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Corruption and Politics

The government has once again interfered in the SC’s efforts to force the investigation of the Rs5 billion NICL scam by suspending FIA official, Zafar Qureshi, within 72 hours of his reinstatement.

The government has once again interfered in the Supreme Court’s efforts to force the investigation of the Rs5 billion National Insurance Corporation Limited (NICL) scam by suspending Additional Director General FIA, Zafar Qureshi, within 72 hours of his reinstatement, giving the reason of talking to media without any authority. Earlier, Qureshi had been brought back to head the investigations when the Supreme Court, on July 1, cancelled his transfer orders and forced the government to reassign the multi-billion rupee NICL scam to him. The Supreme Court had also directed the Director General FIA, to provide full assistance to Qureshi in completing the investigation. However, within 24 hours of Qureshi’s assuming his old assignment, he was removed for talking to the media.

In a move to counter development in the NICL case, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, PML-Q leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Senior Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi met and the PM suspended Zafar Qureshi who is investigating Moonis Elahi, the Pervaiz Elahi’s son; Qadir Gilani, the premier’s son and Commerce Minister Amin Fahim for their involvement in the scam. Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani issued the suspension order after the meeting.

While the present regime has never paid heed to misconduct by government officials, Qureshi is the first victim of misconduct, that too on an allegation that could never be proved in black and white.

It is feared that if these people are punished, the present coalition will fail to complete its term in office. This approach proves without any doubt that the PPP-PML-Q alliance is a marriage of convenience. Qureshi was deputed by the SC to investigate a case, which would decide the fate of the PPP government since it was because of the NICL case that the Pakistan Muslim League-Q and PPP formed a coalition to bail out Moonis Elahi. The case was of particular importance to the ruling PPP for two reasons. Firstly, it involved Moonis Elahi, the son of Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi whose party, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid’s support is critical for the government after the withdrawal of MQM backing. Secondly, the executive appears in no mood to accept the precedence of the judiciary directing it on how to run its affairs. However, Moonis Elahi is of the opinion that political rivalry is the major reason behind his case.

Consequently on July 2, an Establishment Division enquiry was launched against Zafar Qureshi on the plea of talking to media. His reply was not considered satisfactory by the concerned authorities. Qureshi might face the possibility of being dismissed from service for violating the provisions of the Government Servants (Efficiency and Discipline) Rules 1973.

As the SC ordered the government to again make Qureshi the investigation officer of the NICL probe, the government expelled four FIA officials, who had assisted him in the investigation, from the Punjab and posted them in far-flung areas. While cancelling the notification, after observing patience for a long time, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had stated that the government should not have removed an honest officer from the investigation. He said the officer had recovered Rs1.75 billion from the swindlers and this was a record recovery in any criminal case. Legal experts are of the opinion that Qureshi’s suspension is a clear case of contempt of the Supreme Court, an unparalleled defiance to its order and intensification of confrontation between the state institutions.

However, only the ‘competent authority’ (prime minister) is authorised to approve the suspension of an officer of his rank and that while the ministry was only doing procedural matter like issuing notices and formal suspension orders. Another grade-22 officer, Shafqat Naghmi has been appointed the enquiry officer in this case and his appointment could well prove a harbinger of things to come.

Qureshi was forcefully awaken from sleep at around 2:30am and was served a notice, asking him to explain his position on the allegation that a news run on TV channels that he wrote a letter to the Director General FIA, asking for the return of four FIA officers who were transferred. It has been reported in the press that a minister summoned Zafar Qureshi and gave him four options: leave the country immediately; go on a long leave; tell the Supreme Court in writing that you cannot continue with the NICL investigation for personal reasons; and, if all the three are not possible, then bail out Moonis Elahi. However, Qureshi categorically told the minister that neither would he go abroad or on a long leave, nor would he write to the Supreme Court and that he would complete the process of investigations impartially, independently and according to law.

While the present government has never paid any heed to misconduct by government officials in its tenure, Qureshi is the first victim of misconduct, that too on an allegation that could never be proved in black and white. On the other hand, blue-eyed bureaucrats continue to enjoy lucrative posts with documentary evidences of misconduct in their files. The job of the government is to facilitate and respect the SC’s decisions. The single-point agenda of completing its term in office has driven the government from one compromise to the next and from one clash with other institutions to another. Qureshi`s suspension may temporarily give some relief to the Chaudhrys, but is sure to invite the attention of the Supreme Court, which has been trying to create the space for Qureshi to complete his investigation. Surely, there must come a time when enough is enough, when some kind of order has to be restored. Of what use is a government which clings to power at the cost of much that is good and right? In India a government and opposition alliance has been formed against corruption, whereas in our country there is always protection to the corrupt government officials. Pakistan’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), out of 178 countries, jumped from 42 in 2009 to 34 in 2010.

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