sole enemy and themselves as the sole defenders.
As and when any corruption scandal broke up, the Generals would quickly smother the fire either through threats and denials or by creating a covering fire to divert attention. The journalists on their payroll would come to their rescue with counter accusations or some `breaking news` against India or the civilian leadership and thus dilute the gravity of the offence committed by the Generals and their cohorts. If such scandals refused to die down, despite all such media exercises, the Generals would fish out an ``Indian spy`` or order unwarranted firing across the border with India, thus grabbing the headlines and pushing the story about the corruption in the armed forces away from limelight.
For years, Musharraf projected himself as a `strong man` who only could talk down to India or catch terrorists. His successor, Kayani, did the same, with his own twist. He even went to the extent of promoting the canard that it was he who had forced Musharraf to step down from the presidency. He then projected himself as a no-nonsense General who was the only one who could solve the Afghan crisis. So taken in were the western countries, Kayani was feted and hailed as the sole answer to the mess created by the post-9/11 war on terrorism. The truth, as it is emerging now, is that behind all that façade was a cunning and avarice mind which was quietly cornering his share of the pie, while the gullible people of Pakistan hailed him as a hero.
Even the latest episode of Kayani’s involvement in the spurious drug scandal would be forgotten shortly with the new General in the saddle busy feathering his nest while doing his best to besmirch the civilian leadership. So a Nawaz Sharif can be debarred or face possible imprisonment, but never a General—the Generals in Pakistan are perhaps next only to the Almighty.
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