WASHINGTON DC, April 29, 2005 | ISSN: 1684-2057 | www.satribune.com

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Corrupt Musharraf's Generals, Exposed by Musharraf's Generals

By Shaheen Sehbai

WASHINGTON, April 29: General Pervez Musharraf cannot, and does not, publicly claim that he has eliminated corruption altogether in Pakistan but he frequently boasts about cleaning up the top levels of his military cum civil administration.

Now his own trusted men are exposing these tall claims by pointing fingers and naming the military regime’s big guns who are turning out to be the really big thieves. A few most glaring examples:

When a prominent cabinet minister who was visiting Washington a few months back, revealed quietly to me and a friend, the horrifyingly ugly scale of land grabbing and fake land sale scams going on in Pakistan, especially in Punjab, we frankly did not believe him.

We thought the minister was trying to get even with his uniformed masters for not fulfilling the tall political promises made to him. But the magnitude of the scams was such that the minister genuinely felt concerned and wanted us to write about them, although as a politician he was not going to raise his voice publicly and was prepared to serve those very Generals in every top position.

The minister has now been proved right. Thanks to one of the more upright Generals in the present lot, the Corps Commander of Lahore, Lt. General Shahid Aziz, details of the massive land scams are emerging.

Our ministerial source says Corps Commander Aziz, has started a serious investigation against his predecessor, the last Corps Commander of Lahore, currently posted in the GHQ, Lt. General Zarrar Azim, known in the real estate world of Lahore as General Zarrar Zamin (land).

Early results of this fight between the top military bulls has revealed that General Zarrar was so deeply involved in the scam of Lahore Defence Society that in the price of every plot of land allotted in the society, a fee of Rs 600,000 (US$10,000) had to be built-in, almost automatically, meant for the Corps Commander’s office.

In this scam, it is now being found by the detectives of the new Corps Commander, that not only the out-going CC was involved, he was using a junior officer, Major Lodhi as a front man. This major is related to General Musharraf’s coup partner and now retired General Aziz of Kargil fame.

The details of these Defence Society scams are mind boggling. Thousands of plots of lands are designated in official files as Defence Society land and these plots are then sold and re-sold on files. More paper Housing Societies are registered and approved and they claim vast tracts of land without owning a square yard.

According to our source, in Lahore alone there are 12,000 files of plots for Sectors 7, 8, 9 and 10 for which there is no land actually available on the ground. How many thousands of more such plots have been sold is not yet known but the probe ordered by Lt. Gen. Aziz will bring out some facts.

According to a going joke in the Army Mess Circuit, the last request General Musharraf made to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Delhi was to give him 8,000 acres of land from the Indian territory across the Wagah-Atari border, 30 miles from Lahore, in return for Kashmir and Siachin, because “my boys have already sold this land in the files.”

Lahore is not the only Land of Land Scams. What has happened in Gwadar and Rawalpindi is of no less import.

The ministerial source said in the Bahria Town of Rawalpindi and Lahore, thousands of non-existent plots have been sold by the scheme managers. In Bahria Town of Lahore for 7,000 available plots 28,000 applications were accepted with deposits. But in Bahria Town Islamabad/Rawalpindi 77,000 plots have been sold which require land equivalent to 16 built-up sectors of Islamabad.

“What we are getting into is the Mother of all Scams because billions upon billions of people’s money has been collected by these project sponsors while there is no land to be allotted. How many of these buyers get back their deposits and when, is the 50 billion rupees question,” the source said.

Incidentally official records of the Ministry of Defence presented before the National Assembly show that Pakistan Army has Defence Housing Societies in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad on an area of only 179,308 Kanals, or 22,500 acres. Pakistan Navy and Air Force have two housing societies each covering an area of 712 and 536 acres of land respectively.

Another of Musharraf’s top commanders, Lt Gen. Tariq Wasim Ghazi, former Corps Commander of Karachi became notoriously famous in Karachi for similar land scams in Defence Society, Karachi, including Creek City and allotment to two special people, Humayun Butt and Fareed Veerani. Who are these specials and what is their involvement is being investigated by South Asia Tribune and will be revealed soon.

The Gwadar land scam has already infuriated the Baloch leadership and one reason why they are so violent and non-compromising is how their mother land is being sold and resold to outsiders after it was fraudulently bought from them for peanuts. In Gwadar the Generals and their front men were quietly told to buy the land from locals much in advance of announcement of mega projects. Once this mopping up operation was completed, the projects were announced and trading of this real estate began, multiplying the prices by 20 or even 40 times.

The ministerial source said the bigger scandal in Gwadar has started just recently when Government has ordered all its banks and State-owned Corporations to buy land in Gwadar at market prices. Middlemen have already sold and resold these plots many times over to different parties to perk up the market price. “The tax payer will now end up paying the premium to these land mafias,” the source said.

In a much quieter operation in Lahore the City Government of Nazim (Mayor) Mian Amer Mahmood claimed on Sunday, April 24, that it had succeeded in vacating 3,000 kanals (375 acres) of land belonging to schools from a land mafia, but interestingly he did not name the mafia. Most of those who read the small story or who were present when the announcement was made understood who was involved.

While Corps Commanders of Musharraf are involved in perpetuating or dismantling these land scams, one of his pillars of accountability, the former head of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Lt. General (Retd) Amjad Hussain was himself accused of massive corruption in the corporation he has been heading.

This charge of corruption was leveled in the National Assembly of Pakistan and involved the Fauji Foundation, undeniably the largest corporate body of Pakistan, now waiting to take over the largest public sector company, Pakistan State Oil.

The National Assembly was told last week that a high-level inquiry had been ordered against the management of the Fauji Foundation after detection of huge financial bunglings. General Amjad was facing the inquiry for selling a sugar mills in a non-transparent manner at less than the highest bid to a business enterprise which did not even participate in the bidding process.

The Assembly was told that the Khoski Sugar Mills was sold at Rs300 million against a previous bid of Rs387 million offered by a private party. Defence Minister Rao Sikandar ordered the inquiry to fix responsibility on those who violated the financial procedures and rules by going out of the way to benefit a favorite firm.

While the above details show that in-service Generals and Corps Commanders were being investigated for corruption, another officially announced corruption case was against the management of the South Asian Federation (SAF) Games, interestingly consisting of all military officers headed by Lt. General Arif Hassan.

The management of SAF Games has been found involved in financial irregularities to the tune of Rs201 million, which among other charges, include giving undue benefit to private organizations through "verbal agreements," Daily Dawn said quoting an audit report .

The ninth SAF Games management included Chairman Lt. Gen. Arif Hassan, Chief of staff and chief coordinating officer Brig. Amjad Javaid, Information and media director Lt. Col. Syed Mujtaba Tirmizi, Administration Director Brig. Ahmad Riza Siddiqi, Communications Director Brig Abid Hussain Bhatti, Technical Director Lt. Col. (retired) Muhammad Yahya, Procurement Director Lt. Col. Mansoor Abbas, Information Technology Director Lt. Col. Umer Farooq, Finance and Marketing Director Lt. Col. Azhar Dean, Ceremonies Director Brig. Arif Rasul Qureshi, Protocol Director Brig. Khalid Rasheed Lodhi and Chief Engineer Lt. Col. Usman Saeed.

The question being asked in all relevant circles was that even to organize an sporting event, none of the very well qualified civilians was found to be suitable and from top to bottom all army men had been inducted as if it SAF Games were military exercises. And now these sacred cows have been found to be involved in irregularities and corruption.

In a military regime, obviously the Corps Commanders and senior Generals are the top level of Government and if scams and scandals involving these top men are officially exposed, some in the National Assembly and others by leaks to the media by his own people, how would General Musharraf explain his claims of eliminating top level corruption.

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