The Lahore High Court in Pakistan is facing a legal and a practical dilemma
by Gul Ahmad
The writer is a retired Pakistan Army Officer and a Defence Analyst who has written a number of books on defence and security matters.
ISLAMABAD: March 11, 2006 The Lahore High Court in Pakistan is facing a legal and a practical dilemma: What to do with the petition which charge sheets the Pakistan Armed forces and lists details of massive kickbacks and corruption done by Generals, Air Marshals and Admirals.
The petition has been filed by a lawyer in public interest but its contents are so explosive, the High Court Judges cannot touch it. The LHC, under tremendous pressure of the Army regime, is almost helpless in even admitting or hearing the petition, let alone give a verdict against the Army.
The main charges mentioned in the petition include:
- Air Chief Marshal Abbas Khattak (retired) had received Rs180 million as kickbacks in the purchase of 40 old Mirage fighters
- Air Chief Marshal, Farooq Feroz Khan (retired) was suspected of receiving a five per cent commission on the purchase of 40 F-7 planes worth $271 million
- In 1996, the Army bought 1,047 GS-90s jeeps, at a cost of $20,889 per unit. The market value of a jeep then was only $13,000. According to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Pakistan’s main accountability organization, some senior Army officers made Rs. 510 million in the deal.
- One hundred and eleven Army men got 400 plots in Bahawalpur and Rahimyar Khan districts at throwaway prices, paying Rs. 47.50 per kanal (1/8th of a acre) as against the actual price of Rs15,000 to Rs20,000 (1US$=Rs. 56). Another 35,000 kanals were distributed among them.
- Six respondents got 400 kanals in the Punjab while former NAB chairman Lt. Gen Mohammad Amjad was allotted a two-kanal plot on the Sarwar Road in Lahore for just Rs. 800,000 - payable in installments over 20 years. The market value of this plot was Rs. 20 million.
- General Pervez Musharraf acquired a commercial plot worth Rs 20 million at DHA in Lahore for just Rs. 100,000, payable in 20 years. "As mentioned in the report of defense services director-general, a loss of Rs 5 billion was incurred due to such allotments."
- The Army awarded a contract for the purchase of 1,000 Hino trucks at $40,000 per unit while the local Gandhara Industries had offered trucks of the same specification for $25,000 a piece. In the purchase of 3,000 Land Rover jeeps in 1995, Army officials allegedly received around Rs. 2 billion as kickbacks.
- The Army management at WAPDA raised the power tariff 13 times during the last three years besides purchasing electric meters at Rs. 1,050 a piece against the open market price of Rs. 456, causing a loss of Rs 1.65 billion to the national exchequer.
- A former military regime sold the Pak-Saudi Fertilizers for Rs. 7 billion and earned a Rs 2 billion commission on the deal.
- In 1996, the Pakistan Navy spent Rs. 13 million on installing air-conditioners at the Islamabad Golf Club without any justification.
Apart from this petition some other major scams involving serving or ex members of the military junta are as follows:
- ExArmy chief General Jahangir Karamat took kickbacks of more than US$ 20 Million from Ukrainian tank company for purchase of 300 Ukrainian tanks for Pakistan Army through a middleman named as Colonel Mahmood , a brother tank corps officer of Karamat . Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sent the present chief of the WAPDA Major General Zulfiqar, then serving in ISI, to Ukraine and Azerbaijan to investigate the scam.
- General Zulfiqar compiled a complete report of the transaction and the bribes given. But the Army tried to buy him out by rewarding him with the post of WAPDA Chairman and promoting him to the rank of a three star General. The then Army Chief, General Jahangir Karamat was forced to resign, based on the threat that if he did not, he would be charged for corruption.
- Many road contracts were given to a firm Hasnain Construction company without any public tenders by the recently removed Railways and Communication minister General Qazi. The company, owned by a relative of General Pervez Musharraf’s son, was also awarded the lease of a lucrative real estate in Lahore for construction of a Golf Course under frontmanship of Palm Country Golf Club, Singapore. The relative of General Musharraf admitted publicly that he was working for a commission to use his contacts and influence for the company.
- Prime commercial land developed in Defence Housing Authority Karachi was leased at dirt cheap rates to McDonalds operated by Amin Lakhani by the then Corps Commander, Karachi Lt. General Afzal Janjua.
- The Army’s coercive organ NAB struck various under the table deals with various individuals accused of high profile economic crimes in addition to arm twisting NAB defaulters, into joining the present government. These include the present Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali and at least one fourth of all elected legislators.
Where does the military virtue of a defense outfit stand in these circumstances? Is 2003 not a year fit to publish its obituary? Our military virtue died, trampled below the treacherous wheels of overpriced military trucks and overpriced Chinese aircraft and defective Atlantique planes that crash in our waters because of dubious maintenance.
Yes all this has served one important development purpose. Sons of ex-subedars, ex-clerks and ex-assistant political agents have done well, climbing from relatively simple life styles to grand luxuries propelled by phenomenal assets. All came to clean the Augean stables and all departed richer. The only exception was General Yahya Khan who whatever his drawbacks at least did not have the mind of a petty shop keeper.
Clausewitz, the great philosopher of war described “Military Virtue” of an Army as the corporate spirit which forms the bond between bravery, enthusiasm and espirit de corps. Clausewitz further defined military virtue as a quality which drives an Army in a similar way as genius makes a military commander illustrious.
Military virtue in words of Clausewitz could be generated in two ways, i.e. by a succession of military campaigns and victories or by military training activity carried to the highest pitch. The more a general demanded of his troops in terms of dedicated military activity in peace, the surer he would be that his demands in war would be properly answered. In short military virtue is the fuel that is supposed to drive an Army in war.
With the above premise in mind and keeping in view our present history it can be safely concluded that military virtue of the Pakistan Army as an institution witnessed erosion from 1958 once the party started that made sons of Risaldar majors and Assistant Political Agents progress into industrial tycoons. It was a joy ride. Men who had one green suit to wear, in the words of General Tajammul, became the tycoons of Pakistan. It was the beginning of prosperity for few and the beginning of the end of military virtue of a previously Spartan and clean military machine.
The second military junta of Pakistan was led by the only Army chief not from humble background and this ensured that the Pakistan Army was kept away from cheap consumerism and avaricious lust for real estate.
The second great dinner party started in 1979 when thanks to Soviet invasion of Afghanistan a heaven-sent opportunity arrived in shape of US military aid for the third military junta of Pakistan. Stingers were flown in by the big daddy for the obedient son and these were sold in the open market by silent soldiers. Thus new business empires were created. The Zia junta as a whole did roaring business and the result is that at least four major tycoons of Pakistan today including present commerce minister have direct links with the Zia junta.
Where does building 90 acres of a welfare colony known as Creek City with the cheapest shack for Rs. 6 million fit in? Did the military junta begin the occupation for such sublime purposes in 1958 or 1999? Where does developing 62 acres of land in prime commercial real estate in Islamabad fit in? Is this the business of a Navy that was miserably shut up in a mouse hole in Karachi Port in 1971 War? True that kickback may have been taken, but at least Admiral Mansur-ul-Haq bought a good submarine for the Navy. But for whose welfare is the Navy undertaking a project 1500 kilometers from the nearest sea?
What began as an idealistic journey ends with the shady deals around creeks in Karachi which the Navy failed to defend in 1971 and a military junta which wants to rule this country for eternity.
And in this messy situation, the subservient Lahore High Court has been asked to sit on judgment with the sprawling mountains of charges, some even admitted publicly by the Army. God help the poor Justices of the superior court.