NationalVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 5

A dirty and corrupt ruling elite

Pakistan has a dirty and corrupt ruling elite that is pushing the country towards failure through its mega corruption, moral degradation and unpatriotic practices. Unfortunately, the ruling elite uses the flawed legal, social and political systems to protect itself. In fact, laws, social and economic policies are made just to control poor and helpless people and enhance the power of the ruling elite in Pakistan.

Many times, the media has exposed the ruling elite’s corruption, immorality and criminal activities but there is no institution and person who can challenge its power and authority. This time, the Pandora Papers, investigative research into the financial holdings of high-profile figures around the world released on Oct 3, 2021, by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), have unmasked 700 Pakistanis, who have their offshore companies, trusts and accounts holding millions of dollars of hidden wealth.

Those named include ministers, cabinet members, politicians, businessmen, bankers, media moguls and relatives of army officers. In short, members spanning the entire Pakistani ruling elite have been named in the Pandora Papers.

The ICIJ has not yet released complete data. However, so far, the following names of Pakistani individuals in the Pandora Papers have been revealed:

Politicians or politically exposed persons: Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin and his family; Minister for Water Resources Moonis Elahi; ex-federal minister and Senator Faisal Vawda; son of PM’s former adviser on finance and revenue Waqar Masood Khan, Abdullah Masood Khan; family of Minister for Industries and Production Khusro Bakhtiyar; PTI leader Abdul Aleem Khan; PPP’s Sharjeel Memon; PML-N Senator Ishaq Dar’s son Ali Dar; PTI donor Arif Naqvi; PTI donor Tariq Shafi; wife of PML-Q boss Chaudhry Pervez Elahi; former FBR chairman and finance secretary Salman Siddiq’s son Yawar Salman. Army officers or their family members include: wife of retired Lt Gen Shafaat Ullah Shah; Raja Nadir Pervez, retired army officer and former minister; retired Maj Gen Nusrat Naeem, former ISI director general of counterintelligence; Umar and Ahad Khattak, sons of former Pakistan Air Force chief Abbas Khattak; retired Lt Gen Habibullah Khan Khattak’s daughter Shahnaz Sajjad Ahmad (also the sister of retired Lt Gen Ali Kuli Khan and sister-in-law of former federal minister Gohar Ayub Khan); retired Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal Muzaffar’s son Muhammad Hasan Muzaffar; retired Lt Gen Khalid Maqbool’s son-in-law Ahsan Latif; retired Lt Gen Tanvir Tahir’s wife Zahra Tanvir.

Business personalities include: Axact CEO Shoaib Sheikh; former National Bank of Pakistan President Arif Usmani; National Investment Trust Managing Director Adnan Afridi; Peshawar Zalmi owner and renowned industrialist Javed Afridi. Media moguls include: Jang Group publisher Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman; Dawn Media Group CEO Hameed Haroon; Express Media Group publisher Sultan Ahmed Lakhani; Pakistan Today publisher (late) Arif Nizami; Gourmet Group, which also owns the GNN TV channel.

Under the law, establishing an offshore company is not a crime if it is not involved in any illegal activity, like terror financing, money laundering and tax evasion. However, the company becomes illegal if it is not declared to the election authorities.

After the report, Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted: “We welcome the Pandora Papers exposing the ill-gotten wealth of elites, accumulated through tax evasion and corruption and laundered out to financial havens. My government will investigate all our citizens mentioned in the Pandora Papers and if any wrongdoing is established we will take appropriate action. I call on the international community to treat this grave injustice as similar to the climate change crisis.”

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry announced that the PM had established a “high-level cell” to investigate the Pakistani individuals named in the Pandora Papers. In a tweet, Fawad Chaudhry said, “The investigation cell, formed under the Prime Minister’s Inspection Commission, would question all individuals that are part of Pandora Leaks and facts will be placed before the nation.” Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib said that the cell would determine whether public office holders had declared their foreign assets. “If not, a corruption case will be referred to the National Accountability Bureau. In case of money laundering, the case will go to the Federal Investigation Agency,” he said.

Unfortunately, Imran Khan has forgotten all his promises for creating a corruption-free country. He should have removed Shaukat Tarin, Moonis Elahi and Khusro Bakhtiyar from their ministries till the inquiry is completed. But he has not taken the step just for political reasons. It is a fact that in the Panama Papers, only Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was removed from his position while no action was taken against other members of the ruling elite who were named in the leaks.

During Imran Khan’s government, many commissions and committees against sugar, wheat and medicine scandals were formed but they all failed to provide justice to the people of Pakistan.

In this case too, the “high-level cell” will not investigate honestly. Rather, it will try to save the ruling elite’s corruption. The media has already stopped highlighting the scandal to save the owners of some media houses. Therefore, it can be asserted that no one can challenge the corrupt ruling elite in Pakistan. It is allowed to indulge in any immoral activity without any hesitation. Opposition leader Zubair Umar’s example can also be cited in this regard. His video has already been accepted as fake without any investigation and no action has been taken against him. Rather, Maryam Nawaz, the PML-N leader, has declared: “Zubair Umar is and will remain my spokesperson”. Without any shame and fear of accountability, Zubair Umar is involved in politics in Pakistan. And, being a member of the ruling elite, no one can challenge him.