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Pakistan: Corruption runs deep amongst Pak army generals India vs disinformation 23 Nov 2022
The Pakistan army has been in the headlines for multiple reasons in the recent past, none of which have been noteworthy. Imran has been training his guns on the generals for removing him from his chair to meet the demands of the US. Though he retracted the blame later, he insisted that the generals could have prevented his downfall. He also accused an army general, Major General Faisal Sharif, for being behind his botched assassination attempt. Such was the intensity of Imran’s accusations that the DG ISI, Lt General Nadeem Anjum, addressed a rare press conference to dispel Imran’s claims, however it did little to redeem the army’s receding reputation. The latest scandal to hit the army has been release of assets of the outgoing army chief, General Qamar Bajwa.
A Pakistan based investigative news website, Fact-Focus, released details of General Bajwa’s family members tax returns and claimed that the family became billionaires during his six years as the army chief. It supported this statement by projecting that General Bajwa’s wife and daughter became taxpayers recently and their assets rose by billions in a couple of years. As per Fact-Focus, the family has amassed assets worth Rs 12.7 billion. It added that its published details do not include properties of General Bajwa’s two sons whose information it could not obtain.
Information shared by Fact-Focus is only based on data reported to the government in tax returns. There would be assets abroad or even ‘mistakenly’ not mentioned. The report, released just days prior to General Bajwa’s retirement, has embarrassed the Pak army leadership.
Corruption in the Pak army is nothing new. In 2020, the same website, Fact-Focus, released inputs of assets of Lt Gen Asim Bajwa, the former DG of Pakistan’s Public Relations (DG ISPR) as also chairman of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Asim Bajwa was claimed to have acquired over a hundred Papa John’s franchises in the US and the UAE as also high-end properties in US, Canada, UAE, and Pakistan. Asim Bajwa was compelled to resign from the chairmanship of the CPEC. He denied these reports initially, but truth could not be hidden.
In March this year a leak from Credit Suisse, a banking firm in Switzerland, revealed that General Akhtar Rehman Khan, a former DG ISI, had side tracked funds from the US to the Afghan Mujahideen (then battling the Soviets) into private accounts of several senior generals. There are also reports of Pak generals being involved in the narcotics business, officially to fund terrorism in India, but realistically for their own pockets. Senior Pak army officers have been accused of extortion, kidnapping, land grabbing, smuggling as also selling and renting government assets.
The most notable and embarrassing case was of Pakistan’s envoy to Indonesia, General Syed Anwar, selling an embassy property at a throwaway price in 2001-2. The sale came to light years later. Historically, Pakistan’s generals are well cared for by the state. On retirement they are gifted commercial, residential and agricultural plots. An army chief is allotted 100 acres of agricultural land at a place of his choosing. General Musharraf owns multiple properties within Pakistan as also in London.
Dr Ayesha Siddiqa, in her book, ‘Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy,’ highlights levels of corruption within the military establishment. Five ‘welfare foundations’ run thousands of Pakistan’s businesses ranging from petrol pumps to major industries including cement, food processing, banks etc. A large part of profits are syphoned off into the pockets of generals. She states, very rightly, ‘Pakistan’s army is just as corrupt as the politicians it denounces.’
Not a single corruption case against a Pak general is ever investigated. The basic reason is that Rawalpindi controls all investigative institutions. Governments in Pakistan serve at the will of the army chief. No Pak PM has completed his full tenure, most overthrown by the army chief they have nominated. Hence politicians fear to raise corruption cases against generals. Pak generals’ loyalty is to their colleagues and not the state or government. Corruption runs so deep that any single general investigated could open a pandora’s box which could embarrass the organization. Most of Pakistan’s generals never settle within the country preferring to move to the west. The standard defence put forth by the Pak army on all corruption leaks is that it is a RAW conspiracy.
Simultaneously, Pakistan’s politicians including Prime Ministers are removed from their posts based on unproved or even false reports. Nawaz was removed for not divulging receipt of salary from his family venture in the UAE, which he disputed claiming he took no salary. Imran has been disqualified for not disclosing his complete assets, which is being challenged in courts. The generals who utilize corruption as a stick to remove politicians are far more corrupt. Many in Pakistan term ‘Corps Commanders’ as ‘Crore Commanders.’
Such has been the impact on the release of assets of the army chief, General Bajwa, that the Finance Minister, Ishaq Dar, was compelled to order an investigation. Within a day he announced that they had traced the identity of the individuals who had leaked the tax returns, which are meant to have been confidential. The website which released the details has been banned in Pakistan. Actions by the finance minister only prove that the charges are true.
Post the untimely demise of the Indian CDS, General Bipin Rawat, a Pak commentator wrote that at the time of his demise, General Rawat had thirty lakhs as his life saving. He added that no Pakistani general retires with less than 30 crores. He concluded that this is why Indian generals are respected while Pak generals hated.
There is no doubt that General Bajwa’s corruption report will be raked by Imran in the near future. He will exploit it to gain support by claiming that if elected he would bring this practice to an end. Within Pak, though the website, Fact-Focus has been banned, however it has damaged the reputation of the army. With the army already being accused of being pro-US and anti-Imran, it would take some deft handling to overcome accusations of corruption. This report could also be just the tip of the iceberg with much more being released with passage of time.
Everything wrong seems to be happening for the Pak army simultaneously. Its reputation will only sink further.