Nawaz Sharif must resign before his arrest on corruption and money laundry charges
On my trip to London, England in June 1999 to watch the games of Cricket World Cup, I suddenly encountered a BBC documentary titled ” CORRESPONDENT” that was made on the corruption and money laundry cases of Mian Nawaz Sharif, the sitting Prime Minister of Pakistan at that time. I was completely shocked and quite embarrassed at the same time with the thoughts that how I was going to explain to my non-Pakistani friends if they ask me about the corruption of Pakistan’s Prime Minister. This documentary, some parts of which can still be seen today by googling “EXCLUSIVE: BBC’S DOCUMENTARY ON NAWAZ SHARIF’S CORRUPTION” disclosed the blatant story of corruption and money laundering of Nawaz Sharif and his family as told by the eye-witnesses consisting of bureaucrats and journalists. These eye witnesses in the documentary had the first-hand information of how illegal monies were funneled from Pakistan to England and then ultimately into Nawaz Sharif’s businesses and family accounts in overseas. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was instrumental in structuring this money laundering in London which he had confessed in the court in Pakistan and signed an affidavit in this respect. Chaudhry Nisar, Interior Minister, in his press conference lately has alluded that this confession was taken under duress, however, Ishaq Dar always maintained the validity of this affidavit.
Upon this incident, the loyal members of FIA, NAB and other Government institutions under the instructions of Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif started arresting and torturing those who cooperated with the BBC in revealing the truth of this money laundering and corruption. And one of the major victims of such arrest, abuse and humiliation was Pakistan’s known journalist Najam Sethi and his wife beside many other witnesses who had to fled the country and hide to save their lives. This documentary which is banned in Pakistan carried the truth and clearly portrayed the source of money laundering of Nawaz Sharif and family. In any country where supremacy of law and justice prevail, this documentary was enough to charge and punish the culprits but in Pakistan, even the military regime of General Pervez Musharraf was not able to prosecute Sharif brothers and their families for such a heinous crime.
The recent Panama Leaks on off-shore bank accounts of thousands of corporations and individuals including political leaders is neither new nor surprising. But what is new and astonishing is its unethical and “unclear” legal status under which the rich and powerful produce the outrageous inequality and the strength of economic and political power that make the majority of such activities criminal, illegal or politically and morally unacceptable. The leaked off-shore transactions of some of the heads of government or state include Mian Nawaz Sharif’s sons who allegedly used these off-shore accounts to hide their so-called illegally acquired monies, the sources of such monies and the taxes which were escaped through these means. Upon the disclosure of these funds by the Panama Leaks, a few heads of government/state have instantly – and rightly so — resigned from their positions while their states have started the investigations to obtain the proper answers. For example, why were these funds kept in the off-shore accounts and not in the accounts within their own countries, what is the source of these off-shore funds and if these funds were transferred from their own countries then how were these monies earned and how these monies were able to cross the boundaries of their own countries and just as important, how not to let it happen again in the future.
Mian Nawaz Sharif who is the Prime Minister of Pakistan for the third time and who earlier held the positions of the Chief Minister of Punjab and the Provincial Minister of Finance has a long history of corruption and money laundering since he came into the politics. He came into the politics initially to protest against the nationalization of his father’s small Foundry in 1973 by Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and find some political means to bring it back to the ownership of Sharif’s family. Mian Nawaz Sharif’s family who simply owned Ittifaq Foundry, an unknown and small entity founded in 1939 with a very modest revenue till the 80’s, suddenly became the owners of over two dozen companies valued at millions and billions of dollars mostly with persuaded bank loans inside and outside the country and the government grants. These loans and grants much of which has not been paid back and were simply written off under the undue influences after Nawaz come into the government in 1980. It is commonly known that as most of the monies were made through so-called illegitimate means, the Sharif family decided to transfer these monies through illegal means to overseas, a small example of which is shown in the BBC documentary “CORRESPONDENT”.
The issue of corruption and money laundering of Nawaz Sharif is hiked these days in the country after the disclosure of the Panama Leaks that entire media except for PTV (a national owned television) is loaded with news, talk shows and public opinion polls items on Nawaz Sharif and his family. The political parties are demanding the government to form a judicial commission under the Chief Justice of Pakistan with the provision of forensic audit from an outside audit firm on this issue. The government ministers and aides have carelessly jumped into the public debate with nothing but nonsense, baseless and illogical arguments to unsuccessfully, immorally and wrongly defend the case of Nawaz Sharif which, in my opinion, is a private matter of Nawaz Sharif and his family. The government ministers and aides have no roles to play in this whatsoever. They have nothing to do with this, and should step aside. When such issues arose with Watergate and the Whitewater scandals in the USA, President Richard Nixon and President Bill Clinton defended themselves personally. No state minister or employee came to their defense or intervened unless they were called by the Inquiry Commission.
There are many countries which provide safe havens for illegitimate monies in the world including Panama which is one of the world’s largest offshore financial hubs. Their financial sectors of Panama include offshore business companies, off-shore banks, captive insurance and the fiduciary companies. In 2007 alone, 34,800 off-shore companies were registered in Panama. Panama’s sophisticated international banking sectors, Colon Free Zone (CFZ) and the legalized gambling are sources to facilitate money laundering. In Panama the Law No. 42 of 2000 requires the financial institutions (including brokerage firms and investment administrators) to report currency transactions in excess of US $10,000 and the suspicious nature of transactions to Panama’s Financial Intelligence Unit and Unidad de Analisis (UAF). The cache of 11.5 million leaked records reveals the off-shore holdings of 140 politicians and public officials around the world with12 current and former world leaders including the Prime Minister of Iceland, United Kingdom, Pakistan, President of Ukraine and Azerbaijan and the King of Saudi Arabia. More than 214,000 off-shore entities connected to people in more than 200 countries and territories appeared in the leak.
In Pakistan money laundering is a pervasive problem which is connected with financial crimes such as corruption, terrorism, smuggling, tax evasion and the narcotic trafficking. The proceeds of these illegitimate monies and the funding for the terrorist activities are often laundered by the means of alternate remittance system called “Hawala” and “Hundi” which in itself are not illegal except when connected with the illegitimate transactions or acts. The institutions which control the money laundering include the State Bank of Pakistan, National Accountability Bureau, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the Customs under the laws such as Anti-Terrorism Act (2002), National Accountability Ordinance (1999), Control of Narcotic Act (1997) all under the control of Government besides the Anti-Money Laundering Ordinance (AML) and the Anti-Money Laundering Regulations (AMLR). The term money laundering includes the account transactions, financial institutions, foreign offenses, predicate offences and the suspicious transactions. The punishment to those who commit the offense of money laundering is punishable in Pakistan with rigorous imprisonment for a term up to 10 years in jail and can also be liable to a fine up to one million rupees and the forfeiture of property involved in the money laundering.
The Pakistan Rangers and Army at the preset time are going through the cleansing of terrorists and the corrupt people in the country. Needless to say that for decades, the Pakistani Army has been the main stabilizing force of the state by repulsing external aggression, maintaining the internal security, setting and implementing national objectives and mitigating natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes. It is a time now for the people’s movement to support the Army to liberate Pakistan from dishonest, selfish and corrupt leaders plus their cronies who are blatantly looting the wealth of the nation, sucking it dry, and transferring it to overseas into some safe heaven such as Panama for their own personal needs by trampling the future of Pakistan in the process. These corrupt, disgusting and dishonest political leaders are constantly questioning the authority of our Army in such a cleansing as they fear that one day they too may be the subject of their arrest in cases that leads to terrorism and money laundering. Nawaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, to name just a few leaders who are highly vocal against the Army by hiding themselves under the pretext of Democracy. But on the other hand, the democratically elected regimes of PPP and PML-N since 2008 have been nothing but a farce. It is astonishing to note that the leader of Saudi Arabia is bowing down to Israel and India while the leader of Pakistan is bowing down to India and a few other countries where he has investment to fulfill their personal goals.
Nawaz Sharif’s and his cronies have always been striving to rob Pakistan of its wealth and steal its potential as their prime agenda. Nawaz Sharif’s business empire on the other hand has flourished and has been multiplied many times over by misusing his authority and manipulating the laws by changing policies as Finance Minister (1980), as Chief Minister (1985-1990) and as Prime Minister (between 1990 till date). Nawaz Sharif’s ill-considered economic decisions have cost Pakistan dearly and continue to do so, while his personal and family business empire grows exponentially through questionable means. Notably, in a bid to avoid accountability, Nawaz Sharif’s Government amended the “Ehtasaab Act” and made it effective from “1990” instead of “1985” to avoid his corruption during the tenure as Chief Minister of Punjab.
The list of corruption charges for Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif and their families holds more than 30 references despite all the maneuvering while they held the power. A few notable corruptions include the one during his first term as Prime Minister where he obtained loans amounting Rs 614 billion through his influence against inadequate guarantees. This loan was equivalent to the total internal loan obtained by the Government of Pakistan. In addition to this, money laundering worth billions of dollars through illegal means, wheat import scam, awarding motorway’s contract to an internationally black-listed company, receiving heavy loans despite being a defaulter, secret businesses in UK, New Zealand, India, Kenya and flats in the most expensive areas of London plus huge commissions in the privatization of Muslim Commercial Bank (MCB), are just a few “achievements” of Nawaz Sharif and his family.
The Auditor General released a report in 1988-89 that Nawaz Sharif while misusing his authority as Chief Minister of Punjab issued directives which resulted into a direct malpractice of Rs. 35 billion. The report further said that the Chief Minister Secretariat had turned into a hub of corrupt practices as Nawaz Sharif used public money like an Emperor that resulted into a huge deficit for the province. The same audit report disclosed that Nawaz Sharif was the lead character of the Cooperative and Financial Institutions’ Scam, which deprived the retired employees, orphans, widows and the poor of their assets worth Rs. 17 Billion. In the early 90’s, Nawaz Sharif received a huge sum of money from Osama Bin Laden to topple the former Prime Minister Shaheed Benazir Bhutto’s Government. Lt. General (R) Naseerullah Babar, the former Interior Minister had disclosed in the National Assembly in 1994 that the ISI had disbursed money to purchase the loyalty of various right wing politicians, including Nawaz Sharif, in order to manipulate the 1990 elections to defeat PPP. In Air Marshal Asghar Khan’s petition, the court judgment includes the names of those who received bribery. And Nawaz Sharif’s name is included as those who took the bribery.
Besides the financial corruption as stated above, Nawaz Sharif is known as a chronic liar and a deceitful person who makes statements which are totally incorrect and false. Nawaz Sharif and his family through King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia approached and persuaded Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the former President, to provide leniency, mercy and forgiveness after the conviction and sentencing of Nawaz Sharif for life in the hijacking case. Sharif family signed an agreement including a commitment with the Government not to participate in politics for a period of ten years. On the face of this agreement, Sharif brothers kept lying and hiding the existence of these agreements from the nation until the head of the Saudi Arabian Secret Agency and the Prime Minister of Lebanon unveiled the existence of these agreements.
Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif has turned Punjab into a Police State in which their cronies were involved in heinous and brutal criminal activities such as the shameful and atrocious lynching of two young brothers, more than two hundred judicial killings under the head of police, a brother of PML-N, MNA, the Model Town Massacre, etc. Nawaz Sharif exploited Punjab by encouraging them to call themselves as the sons of soil and gave them slogan such as “Jag Punjabi Jag – Tere Pug Ko lag gaee Aag”. During Vajpayee’s, the PM of India, visit to Lahore he intentionally deleted the issue of Kashmir from the Joint Declaration to please the Indian PM and by crossing the limits of treachery and falsehood declared that Pakistan armed forces lost the Kargil war. Both of these issues were not appreciated by the Pakistan armed forces which contributed to Army to oust his government in October, 1999. Recently Pakistan has captured Kulbhushan Yadah, a “RAW” agent and a former Indian naval personnel inside Pakistan who admitted having links with Baluchistan militant and Karachi terrorists and confessed his illegal entry and subversive activities in Pakistan. While the entire nation is up on arms, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has not spoken a word on this incident which most of us believe that he does not want to damage his personal and business relationship with Indian Prime Minister and India. This act alone amounts to a treason act if the national interest is damaged due to this act of Prime Minister.
It is safe to say that there is probably no institution in Pakistan from whom Nawaz Sharif did not confront in order to ensure they comply with his ill wishes. He caused a confrontation with the Judiciary, the Army, the President, Journalists and his political rivals by misusing and misrepresenting his authority and power as Prime Minister as well as by posing himself as a “Dawn” of the country. In order to stop the Judiciary from passing the verdict of contempt of court against him, he ordered his cronies to attack the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the Chief Justice to prevent him from giving the ruling against him. He also caused immense friction among the Supreme Court judges to a point where they refused to take orders from the Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah which ultimately forced him to quit. Due to his hostile and illogical approach during his first term as Prime Minister, he confronted the three successive army chiefs i.e., General Mirza Aslam Beg, General Asif Nawaz Janjua and General Abdul Waheed Kakar. During his second tenure, he fell out with the other two generals, General Jehangir Karamat and General Pervez Musharraf. General Jehangir Karamat became the first Chief of Army Staff in the history of Pakistan who prematurely retired. Nawaz Sharif’s corruption reached to such a level that the President of Pakistan dissolved his Government twice to protect Pakistan from further corruption and deterioration.
During his first two terms, a number of incidents indicated a pattern of harassment and intimidation of individual journalist as the Nawaz Sharif government become absolutely intolerant with independent media. There are numerous examples of journalists and others against whom the Police, FIA, NAB and other government institutions were used to intimidate, abuse, harass, beat and arrest them as well as cause damage to their properties. Some of the names of these journalists are Imtiaz Alam, a Lahore based journalist, Mahmud Lodhi, a Lahore journalist, Idrees Bakhtiar, a senior staff reporter from the monthly Herald, Rehman Shah Afridi of the Frontier Post and Najam Sethi, the Editor of The Friday Times. After a brutal torture and the destruction of his furniture at his home, Nawaz Sharif then asked General Pervez Musharraf, the Chief of Army Staff, to charge Najam Sethi under the Pakistan Army Act for being a traitor and to sentence him the maximum punishment of death.
On June 1, 1999 the New York-based committee to protect Journalists (CPJ) conducted an investigation into a “hit list” prepared by the Nawaz government that contained 35 prominent journalists of Pakistan who were to be punished by the Special Media Cell of the Government comprising of officials from the Police, Intelligence Bureau and the Federal Investigation Agency for writing against Nawaz Sharif and his Government. This list included Dr. Maliha Lodhi and Ansaar Abbasi (The News, Islamabad), Mahmood Sham (Jang, Karachi), Syed Talat Hussain (The Nation, Islamabad), Suhail Warraich (Jang, Lahore), Rehana Hakeem (Newsline), Amir Mir (The News, Lahore), M. Ziauddin (Dawn, Islamabad), Azam Khalil (Pulse), late Irshad Haqqani, Anjum Rasheed and Rehmat Ali Razvi (writer and anchor persons) besides many others. The Government objected to the Jang group of newspapers for reporting on the deteriorating law and order situation in the country and placed a ban on its advertisements. The Jang group’s bank accounts were frozen and a case was registered against Mir Shakilur Rehman for publishing the “Observer London” report of siphoning millions of rupees by Nawaz Sharif. The Pakistani Ambassador to USA at that time Hussain Haqqani was picked up in a cloak-and-dagger fashion and interrogated at a FIA center while the son of Idrees Bakhtiar named Moonis was harassed and arrested. In order to protest these situations, the Pakistan Awami Attehad (PAI) took a long March which was led by late Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan (the President of PAI), Shaheed Benazir Bhutto (the Opposition Leader) and Hamid Nasir Chatta (the General Secretary of PAI) beside many sitting and former MNAs and Senators.
The history of Nawaz Sharif, his money laundering, his misuse of power, the blatant lies, his ill economic policies, his immoral and indecent actions, and his anti-national acts, and this acts which amount to treason, are nothing new to the people of Pakistan, the Army, Judiciary and the Media. Everyone is well aware of these facts now. The time has come that the “Truth” must prevail and “Justice” is carried out with the nation and the people of Pakistan by bringing Nawaz Sharif in front of a Commission headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and by hiring a foreign Forensic audit firm to conduct the forensic audit by calling witnesses who can attest to his money laundering and anti-Pakistani acts such as his personal relationship with India, avoiding statements against “RAW” and building his business empire at the expense of national security and the economic well-being and the future of our country. It is believed that the Commission will have enough evidence to charge him on money laundering and other corruption charges. Therefore it is advisable for him to immediately resign as Prime Minister to save the dignity of the Office of Prime Minister. There is no doubt that the people of Pakistan would like to see Democracy prevail in the country but it is a right time and well over due that the Army demand the resignation of Nawaz Sharif and his associates and help in the formation of a neutral National Government to reform the political system before the next Elections are called in the country.