No stability until corruption rooted out: army chief

Published April 20, 2016
ARMY Chief Gen Raheel Sharif speaks at the Signal Regimental Centre in Kohat on Tuesday.—INP
ARMY Chief Gen Raheel Sharif speaks at the Signal Regimental Centre in Kohat on Tuesday.—INP

PESHAWAR/ISLAMABAD: Apparently weighing in on the controversy surrounding the Panama Papers leak, Army Chief General Raheel Sharif on Tuesday called for “across-the-board accountability” in the country.

An ISPR statement quoted the chief of army staff as saying: “The ongoing war against terrorism and extremism ... cannot bring enduring peace and stability unless the menace of corruption is uprooted.”

It went on to say that the “armed forces will fully support every meaningful effort in that direction, which would ensure a better future for our next generations”.


PML-N cautiously welcomes statement; opposition parties urge govt to do some soul-searching


The statement was issued following Gen Sharif’s visit to the Signal Regimental Centre in Kohat, where he interacted with officers, men and families of those killed in the line of duty.

He also commended the efforts of the signals corps in providing communication support to the Operation Zarb-i-Azb and appreciated the sacrifices of soldiers and civilians alike in dislodging terrorists from their bases.

This is not the first time in recent months that the military has expressed its impatience with the government’s performance.

Following a corps commanders conference in November last year, ISPR had issued a statement saying that certain key areas — including implementation of the National Action Plan, completion of investigation of terrorism cases by joint investigation teams (JITs) and Fata reforms — required immediate attention.

At the time, the government had come out with a strong rebuttal, saying that NAP implementation was a shared responsibility. This time around, however, their response seemed less confrontational.

Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid told Dawn the government welcomed the army chief’s statement and considered it “a national agenda” because eradicating corruption was also a top priority for the PML-N government. “The whole nation is with the army chief for the elimination of corruption,” he said.

He claimed that the government’s efforts to curtail corruption had been endorsed by anti-corruption watchdogs such as Transparency International.

“It is thanks to the government’s anti-corruption policy that more foreign investment is coming to Pakistan,” he said.

The minister also hailed the offer of army support in the anti-corruption process, saying, “The government always needs such assistance from security and law enforcement agencies to curb corruption.”

The opposition, however, was not entirely convinced. PPP’s Saleem Mandviwalla told reporters outside parliament that while he welcomed the army chief’s statement, such accountability should be across-the-board and should also be extended to the army.

But his party colleague and opposition leader in the Senate Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan put the onus on the ruling party. Saying that the government was responsible for the army chief’s statement, Mr Ahsan alleged that the Sharif family had hidden its assets from the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for over two decades.

He added that “if Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had declared his and his family’s assets, the army chief would have no need to give such a statement.”

PTI MNA Dr Arif Alvi told Dawn that although action against corruption was the sole domain of parliament, the two previous governments had created such a situation in the country that the army chief was compelled to issue such a statement.

He said that the PTI hailed the statement, adding that it would put pressure on the prime minister to confess to the corruption he had committed. “Not just the army, but all other stakeholders, including parliament, opposition parties and the media, should keep pressure on the prime minister,” he added.

ANP Senator Zahid Khan agreed with Senator Mandviwalla, saying that accountability was not the army chief’s job, but parliament’s. “If he has called for accountability today, then army generals should also be accountable for their deeds,” he said.

He also said that the accountability envisioned by Gen Sharif should not be anything like what was carried out by Gen Pervez Musharraf. “Musharraf used NAB to arm-twist political parties. I hope that this will not be repeated by Gen Sharif,” he said.

MQM leader Waseem Akhtar adopted a different tactic, blaming the PPP and PML-N for what he called “the unbridled corruption that plagued the country”. “We have to see why we reached the stage that the army chief felt compelled to give such a statement,” he said, without supporting or criticising it.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2016

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