STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

I am stepping away from my routine of once a week post. There is a reason. Through a massive manipulation the entire process of Accountability is under threat of being derailed. Our nearly 3 decades of focus for a clean Pakistan is about to be dismantled.

What is at stake here?
The Pakistani elite, especially the political cadre have never been challenged or held accountable in over 70 years of existence. They have been beneficiaries of largesse of international donors, looting and stealing large sums with only a trickle making its way as highways and Metros. In connivance with the bureaucracy they have stolen from the State, tailored the laws and system of governance to entirely benefit the chosen few who can be termed as ruling elite. Awam can go to hell.

I am not making these assertions lightly or as an emotional outburst. System of Pakistan’s governance can be broadly split between pre and post Panama eras. Through Divine intervention for the first time the Establishment, Judiciary, a section of Political leadership, an incorruptible segment of Media all came together to end this loot sale of Pakistan.

For the first time head of National Accountability Bureau, appointed by PML(N) and PPP took up the
cudgels and started across the board accountability. A first in Pakistan. The challenges were huge. The whole organization was rusty, packed with compromised lackeys of corrupt regime. Anemic prosecution capability. Investigators compiled weak references that could not stand judicial scrutiny. Judges, few in
number, are inundated with thousands of references.

Against all these odds, Justice (Retd.) Javaid Iqbal took up the challenge. Facing unbelievable pressures exercised by entrenched beneficiaries who had built fortunes of Billions. He diligently endeavored to put the NAB’s house in order. NAB has made substantial progress in tightening the noose around criminals who looted the exchequer posturing as popular political leaders. Nawaz Sharif is incarcerated. Maryam Nawaz convicted, released on bail by an Ifitkhar Choudhry’s prodigy. Shahbaz Sharif, Ishaq Dar, Salman Shahbaz and many of their co-accused have fled the country. Asif Zardari, his sister and partner in crime Faryal Talpur have jail staring them in the face. Some of their front men have been rounded up locally and from overseas. Some of their mules like dollar girl Ayyan Ali have fled the country.

The list of suspects crosses all party lines. Some under investigation, some already charged. Despite all challenges faced by NAB identified by the chief in his press conference, the process was gathering a momentum. An independent, autonomous organization has its advantages but also some serious drawbacks. They are vulnerable to vicious attempts of abuse, manipulation and even blackmail. They lack protection umbrella against such attacks.

This is exactly what has happened in the last few days. Powerful, well heeled lobbies having billions at stake, their heirs who were to run the political future of Pakistan also in danger were getting desperate. They adopted the tool deployed by Mafias around the globe. Blackmail through honey trap. PML(N) and PPP social media is working overtime to project an audio and video that has little or no substance.

We as Pakistanis have one thing in common. We exercise two sets of values. One system that governs our own personal behavior, and the second by which we judge others. What is the substance of videos making the rounds? At worst a tired, overworked, extremely pressured executive having a mildly explicit conversation.

Who are the perpetuators? The news was first broadcast on TV One. A private channel owned by Tahir A Khan who sits in the Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Secretariat. I have known him for a while. Last I met him there late last year at the Secretariat. He introduced himself as Advisor to PM on Special Projects. Quite honestly I was surprised. What are kind of people IK is surrounding himself with?

I met Tahir A Khan for the first time with Imran Khan at the residence of one IK’s friend. This was in the early days of PTI. He had tons of experience as owner of media channel and a leading advertiser. He was bubbling with ideas and strategies. In the mid nineties he felt IK was the last hope of Pakistan. I felt he was a lot air. But as those who know IK will concur, maybe privately, when he is impressed he is totally impressed. Subsequently his support during the 97 elections left much to be desired.

Being a man of all seasons, in our next encounter in 2002 he stated that IK was the worst thing that happened to Pakistan. I was confused but not for long. By then he had endeared himself to President Pervez Musharraf. After benefitting fully he bailed out in a hurry after his departure.

His next stop was Asif Ali Zardari, though under a camouflage. Apparently his visits to Presidency during that period were under assumed names. This survivor must have re-entered the domain of PTI to end up as Advisor to PM. But a snake’s friendship only has one result. It bites. That is what he has done to IK. His proximity to PM is giving opportunity to detractors to point fingers at him. Prime Minister is sworn to continue the process accountability. This is nothing short of a stab in the back. I hope IK learns from this lesson and as I have repeatedly said, he needs to clean up his stables.

As I stated in my last post, the citadels of power are rotten from top to bottom. The female used in this blackmail attempt and her husband are hardened criminals. They have backing of law enforcement officers in high places. Investigative journalists on social media have laid bare their multi faceted criminal enterprises. Zardari’s statement after a NAB appearance and PML(N)’s reactions demonstrate their involvement.

My message to Justice (Retd) Javaid Iqbal. Please don’t lose heart and your commitment. Your role for Pakistan will be remembered in history as man who changed the nation’s direction from a totally corrupt society to one changing it course to fair play. USA has had tons of FBI Directors. Everyone remembers J. Edgar Hoover. May Allah watch over you and your efforts.

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