Monthly Archives: January 2015

TERRORISM AND PAKISTAN

This article has been published in Pakistan Today.

In the age of information, ignorance is a choice and we as a nation have chosen to remain ignorant. Dumbed down to the lowest common denominator, devoid of any aspiration, we are swallowing the dominant myths and mindlessly repeating the mantras inserted into our skulls, derived from a generation of cleverly crafted propaganda. Why else would we allow our country to be destroyed? Why else would we be rewarding its destroyers? The fact often disavowed that we are being directed, controlled, censured, commanded, preached at and indoctrinated by the creatures who neither have the rights, nor the objective merits to do so. The country that was created for the people to enjoy their freedom, failed to serve the purpose, because people surrendered their personal authority and moral integrity to a group of oligarchs, having no religion, class, creed or race, but vested interests. The ruling class, the British trained bureaucracy, the military establishment and the elite civilians were profoundly selfish, having lack of vision and in-depth analysis, to deal with defense related matters and foreign policy. They turned the nation’s image as beggars asking for aid and mercenaries fighting proxy wars for global powers.

Here is a glimpse of our myopic and hedonistic leadership’s mindset;

Governor General Ghulam Muhammad during his conversation with Vice President Nixon, pleading for military aid stated that, “… were the US not grant aid now, especially in view of all publicity, it would like taking a poor girl for a walk and then walking out on her, leaving her only with bad name”. (Ref: Memorandum of conversation of Ghulam Muhammad and Vice President of the United States, December 7, 1953 in Karachi. Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) 1952-1954, Volume XI, p. 1832).

Foreign Minister Zafrullah Khan, during a meeting with Governor Stassen in 1953 said; “It was Pakistan’s belief that the beggar’s bowl should never be concealed”. (Ref: Memorandum of conversation June 22, 1954 in Washington. FRUS No 9281, Volume XI, p. 1849).

Dennis Kux, a former US ambassador to Pakistan, in his book Disenchanted Allies, quotes Ayub Khan, who, getting frustrated with slow pace of negotiations with US during his visit to Washington, went to Henry Byroad’s office and told him, “I didn’t come here to look at barracks. Our army can be your army if you want us. But let’s make a decision”. What about the people of Pakistan, Mr. Ayub Khan?

Right from the beginning, Pakistan’s apprehension about the designs of a hostile large neighbor, India prompted it to try to develop friendly defense relations with large powers such as US and later on China. Americans knew it well that Pakistani rulers cannot live without dollars and they took full advantage. The policy makers went too far in relationship with Americans, getting Pakistan unnecessarily involved into US led alliances of SEATO, CENTO and Baghdad pact against Soviet Union. This alliance with US and unnecessary acts of obedience brought the anger of Soviet Union, whose early neutral stand on Kashmir quickly changed to a pro-India stance.  A factor often ignored by the historians that during the period of 1951 to 1953, several high level meetings were held between Pakistanis and Indians, at highest levels on Kashmir Issue. India accepted Kashmir as central issue between the two countries and during a meeting between two Prime ministers in 1953, India agreed in principle, about plebiscite. It was decided that the plebiscite administrator would be appointed by the end of 1954, Pakistan’s association with US sponsored pacts and consequent pro-India stance by Soviet Union on Kashmir, provided a golden opportunity for Nehru to renege completely on all assurances.

Ayub Khan who came into power in 1958, through a military coup, was obsessed with modernization of the armed forces in shortest possible time. He saw the relationship with US the only way to achieve his organizational and personal objectives. He allowed Americans to use Peshawar airbase for spying activities against Soviets and establish a communication center for electronic espionage at Badaber. In 1960, Soviet army shot down the U2 Spy plane that took off from Peshawar air base. Soviet Union demanded Pakistan to dismantle Peshawar based espionage facilities and threatened to attack, if the demand is not met. This is one example of military’s superiority complex with respect to civilians, where the soldiers while considering themselves to be the soul of the nation and ultimate guaranteer of its security turned ambivalent in their relationship with rest of the citizenry. The falsified sense of moral superiority over the civilians, despite having no training, knowledge and analytical vision to deal with the complexity of economic and foreign affairs, developed gradually from Ayub Khan’s era and got transferred to next generation of officer corps under Gen. Zia, who took the relationship with US to a new level by turning the country into a frontline state fighting America’s war against Soviet Union, at the detriment of its people.

In an appearance before a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee on April 24, 2009 secretary of state Hilary Clinton officially admitted that the United States, in its zeal to beat the Soviet Union, has aligned itself with forces that today have grown into an existential threat to the world. She said; “But the problems we face now to some extent we have to take responsibility for, having contributed to it. Let’s remember here … the people we are fighting today, we funded them twenty years ago … and we did it because we were locked in a struggle with the Soviet Union. We did not want to see them control Central Asia and we went to work … and it was President Reagan in partnership with Congress led by Democrats who said you know what it sounds like a pretty good idea … let’s deal with the ISI and the Pakistan military and let’s go recruit these mujahideen. And great, let them come from Saudi Arabia and other countries, importing their Wahabi brand of Islam so that we can go beat the Soviet Union.

How did this happen?

In his memoir published in 1996, the former CIA director Robert Gates made it clear that the American intelligence services began to aid the mujahidin guerrillas not after the Soviet invasion, but six months before it. In an interview two years later with Le Nouvel Observateur, President Carter’s national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski proudly confirmed Gates’s assertion. According to the official version of history,” Brzezinski said; “CIA aid to the mujahidin began during 1980, that’s to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan. But the reality, kept secret until now, is completely different: on 3 July 1979 President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And on the same day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained that in my opinion this aid would lead to a Soviet military intervention.”

George Crile, a renowned American journalist wrote Charlie Wilson’s War (best-selling book 2003), which tells the story of how the United States funded the only successful jihad in modern history, the CIA’s secret war in Afghanistan that gave the Soviet Union their own Vietnam. Congressman Charlie Wilson is best known for leading Congress into supporting Operation Cyclone, the largest-ever Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) covert operation under the Carter and Reagan administration. In his book Crile writes about Charlie Wilson; “He told Zia about his experience the previous year when the Israelis had shown him the vast stores of Soviet weapons they had captured from the PLO in Lebanon. The weapons were perfect for the Mujahideen, he told Zia. If Wilson could convince the CIA to buy them, would Zia have any problems passing them on to the Afghans? Zia, ever the pragmatist, smiled on the proposal, adding, “Just don’t put any Stars of David on the boxes” {Page 131-132}. 

Gen. Zia-Ul Haq, DG-ISI Akhtar Abdur Rahman, CIA Director William Casey, Prince Turki Bin Faisal (Director of Saudi General Intelligence) and Prince Bandar Bin Sultan (Saudi Ambassador at US) were the main architects behind creation of Taliban. Bin Laden was hired by Prince Turki Al Faisal in the late 70s to do the dirty work of Afghan Jihad. From the moment agency money and weapons started to flow to the mujahidin in late 1979, Saudi Arabia matched the U.S. payments dollar for dollar. They also bypassed the ISI and supplied funds directly to the groups in Afghanistan they favored, including the one led by their own pious young millionaire, Osama bin Laden. According to Milton Bearden (A former CIA Official, stationed in Pakistan during Zia’s regime); “private Saudi and Arab funding of up to $25 million a month flowed to Afghan Islamist armies since 1979. Pakistan trained approximately 16000 to 18000 fresh Muslim recruits on the Afghan frontier every year, with the help of various religious groups, funded by Saudis and CIA.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Steve Coll has written a book Ghost Wars, an inside story based on extensive firsthand accounts. What makes his book especially interesting is how he came to know what he claims to know. He has read everything on the Afghan insurgency and the civil wars that followed, and has been given access to the original manuscript of Robert Gates’s memoir (Gates was CIA director from 1991 to 1993), but his main source is some two hundred interviews conducted between the autumn of 2001 and the summer of 2003 with numerous CIA officials as well as politicians, military officers, and spies from all the countries involved except Russia. In his book, Coll has identified the culprits who created the monster. He writes; ‘’Carter, Brzezinski and their successors in the Reagan and first Bush administrations, including Gates, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Armitage, and Colin Powell, all bear some responsibility for the 1.8 million Afghan casualties, 2.6 million refugees, and 10 million unexploded land-mines that followed from their decisions. They must also share the blame for the blowback that struck New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. After all, al-Qaida was an organization they helped create and arm”. He also writes;The CIA’s director William Casey, knew next to nothing about Islamic fundamentalism or the grievances of Middle Eastern nations against Western imperialism. He saw political Islam and the Catholic Church as natural allies in the counter-strategy of covert action to thwart Soviet imperialism. The Muslim Brotherhood’s branch in Pakistan, the Jamaat-e-Islami, was strongly backed by the Pakistani army, and that Casey, more than any other American, was responsible for welding the alliance of the CIA, Saudi intelligence, and the army of General Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq, Pakistan’s military dictator from 1977 to 1988.” 

Gen. Zia formed an alliance with religious organizations in Pakistan, establishing Madrassas all over Punjab and NWFP to recruit the fighters. The religious leaders, saw it as an opportunity to press the military dictator and introduce sharia, the Islamic Law in Pakistan and Zia fully complied. Gen. Zia allowed CIA to establish the bases in Baluchistan to keep a check on Iran. He also supported the Saudi vision of creating a Sunni-Wahabi force of Mujahideen to counter Shia Islam of Iran. Brigadier. Muhammad Yusaf (Former Head of Afghan Bureau at ISI) came up with some interesting remarks in his book Silent Soldier: The Man Behind The Afghan Jihad. He writes; “General Zia and DG-ISI Akhtar Abdur Rahman had very cordial relations with CIA director William Casey. To offset that uncomfortable closeness with Americans, Zia and Akhtar were portrayed as holy warriors of Islam and modern day Saladins. According to one close associate of Akhtar, ‘They (Casey and Akhtar) worked together in harmony, and in an atmosphere of mutual trust’. The most interesting remarks about the death of CIA Director, William Casey were made by Brigadier Yusuf. He states that, “It was a great blow to the Jihad when Casey died”. He did not elaborate whether by this definition one should count Casey as Shaheed.

In 80s, when the ruling group was basking in the glory of unlimited gifts from around the world and flurry of foreign visitors (including military personnel, spies, arms dealers, journalists, academics, diplomats, aid workers), the myopic leadership never thought of a day when they will be running mad from one corner to another to try to avoid being declared as ‘rogue’ and ‘terrorist’ country.  They failed to recognize the limitations of relationship between two unequal partners.  They conveniently forgot that Kashmir and India were problems of Pakistan, not of US and there will be very limited if any support by US on this issue.

Even after the Soviet Union’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1988, the CIA continued to follow Pakistani initiatives, such as aiding Hekmatyar’s successor, Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban. What was the Pakistani initiative? According to Steve Coll; “Every Pakistani general, liberal or religious, believed in the jihadists by 1999, not from personal Islamic conviction, in most cases, but because the jihadists had proved themselves over many years as the one force able to frighten, flummox and bog down the Hindu-dominated Indian army. About a dozen Indian divisions had been tied up in Kashmir during the late 1990s to suppress a few thousand well-trained, paradise-seeking Islamist guerrillas. What more could Pakistan ask? The jihadist guerrillas were a more practical day-to-day strategic defense against Indian hegemony than even a nuclear bomb. To the west, in Afghanistan, the Taliban provided geopolitical” strategic depth” against India and protection from rebellion by Pakistan’s own restive Pashtun population.” Where is Common man in this picture and what about his welfare and security?

After Zia’s death, Benazir Bhutto took charge of the office as civilian Prime Minister. Pakistan’s military intelligence officers didn’t like Benazir Bhutto, but she supported Taliban in pursuit of Zia’s dream of loyal Pashtun-led Islamist government in Kabul. She formed the Afghan cell and assigned ISI Chief Gen. Hamid Gul, as in-charge. US ambassador regularly attended the Afghan cell meetings and Benazir Bhutto lied to American officials for two years about Pakistan’s aid to the Taliban, which she admitted in her interview to Steve Coll. Nawaz Shareef who succeeded Benazir as prime minister, was a creation of Gen. Zia and knew everything inside out. He had a special relationship with Saudis and he supported the Saudi vision of creating a force to counter the shia Islam of Iran and guard the Saudi interests in the region. Saudis in pursuit of dominance of the Wahabi ideology and their hatred for Iran, turned Pakistan into a battleground for sectarian wars. All post-Zia regimes supported Taliban, provided them financial aid and manpower till September 2001 when 9-11 happened. Gen, Musharraf, in his obedience to US, went even further and turned everything upside down after 9-11 incident. He created the dominant myth of “Pakistan First”, and turned the country into a frontline state once again, this time for US war against Al-Qaida. ‘Pakistan first’, sounds good enough but what about Pakistanis, their welfare and security, Mr. Musharraf?

Lt. Gen Shahid Aziz (Former Chief of General Staff, during Musharraf regime) In his live interviews on several media channels on 6th and 8th December 2009, has revealed that the Army as an institution was kept in complete dark about what was going on between Washington and Islamabad after 9 / 11 and on ‘war on terror’ deals. He said; “Gen Musharraf had also allowed the US drones to use the Pakistani airspace for intelligence sharing besides permitting the American intelligence agencies, the CIA and the FBI, to recruit their agents in the tribal belt of Pakistan. Despite strong opposition from the GHQ, Gen Musharraf granted this permission in the name of intelligence sharing. The same drones had then carried out strikes inside Pakistan, killing hundreds of people, including innocent women and children”. Lt Gen Shahid Aziz felt no hesitation to disclose that when initially consulted after 9/11, the top commanders had decided to stay out of the conflict. However, later because of compromises by Gen Musharraf, the Army was dragged in that odd situation. He also told the media that while Pakistan Army used to catch the targeted foreigners and locals, handing them over to the ISI for interrogation, they were passed on to the Americans without the knowledge of the Army. It caused a lot of resentment in the top echelons of the Pakistan Army when they found this was happening. Gen Musharraf kept the ISI engaged to collaborate with American CIA without the knowledge of other commanders.

And then some wonder where the terrorists are coming from? Professor Ghafoor Ahmed former head of JI said; “You pick four or five retired ISI generals and you will come to know who these terrorists are.” This monster has been created by our own myopic establishment which still continues its support to the terrorist organizations. In their obedience to US and Saudis, they have turned Pakistan into safe haven for religious extremists and terrorists. A country where elites are well protected in their bomb proof vehicles and houses guarded by security forces, while common man has become vulnerable to all sorts of terrorism, including sectarian killing and suicide bombing. A society where intellectuals look for low paid jobs but couldn’t find any, while leaders of extremist organizations, backed by establishment and politicians, travel in SUVs with protocols.

Asif Zardari succeeded Gen. Musharraf as president of Pakistan. After joining the office, the first thing he did was to Issue a moratorium for terrorists on death row. The ban expired on 30th June 2013 but death sentences were not carried out until the recent attack on Army Public School in Peshawar. On what moral or legal grounds, this moratorium was issued? Public as always, has been duped into believing the dominant myths and contradictory dogma. The questions, quite relevant to the situation but never asked. Are we really a free nation? What about the freedom, welfare and security of common man? Perhaps the ignorant people, unaware of their rights, deserves to be ruled by the least meritorious, taken hostage by the extremists and looked upon as rogue nation.

Human Rights Watch has conducted a systematic Investigation on History of Afghan War and Human rights violations during post Soviet Invasion era. The report was published in 2005 with the title; Blood-Stained Hands: Past Atrocities in Kabul and Afghanistan’s Legacy of Impunity. 

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CORRUPTION IN PAKISTAN

The Article has been published in Pakistan Today.

To be in harmony with a nefarious and unscrupulous system: this is not a plausible desideratum. It can be achieved only through disavowal of what surrounds us. Sadly, we are in complete harmony with our surroundings and ‘denial’ has become the most abundant renewable resource in our country. Denial of corruption being a nom rather than exception and the impunity of ruling elites from all sorts of accountability. Whatever could be legally gotten away with, is being tolerated through a passionate spinning of erroneous narrative, blaming someone for something and then everyone for everything. Repudiating our own contribution and moral inconsistencies, we are in a cognitive dissonance between political idealism and hard wired evolutionary psychology that sways man’s mind to be awed by the rich and powerful. We are overwhelmed with a presumptuous desire for being like them. Consequently we follow their footsteps.

We lie, cheat, intimidate and exploit others for personal gains. Those with particular advantages such as contacts and political connections are able to move more effectively within the system, trampling everyone else in their pursuit of happiness. Honesty and integrity are gone extinct. Morality requires authentication from some sort of superior authority. Ignorance gets celebrated and honored. As a result, we have insane idiots talking for us, while stealing everything from us. We are being lied to, cheated and intimidated. The three branches of control which includes government, establishment and bureaucracy. We are told that we are directing this insane three ring circus, an illusion that keeps us voting for a change that never comes. Voting simply placates, pacifies and preserves the illusion of choice, while transferring the guilt and responsibility onto the people. Until the reality impacts us to a point of extreme discomfort, we defend our fantasy of a benevolent government, run by altruistic public servants and true representatives of people.

It is the paradoxical nature of our co-creative ‘reality consensus’, which makes it nearly impossible to discuss the current conditions we’re existing within, without sounding insane, to the majority of dumbed down and trance induced people, who aren’t firing on all cylinders. The fact is, that we never had the choice to decide who will run the system and how. Initially it was British trained bureaucracy then dictatorship and eventually a civilian, chosen and promoted by the dictator. People were given the right to choose for the first time in 1970 and the results created serious problems. Out of 320 seats, 160 were won by a party belonging to East Pakistan, but the government was formed by a party winning 80 seats in West Pakistan. And then we blame external interference for 1971 incident. The only lesson learned by the powers behind the scene was, that people should not be allowed to choose, rather given an illusion of choice.

In retrospect, Pakistan has always been the case of elite adjustment and plutocracy. One administration got replaced by the other, while plunderers and blunderers came out with clean chit every time. Politicians and dictators have always been each other’s creation. Ayub Khan created Bhutto who then created Zia Ul Haq. Zia created Sharif brothers who in turn created Pervez Musharraf, who then created Chaudhary’s of Gujrat and few others. Creations had their differences with creators, but things remained strictly within the closed loop, revolving door politics of too much blame but no accountability. Everyone having dirty hands is ostensibly the reason. The ruling class, particularly the military and civil bureaucracy has no religion, caste, ethnicity or tribe, instead they have vested Interests that promotes the unsustainable plundering of social surplus.

This process of theft is unsustainable and it has severely limited qualitative development in exploited masses. A reality often disavowed, as we are in a comfortable complacency and not willing to face it. But the fact remains that we, have adapted to this unscrupulous paradigm, instead of resisting it. The latest report by Transparency International ranked Pakistan among the top most countries where corruption has gone rampant. We are moving on a path towards self-immolation without even realizing it, and will find ourselves in the dustbin of history in less than a century.

The question is, are we really aware of what’s actually going on in the country? How the oligarchs, schooled in the mechanisms of manipulation, subtle and overt repression and exploitation to protect their wealth and power at the expense of common man, are suppressing the qualitative development in exploited masses? Let’s have a look;

Professor Anatol Lieven of King’s College in his book Pakistan: A Hard Country quoted Dr. Mahbub ul-Haq (the renowned Pakistani economist who is credited with the idea of UNDP’s human development index –HDI); “every time a new political government comes in, they have to distribute huge amounts of state money and jobs as rewards to politicians who have supported them, and short term populist measures to try to convince the people that their election promises meant something, which leaves nothing for long-term development. As far as development is concerned, our system has all the worst features of oligarchy and democracy put together.” 

Dr. Mahbub also said; “we have not been able to deregulate the economy, despite several years of trying, because the politicians and officials both like the system, Bhutto put in place. It suits them both very well, because it gave them lots of lucrative state-sponsored jobs in industry and banking to take for themselves or distribute to their relatives and supporters.”

Individuals belonging to the exclusive elite club, obtain loans to set up businesses and have their loans written off to get more. Loans waived off in Pakistan are far greater than anywhere else in the world. For the first time in history of Pakistan, a major crackdown was launched against the loan defaulters in November 1999 and government estimated the default amount at around PKR. 146 Billion. According to the figures provided by Governor SBP, Mukhtar Nabi Qureshi, 325 defaulters owe more than PKR. 100 million each amounting to PKR. 72 billion. About 590 legislators were defaulters of PKR. 9.64 billion, mostly of Agricultural Development Bank of Pakistan (ADBP). National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was entrusted to recover the loans from the defaulters but only 3% of the default amount was recovered during the campaign. Remaining 97% left unrecovered due to compromises, nepotism, deals and negotiations.

Lt Gen Shahid Aziz, a former Chairman NAB, while speaking to news media (referring to 6th & 8th Dec 2009) after expiry of two year’s mandatory period that prevented him to discuss service matters, said; “I was appointed as the NAB chairman with a pre-condition that I would not open old cases against politicians and other prominent people and was pressurized into formally closing down cases against politicians supporting Gen Musharraf. I was told repeatedly not to create problems and not to destabilize the government, otherwise the system would collapse. They (the president and his team) gave a strange logic that corruption and economic development goes hand in hand”. He quoted Lt Gen Khalid Maqbool, a former NAB Chairman, as saying while trying to convince him that: “If you stop corruption, there will be no development. If ministers and politicians are not given personal benefits in contracts, why would they pursue development schemes? They have to be given personal incentives such as awarding contracts to their sons and kinship.” Try to read the mindset of Oligarchy.

Ten years later, the loan defaulter’s list was placed before the Supreme Court but deferred because Shareef family was also among the defaulters and CJP Iftikhar Chaudhary, being the part of their feudal legion, had to protect them. Instead of taking action, he ordered constituting a commission for loan recovery. Till today, not a single loan has been recovered, not a single property confiscated and not a single man is jailed or convicted. In Pakistan it is very old and tested technique that if the government or the court wants to thin out some issue or to detract people’s attention, or to make the fools forget corruption; make out a commission or committee. The poor people having short memory will forget everything including the fact that Pakistan owes approximately $ 65 billion to IMF, its people owe $ 75 billion as internal debt and the current government has signed another $ 35 billion as external debt from China. They will not even remember that London financial market indicators have already contemplated a default-like scenario for Pakistan recently.

It is an open secret that over the past few decades, Pakistan’s ruling elite has transferred huge amounts of money to Swiss and other banks. This money, generated through illegal activities by rapacious politicians, avaricious bureaucrats, terrorist and drug-for-arms networks and greedy businessmen, was never declared for tax purposes. Pakistan’s black economy is said to be three times its regular economy. In 1996, a lawyer Javed Iqbal Jafree filed a petition against political leaders holding assets abroad and requested the court to issue notices named in the petition. The petitioner alleged that the respondent politicians transferred at least 300 billion US dollars to foreign countries through money laundering. He said by doing this the politicians caused a huge loss to the national exchequer. Subsequently, court notices were issued but for lack of any follow-up measures, the case has remained pending.

On October 1, 2010, the Swiss Parliament passed the historic “Return of Illicit Assets Act” (RIAA) to make it possible for developing countries to recover billions of dollars shifted to Swiss banks by their unscrupulous ruling elites. In October 2011, then Senator Muhammad Ali Durrani filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court for the recovery of about “500 billion dollars looted from Pakistan and kept abroad in unnamed bank accounts in the West and also in the shape of unnamed properties operated through agents and the front-men for the corrupt Pakistani politicians, civil and military bureaucrats and businessmen. Once again no serious action taken by courts and no serious attempts have been ever made by the NAB, FBR, FIA, Anti-Narcotics Force and other government agencies to conduct an in-depth study to quantify the magnitude of black money and the amounts shifted abroad.

It is to be noted that Pakistan is a resource rich country and its natural resources including Gold, Copper and Concrete at Riko Diq alone are estimated at a value of around $300 billion. Who is extracting these resources and who is benefiting from the deals? BHP Billiton initially signed the exploration license with the Balochistan government in 1993, forming Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) later in Australia, having 75 per cent and 25 per cent stake respectively. With gold and copper established in substantial quantity, BHP sold its stake, 37.5 per cent each to the Chilean conglomerate, Antofagasta Minerals and Canadian company Barrick Gold. Why the agreement was signed so secretly and not debated with people? Who gave the waiver to BHP Billiton to transfer its 75 per cent share in the TCC? Was the agreement in accordance to the local laws? Apparently not, because when PPP government was trying to renew the agreement with TCC, a three-judge bench of Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry gave its ruling that the agreement of July 1993 was in conflict with the laws of the country. TCC then filed compensatory claims in the international arbitration court.

Interestingly, soon after the change of government, Iftikhar Chaudhary got his son Arsalan Chaudhary, appointed as vice-chairman of the Balochistan Investment Board and this appointment was Reko Diq-specific. Spokesperson of PML(N) Mushahidullah Khan defended this appointment, stating it as a reward for Iftikhar Chaudhry’s services to the nation. Services to the nation or services for Sharif Family? Arsalan Iftikhar later announced an open global tender for Riko Diq, attracting widespread criticism, and was forced to resign. Meanwhile Arsalan also got involved in a scandal with Malik Riaz and both parties were found guilty of massive tax evasion. Surprisingly no action was taken against either of the two. Malik Riaz Hussain, a former military contractor, turned billionaire within a short span, has been involved in quite a few controversies. A former Chairman NAB in his interview to Dawn on 8th Dec 2009 pointed out that once Gen Musharraf personally called him and said; “drop the name of Malik Riaz Hussain from the exit control list. As President of Pakistan, I give my personal guarantee that he would not run away. Isn’t a personal guarantee of the President of Pakistan sufficient to satisfy you?” Malik Riaz was one of prime accused in a multi-million-forest land scam and his name was subsequently removed from ECL. Ironically, the jails of our country are filled with petty thieves and poor people under long pre-trial detentions, while the robber barons are getting saluted and honored for their atrocities and malfeasance.

Currently, the PML (N) Government is trying to get an out-of-court settlement with TCC on Riko Diq, in an attempt to plunder whatever they can, just like its predecessor, the PPP government. As usual the oligarchs are doing their dirty work, all in the name of people, while people are being kept occupied with the dominant myths like Indian threat, Kashmir’s liberation, Islamization vs secularization, war against terrorism and democracy vs dictatorship.

The three ring circus has always been backed by various elite groups. Whether it was the stock market barons minting money from an artificially stable economy and a fictitious boom during Musharraf’s regime, whether it was real estate barons and commodity speculators making fortunes during Zardari’s era, all followed the same pattern of defending each other’s plunders and blunders. The current regime of PML (N) is on its way to break all the previous records of corruption. What trickles down is being grabbed by the opportunists such as political activists, bureaucrats, contractors, media anchors, journalists, members of academia and civil society, lawyers and businessmen, leaving 99 percent of the population deprived, clueless and completely out of the picture.

A question that is never asked. What are we paying them for?

As Lawrence Ferlinghetti said; “Pity the nation that raises not its voice, except to praise conquerors and acclaim the bully as hero … pity the people who allow their rights to erode and their freedoms to be washed away.”

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