Defy, Degrade Parliament to Protect a Corrupt Colleague
M T Butt
June 8: Deeply engrossed in private businesses, Army Generals
have officially refused to recognize the jurisdiction of Pakistan’s
Parliament and a landmark battle has begun to determine who would
have the upper hand.
any democracy and constitutional rule, this would never be an
issue, but Pakistan Army is bent upon breaking every rule and
demolish or disfigure every institution to protect the Army's
personal, political and corporate interests,” a senior politician
said in Islamabad.
of Musharraf’s top Generals, accused of corruption in Army’s
biggest corporate entity, the Fauji Foundation, has turned his
Rs300 million case of favoritism into this test case by challenging
the authority of the Senate to look into his affairs.
“This case would determine whether elected representatives
will ever be able to peek into the back stage money-making secrets
of the Army,” an expert said.
The case involves Lt. General (Retd) Mohammed Amjad, (Top, Left)
once the head of Musharraf's National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
As NAB Chief General Amjad, and his successors, have been continuously
using NAB, illegally and unconstitutionally, to investigate every
private sector company or businessman the Generals want to target
for their own personal, political or financial reasons.
General Amjad left NAB he was appointed head of the Fauji Foundation
which is, for all practical purposes, an extension of the Pakistan
Army, as many sitting armed forces high ups are on its Board called
the Committee of Administration.
The Committee of Administration of Fauji Foundation comprises
Army's Chief of the General Staff, Quarter Master-General, Chief
of Logistics Staff, Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff (Training
& Personnel) and Deputy Chief of Air Staff (Administration).
According to Fauji Foundation, the Committee handles the administrative
and management affairs of the Foundation.
The case against Gen. Amjad is that he sold one of the sugar mills
of Fauji Foundation to a favorite for an amount much less than
the highest bid and this information was confirmed by the Defence
Ministry in the National Assembly. So it was official. The Parliamentary
Secretary for Defence, Tanvir Hussain, admitted in the Assembly
that the “sugar mill had been sold at Rs300 million, against
the highest bid of Rs387 million.”
There was an immediate uproar both inside and outside the Parliament.
The Senate’s Defence Committee summoned the Fauji Foundation
management to appear and explain why this corruption had been
done. A spokesman of Senate said a meeting of the Defence Committee
to discuss the working of the Fauji Foundation and the sale of
Khoski Sugar Mills in particular was requisitioned by three Opposition
members namely Senators Rukhsana Zuberi, Farhatullah Babar and
Sardar Mahtab Ahmed Khan.
the Foundation did not respond but after two weeks rejected the
information given to the MPs through quarter-page advertisements
in national dailies. The ads titled "Fauji Foundation
Rejects" not only dismissed allegations but also claimed
that the Khoski Sugar Mill was sold "in the best interest
of the Foundation" and in keeping with the "established
corporate norms and business practices." "We
have received no government assistance in cash or kind,"
the ads announced, and vowed to "jealously guard its reputation
for impeccable conduct."
The MPs took the Foundation's ads, which rejected the official
information placed before them a few days before, as an affront
and breach of their privilege. Even Government party member and
Parliamentary Secretary, Major Tanvir, bemoaned that the Foundation
had breached the privilege of Parliament.
PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar, an activist on such issues, wrote
in a newspaper column: “One is indeed puzzled by the Foundation's
claim that it had not received government assistance in cash or
in kind. Under SRO No 395, issued in March 1972, all the properties
of the Post War Services Reconstruction Funds of the former West
Pakistan were vested in the Federal Government, which in turn
transferred these properties to the Fauji Foundation under the
Charitable Endowments Act. With such a kick start from day one,
how can the management today claim that it has not received from
the government "any assistance in cash or in kind"?
to read full column
But instead of coming clean on the issue, General Amjad and the
other top Generals sitting in the GHQ have decided to challenge
the jurisdiction of the Parliament to look into the affairs of
Army-run businesses. The Senate Standing Committee on Defence
and Defence Production on June 4 received a communication from
the Defence Ministry stating that the Committee had no jurisdiction
to appear for or against Fauji Foundation at any forum.
press release said the office of the Chairman, Standing Committee
on Defence, received a communication from the Defence Minister
intimating that after having a detailed briefing from the ministry's
officials it was apparent that "Fauji Foundation is a private
Committee Chairman is an ardent Musharraf and Army loyalist. A
hand-picked businessman, former IBM chief and Musharraf’s
ex-Information Minister, Nisar Memon is now heading the Senate’s
Defence Committee. Instantly he jumped to the General’s
side and as Committee Chairman accepted, without a word, the Fauji
Foundation’s contention that private businesses were outside
the Senate’s purview. Memon accepted the explanation and
declared that the meeting requisitioned by the Opposition senators
will not be held, cutting his own legs and feet.
one is allowing him to get away with this serious issue and even
political allies of the Generals, now providing Musharraf and
his men the façade of a democracy, are confused and issuing
is how Musharraf undermines the constitution and rule of law as
he has his own cronies installed in key places who do not care
about any democratic tradition but serve the interests of their
Army masters,” a senior politician commented as a chorus
of credible political voices rejected Nisar Memon’s decision
as totally uncalled for and without authority or legality.
Even the Parliamentary Affairs Minister in the Shaukat Aziz cabinet,
a PPP turncoat and often a Musharraf loyalist, Dr Sher Afgan Niazi,
did not agree with Nisar Memon.
told newspaper Dawn on June 5 every organization within
the limits of Pakistan, whether public or private, can be summoned
before the parliament. "No private organization operating
within the country has an exemption from being summoned before
the parliament. The principle of sovereignty and supremacy of
parliament is applicable in the case.”
Another leading constitutional
expert, Choudhry Aitzaz Ahsan of PPP went a step further. He said:
“The Defence Ministry's refusal to bring the Fauji Foundation
under scrutiny in the committee is a sheer disobedience and disrespect
to the parliament. Any entity that is "controlled" or
"owned" by the government can be summoned by a committee
of the parliament, including the Senate and the National Assembly.”
said Fauji Foundation was like other organizations which operated
as private entities but were "controlled" or "owned"
by the government. He said if the PTV managing director and PIA
Chairman could be summoned before a committee, nothing barred
the management of Fauji Foundation from being summoned. He
said the presence of the Defence Secretary and other senior serving
officials of the armed forces on the committee of administration
of Fauji Foundation made it subject to appear before the committee
and the parliament.
former secretary of the National Assembly, Khan Ahmed Goraya,
said the National Assembly committees had the powers of the civil
court and could summon any person or entity within the precincts
of the country. Similar rules were applicable to the Senate committees,
The influential Editor of Lahore’s Daily Times,
Najam Sethi, weighed in with a strong editorial note on the issue
titled: “Fauji Foundation must explain its conduct to
the Senate Standing Committee.”
His editorial said: “These are important questions, not
only in relation to the issue at hand — namely the dubious
sale of the sugar mills — but also vis à vis the
larger questions of the military in business and civil-military
relations. It is clear to us that the Foundation’s Committee
of Administration is loath to appear before a committee of parliamentarians
because of military’s traditional disregard of the parliament.
Under the rules it is the Standing Committee’s prerogative
“to take a decision and express an opinion on the new position
taken by the defence ministry”. And as Senator Babar has
contended, “The Rules have no provision for the Chairman
of the Committee [in this case, Senator Memon] to give a personal
verdict and cancel a requisitioned meeting.”
Pervez Musharraf continues to talk about a new Pakistan built
around respect for institutions. We expect that the process of
institutionalization will subsume the military and not bestow
on it the status of a holy cow. At the end of the day, Parliament
is the highest body in the realm and its members have every right
— within prescribed law — to oversee the functioning
of various departments, including the military,” the newspaper
“It is also important to determine, once and for all, the
sex of entities run by, and under, the military. Are they in the
private sector or in the public domain?”
Given all these arguments, the attempt by the Generals to bulldoze
and over-run the Parliament are blatant, mean and self-serving.
They want immunity from accountability for their misdeeds in all
Government-run, funded and controlled organizations which they
have grabbed. The next step would be to demand that all lands,
properties and houses owned by the Generals would be exempt from
any law, tax or regulation. This can go on and on.
if the Generals claim that they are running a private business,
which cannot be questioned by the Parliament, then the question
that needs an immediate answer is why and how are these officers
allowed to run a private business as Government Service rules
prohibit any employee to run his own business. And why is tax-payers
money being pumped into their private business.
Economic Survey of Pakistan 2004-05, released by the Ministry
of Finance on June 4, reveals that the Government had explicit
contingent liability of Rs1.02 billion on account of Fauji Fertilizer
Company Jordan. The government's guarantee of for FFC increased
from Rs0.70 billion in 2002-03 to Rs1.02 billion in 2004-05, revealed
the Survey, an authentic official document released every year
before the budget.
to the company profile, FFC Jordan is a Joint Venture of Fauji
Foundation and Fauji Fertilizer Company Limited. The Chairman
of Fauji Foundation, Lt Gen (retd) Syed Muhammad Amjad, is shown
as the chairman of the FFC in its recent annual report.
battle between the Generals and the Parliament is another manifestation
of the crumbling state of affairs in General Musharraf's Pakistan.