News Analysis |
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chief Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal has approved reopening of a 2 billion rupees graft reference against four former senior military officers. The four ex-military officers are accused of selling hundreds of acres of railway land in Lahore to a Malaysian company for the development of a golf course called Royal Palms Gold and a country club on subsidized rates.
A NAB spokesman told the media, “The meeting authorised filing of a reference against former railways minister retired Lt Gen Javed Ashraf Qazi, former railways chairman retired Lt Gen Saeed Uz Zafar, former GM retired Maj Gen Hamid Hassan Butt, former member railways retired Brig Akhtar Ali Baig…. and others for misuse of authority and causing over Rs. 2 billion losses to national exchequer.” Federal investigation Agency (FIA) investigations revealed that the land was sold for Rs4 per square yard instead of the market price of Rs. 52.43 per square yard.
The decision to hold military accountable has been praised among civil society circles that consider it a good initiative but fear that the action might be an attempt to please some powers in the government rather than a change of policy.
The former railways minister Lt Gen Javed Ashraf Qazi is also the former DG of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). NAB has been long accused of overlooking corruption by army officers for the fear of consequences. The Islamabad High Court (IHC) had last week held that miltiary officers can no longer hide behind the accountability process of the army. The recent accusations by former premier Nawaz Sharif that only civilian rulers are held accountable might have contributed to NAB’s change of stance.
The agreement made by the ex-military officers with the Malaysian company was cancelled by the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly in its 14th September 2012 meeting. They had also recommended fresh bidding of the land and called for strict disciplinary action against the management of the railways. NAB had summoned the concerned officers to record their statements in 2012 but the case was not pursued any further.
It is a popular belief among media and public circles that army officers are not held accountable for their actions and corruption and NAB only acts against civilians. Former premier Nawaz Sharif gave voice to these public concerns after his disqualification by the Supreme Court (SC) in its landmark 28th July Panama Papers verdict. Sharif, in his numerous speeches, alleged that the military was responsible for the separation of Bangladesh and the spread of terrorism.
The former railways minister Lt Gen Javed Ashraf Qazi is also the former DG of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). NAB has been long accused of overlooking corruption by army officers for the fear of consequences.
He explained that the cause of these incidents was lack of accountability of the military. Sharif and his aides have launched a tirade against the judiciary and the military alleging that they are not accountable to anyone. The debate was also initiated in the National Assembly on Monday by the Prime Minister of Pakistan Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. Media analysts believe it to be one of the causes of the reopening of the cases against ex-military officials.
The decision to hold military accountable has been praised among civil society circles that consider it a good initiative but fear that the action might be an attempt to please some powers in the government rather than a change of policy. They demanded long term policy change to hold all government officials accountable irrespective of their department. An environment of accountability should be encouraged for the prosperity of the country.