Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Missing Pic

According to DealBreaker.Com this picture was, until very recently, displayed on the Faysal Bank website but has all of a sudden been removed.

It shows Faysal's CEO Farook Bengali (on the left) and the now notorious Ajaz Rahim (on the right), who was once the bank's Country Head of Investment Banking.

Rumours abounding in the local banking circles suggest that Ajaz Rahim will not be the only bank executive from Pakistan to face insider trading charges in the US.


Anonymous said...

Book on military’s business empire launched

By Raja Asghar

ISLAMABAD, May 31: A book putting a critical spotlight on the military’s business nooks was launched from a virtual sanctuary on Thursday and some high-profile political reviewers seized upon it to denounce the army’s role in Pakistani politics.

The launching of the book, Military Inc: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy, by Dr Ayesha Siddiqa, a military analyst, was due to have taken place at the capital’s elitist Islamabad Club.

But the author told a surprised audience that not only the club cancelled the booking of its auditorium, “all hotels in Islamabad were also told” by unspecified authorities not to allow the use of their halls for this, forcing the organisers to find a sanctuary at a third-floor room provided by a non-governmental organisation.

PPP’s legal star Aitzaz Ahsan said the time had come to stand up against the military dominance while PML-N Information Secretary Ahsan Iqbal accused Pakistan army generals of not learning a lesson from other countries that said goodbye to military rule.

But some other speakers had a dig also at politicians for doing little to keep the military in check while being in power and at times celebrating the ouster of their rivals.

Mr Aitzaz Ahsan said the expose of Ayesha, who puts the net worth of the army’s commercial empire at Rs200 billion, had come at a “defining moment” in Pakistan’s history following President Pervez Musharraf’s controversial charge-sheeting and suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.

He narrated what he called the military’s moves in the past to convert Pakistan into a national security state contrary to the Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s vision of a welfare state and to forge an alliance with mullahs in search of an ideological justification for this, but said he thought now “a watershed has come”.

Mr Ashan, who heads Justice Iftikhar’s legal team, saw “a turning point” in the March 9 presidential action against the chief justice that plunged the country into a judicial crisis and said: “We must grasp it.”

Cheers went up in the congested premises of the NGO Leadership for Environment and Development as Mr Ahsan referred to what he called an unexpected “no” by the chief justice to the president’s demand for his resignation and, in a reference to the nationwide protest movement by lawyers, opposition political activists and the civil society, said: “The spillway of the Tarbela Dam has opened now.”

He said although the chief justice would not speak about the presidential reference pending before the five-judge Supreme Judicial Council or his challenge to the reference before a 13-judge bench of the Supreme Court, it was out of compulsion that an affidavit was filed on his behalf on Tuesday about what happened to him during his March 9 meeting with the president and for some days afterwards.

“We were compelled to file that affidavit,” Mr Ahsan said, citing comments made by President Musharraf about the case as the reason.

Mr Iqbal rejected as a myth usual accusations holding politicians responsible for four military coups in Pakistan’s history and put the blame on what he called ambitions of army chiefs who toppled civilian governments from General Mohammad Ayub Khan, who later became field marshal, to General Musharraf.

Comparing the ills of military interventions in politics to what cancer does to human body, he said Ayub Khan struck in October 1958 to pre-empt scheduled elections next year, while General Yahya Khan snatched power from him in 1969 at “virtual gunpoint” to prevent a handover to a National Assembly Speaker from then East Pakistan in the midst of a national democratic movement.

General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq, he recalled, seized power on June 5, 1977 a day after then prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the opposition Pakistan National Alliance had agreed to hold fresh elections. He said Pakistan faced no bankruptcy despite international sanctions for its 1998 nuclear tests and “everything was normal” when General Musharraf, after being sacked, toppled then prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Oct 12, 1999.

Mr Zafar Abbas, resident editor of Dawn, Islamabad, and Dr Farrukh Saleem, also complimented the 292-page book published by the Oxford University Press.

It speaks about the role of the military power in transforming the Pakistani society, armed forces becoming an independent class entrenched in the corporate sector and their five giant welfare foundations, or conglomerates, running thousands of businesses ranging from petrol pumps to industrial plants.

Anonymous said...

"Hum Dekhain Gey
Lazim ha kay
Hum Dekhain Gey"

Aik dhakka aur, one push more

By Ayaz Amir

THE army is worried that it is being maligned in the current agitation. It should be worried. Slogans raised against it have never been heard in Punjab, the army’s heartland, before. Gen Musharraf addressed the officers of the Jhelum garrison on Wednesday. From the newspaper pictures available, the assembled officers, especially the senior-most in the front row, looked pretty glum. What was on their minds?

But who is bringing the army into disrepute? Lawyers, columnists, street riff-raff or the army itself? When the army involves itself in politics, when its chief wants to stick to power regardless of the consequences, when he patronises an organisation such as the MQM, the army, willy-nilly, comes into the firing line of public opinion.

Lawyers are not bringing a bad name to the army. The army high command is. What does the nation want? What is the cry coming from the depths of its soul? The supremacy of the law and the Constitution. The army will earn respect to the extent it remains faithful to its charter of defending the nation’s frontiers. It will lose it when it loses its way.

For 60 years the nation has fed and sustained the army not to fight New Zealand, Uzbekistan or the Republic of South Africa but to stand up to Indian hegemony. This army-led government has grovelled before India. What is then left of its raison d’etre?

But the central issue in this agitation is somewhat different: nothing less than the country’s future. As Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim has pithily put it before the Supreme Court, “Time has come to say goodbye to the gun, and if not, then say goodbye to the Constitution.” The gun or the Constitution, once and for all let this be decided. What is Pakistan to be –– a banana republic or a self-respecting democracy? Who is to exercise sovereignty in it –– Parliament or Triple One Brigade?

Two dates will stand out in our history: March 9 when Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry stood up to military diktat, thereby setting in motion the chain of events which constitute the present movement; May 12 when the emperor appeared without his clothes, the spiritual kinship between him and the MQM revealed to the naked eye.

But even dark clouds have silver linings and the silver lining in the present situation is that Karachi’s dominant party took a step too far on May 12, over-reaching itself and thus inviting a bitter backlash and now retribution.

On the morning of May 12 I was at the Tibet Centre where the MQM was holding its so-called rally, standing next to Nasreen Jalil, Karachi’s deputy mayor, and Babar Khan Ghouri, MQM federal minister. Having witnessed how the MQM had barricaded the entire city---no one needing binoculars to see what was going on---I told them that they were not realising the consequences of what they were was up to (and this was before word had come that people were being killed). Nasreen represents the more moderate, presentable face of the MQM. I told her that when evening came, as it surely would, the responsibility of the day’s events would rest on the MQM’s shoulders.

Know what Ghouri said? That Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had not come to the Quaid’s mazar to offer fateha before, implying that his wanting to come on may 12 was a sign of impending mischief. As if a visa from the MQM was required to enter the city and visit the Quaid’s mazar.

Gen Musharraf has plugged the same line: as Karachi’s dominant party, how could the MQM allow the Chief Justice and his supporters to take out a procession in Karachi because that would have given a wrong impression of the MQM’s popularity? Amazing, and then the army is worried that its image is being maligned.

During the last seven and a half years, now close to eight, only on two occasions has the nation come alive. At the time of the massive earthquake which struck Azad Kashmir and northern Hazara Division in October 2005 when people from across Pakistan held out a hand of assistance to their brothers and sisters in distress. And now during this movement which again proves that this nation is alive.

This movement is like no other in our history. The anti-Ayub agitation of 1968-69 and the anti-Bhutto agitation of 1977 were both vague about their aims and thus easily hijacked by military adventurism. This movement has clear aims: constitutional supremacy and an end to military hegemony.

The political landscape already stands altered, the judiciary more emboldened and the regime put on the defensive. But one ingredient is still missing: a clear, unambiguous stand on the part of the opposition parties. The people of Pakistan know what they want. Lawyers know what they want. But the political parties are either playing games with themselves or living in a world of their own.

At what stage are the Swiss corruption cases against Benazir Bhutto and her husband? I for one don’t know. But because of them or some other reason she is dallying with Musharraf. At least that is the impression her statements and interviews give. Maybe she is just trying to extract concessions and won’t do a deal. But her ambiguity is confusing her supporters who are left in two minds about what to do.

She says her party will not vote for Musharraf. This is not good enough. If Musharraf insists on the charade of getting ‘elected’ by these assemblies, will the PPP legislators resign? We are hearing nothing clear-cut on this score.

Also a picture of confusion is the MMA. Qazi Hussain Ahmed professes a hard line but the Jamaat-i-Islami has yet to throw itself fully into this movement. As for Maulana Fazlur Rahman, he remains the undisputed champion of double-talk, saying one thing, doing another, his ambivalence fuelling suspicion that he remains a secret weapon of Gen Musharraf’s. He too is yet to say that the MMA will resign from the assemblies in case Musharraf seeks a rubber stamp from them.

Insofar as this is a time of standing up and being counted, ambiguity is akin to sabotage and betrayal. When events move fast, they wait for no one and spare no one. Look at Musharraf whose many slips during this season of discontent have branded him an MQM supporter. He can wash himself in holy water but this label won’t easily wash. As the charge of betrayal wouldn’t easily wash in the case of Benazir Bhutto and Maulana Fazlur Rahman if they waste any more time clarifying their real position.

Nawaz Sharif says, nothing doing with Musharraf. But what good is this clarity if he remains holed up in London, playing Khomeini-in-waiting on some of the plushest sofas money can buy? Why isn’t he coming back? Is a forced return to Saudi Arabia the spectre haunting him? Whatever the case, his absence from the scene prevents the PML-N from being fully galvanised. The iron is hot but will bend only before those who strike it.

Imran’s is a lone voice in the wilderness, still a shepherd without much of a flock. But he should be grateful to the MQM for giving him the kind of publicity that money can’t buy. The ban on his entering Sindh has done him good as has the MQM’s poster and placard campaign (since hastily called off) calling him names and lambasting him for ‘promiscuity’. Since when did a charge of promiscuity hurt a man? Whom the gods would destroy they first make ridiculous. The MQM has been painting itself in the colours of ridicule.

Anyway, the political parties are lagging behind the rest of the nation. The leading light of this struggle is My Lord the Chief Justice, no doubt about it. With him stand, in the van of this movement, the nation’s lawyers, united and determined like never before, sustaining the struggle for democracy and lifting the nation’s spirits. In the process a new iconography is being born –– the nation’s new heroes the likes of Ali Ahmed Kurd (more power to his fiery oratory), Munir A. Malik, Aitzaz Ahsan et al, and justices of the different high courts who have lit the way for the rest of the judiciary to follow.

The media has produced its own heroes –– reporters and anchorpersons, who have brought not only the drama and excitement of this struggle into living rooms across the country, but also its meaning and significance. This is the first tele-movement in the country’s history, its impact such that entertainment programmes have had to yield place to judicial and political news. When the CJ goes to address a bar association, the nation, glued to its TV sets, travels with him.

But the political parties, victims of confusion or expediency, lag behind. They still have a role to play but only if they can bring themselves to adopting a clear, unambiguous stand regarding Musharraf’s ‘reelection’. And to be of any use, they must do this now, in the next 20-30 days, rather than wait for Sep/Oct when it might already be too late.

Are the assorted maulanas whom it has been our misfortune to endure, and those who lay claim to the mantle of the East, capable of this? We shall see.

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