One of the greatest blunders of recent Pakistani history, the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), universally believed to be the initiative of Gen Musharraf, was actually the brainchild (and drafted by) his most trusted military aide. This man’s brother was already doing business in Dubai with Zardari’s half-brother Muzaffar Tappi.
This Ordinance extended blank amnesty to politicians, political workers and bureaucrats accused of corruption, embezzlement, money laundering, murder and other criminal acts from being convicted and sent to jail. Ostensibly, the NRO was meant to bring political stability to Pakistan. Exaggerated intelligence reports about Musharraf’s declining popularity bluffed him into promulgating the NRO to save himself. We are the only country in history to legitimize corruption.
Having cleverly coerced Musharraf from the seat of real power by swearing his undying loyalty, his trusted “aide” became “neutral”, replacing his mentor with someone that he could “manage” because of his having plenty of well-documented illegal baggage. We could not imagine Asif Zardari as the President even in our worst nightmares.
The judicial record says that the NRO was declared null and void in December 2009 by the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan with all cases against the NRO beneficiaries reinstated, all 248 pardoned criminals were barred from leaving the country. Why this fizzled out and still remains so is a judicial mystery. How can such people be allowed into any position of responsibility in politics or administration? Why is the Supreme Court conveniently looking the other way “constitutionally”? Those who were pardoned for their guilt began making money again while increasing their hold on power. Going after a proven culprit, with power and money giving him or her inordinate media control, takes guts and readiness to face the blow-back and who wants to leave this comfort zone? The crooks of the world find safe and secure tax havens in countries like Great Britain, the biggest scoundrels live in and around or near Hyde Park in Central London, mixing with the elite who look the other way. Stolen, untaxed and corruption money is most welcome as the British economy thrives on it. Ukraine has made Russian money, once received with fanfare with the Russian oligarchs revelling among the elite in London, suddenly “illegal”.
Consider the case study of one of the families consisting of five members from a larger corrupt to the core family group during the period 2005-2015. Records show this faction of the family alone received 226 TTs worth Rs 159.7 crores in their accounts in Lahore with Bank Alfalah (Circular Road Branch and Badami Bagh Branch), Silk Bank (Main Branch, Circular Road Branch and Gulberg CIBC) and Faysal Bank (NGT Branch and Main Blvd Branch). The TTs were remitted by different money changers of UK and UAE under fake identities; this is well documented. And who were those who facilitated the internal remittances? Muhammad Irfan (US$ 165962), Roidar Khan (US$ 45950), Syed Dinar Ali Shah (US$ 99000) and Imran Faiz (US$ 157880). A money exchange company in Lahore arranged 24 fake foreign remittances of US$ 24.30 million to these accounts by “ghost remitters”. Ghost remitters included Ghulam Rasool (US$ 159960), Mohammad Kamal (US$ 139980), Muhammad Shakoor (US$ 137440), Muhammad Aurangzeb (US$ 69960), Ghulam Ghous (US$ 663560), Mohammad Kashif (US$ 399860), etc. and the list goes on and on.
In fact, a different set of 9 individuals deposited Rs. 51.52 crores from a benami account. What action have the banks and/or the FIA taken against those banking officials down the line who facilitated fake accounts and money-laundering? And SBP against the banks who countenanced this crime? Can our intelligence agencies guarantee that these will not be used to give extremists protection money by our politicians? That our soldiers becoming “Shaheed” in faraway places are not the indirect victims of such funds?
The Nuremberg trials in 1946 after World War II concentrated on whether those obeying an order by a superior in the chain of command are exempted from responsibility for the act. Incidentally, during “Operation Valkyrie” on July 20, 1944, the plan to overthrow Hitler very quickly came to grief. Before the night was over, war decorated officers were lined up against the wall in the courtyard without trial and shot using the vehicles’ headlights. Even suspects were executed over the next few weeks, amongst them was Field Marshal Erwin Rommel who was one of the outstanding German generals of the war. To save his family, this war hero was allowed to commit suicide by taking cyanide capsules. The Nazis under trial contended they knew Hitler’s orders were unlawful, but their place was not to question but to obey.
However, Nuremberg Principle IV stated in the verdict, “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him”. Morality is the principal catchword. When interpreting any law, the spirit of the law must take precedence over the wording.
Most of our political leaders having benefitted from the NRO are subsequently declared illegal by the SC; where is the moral conscience that allows them not only into the political space, but possibly taking over the country’s governance to make more money? Lacking the fear of being apprehended gives new meaning to “morality” and thereupon “misplaced loyalty” rampant in our institutions; loyalty to an individual over that to the institution and the state.
With the security and existence of the state in danger, extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. A threat to the state from a failing political system is certainly such an exceptional situation! Article 245 of the constitution reads, “The Armed Forces shall, under the directions of the Federal Government, defend Pakistan against external aggression or threat of war, and, subject to law, act in aid of civil power when called upon to do so”, and any direction will not be called in question in any court. For instance in 2014, in the former Tribal Areas, was Article 245 used when combat was required to overcome the internal danger posed by the TTP to the state’s existence? While the Armed Forces sacrificed the lives of many of their own as they are doing now, we were forced to condone and accept civilian collateral damage because, law or no law, the terrorists (or whoever) putting the existence of the state in danger had to be wiped out. What about Article 245 when the political system is close to being overwhelmed by the corrupt? What happens to Pakistan with the foxes in charge of the hen house? Ask this question from the man in the street without illegal money white washing the truth!