ISLAMABAD: In one of the biggest corruption purges in the military, six army officers including two serving generals were sacked on Thursday.
The six officers who have been sent into retirement after a court of inquiry found them “at fault” included a three-star general (lieutenant general), a two-star general (major general), three brigadiers and a colonel.
The two generals are Lt Gen Obaidullah Khattak, inspector-general arms, and Maj Gen Ejaz Shahid, while others are Brigadier Asad Shahzada, Brigadier Saifullah, Brigadier Amir and Col Haider.
Death of two army engineers in an accident in 2014 provided lead to graft in Frontier Corps
Besides losing their jobs, the army officers would not get any of the retirement perks and privileges except for pension and medical treatment facility.
They have been asked to return the ill-gotten money.
There was no formal announcement from the army on the sackings and all information reached media through leaks. Military officials in their private conversations confirmed the action against corruption.
The army’s public affairs division and its director general, a prolific tweeter, were uncharacteristically quiet.
Earlier media reports said as many as 12 army officers, including some mid-ranking ones, have been sacked.
However, a senior military official termed this mere speculation.
The allegations against the officers related to abuse of authority and illegally collecting wealth. The accusations pertained to their tenure at the Frontier Corps in Balochistan.
Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif, who this week called for across-the-board accountability for preserving the solidarity, integrity and prosperity of the country, had since assuming leadership of the military in 2013, made stamping out corruption from his ranks the centerpiece of his command, though the media spotlight remained on the fight against terrorism.
Earlier he expedited inquiry into an old corruption scandal in the military-run National Logistics Cell (NLC) that ended last year with the dismissal of a major general and censure for a lieutenant general.
He had also given a go-ahead for a National Accountability Bureau inquiry into the Defence Housing Authority scam involving brothers of former army chief retired Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and some other army officers who have retired by now.
These actions are seen as unprecedented because in the past there were very few publicly known instances of action against corruption in army ranks — at least none known against serving generals. Nevertheless, there have been allegations of embezzlement and corruption in the army, which is the most well-resourced organisation in the country.
Lid on corruption in the Frontier Corps was blown in late 2014 following an accident in which two serving army engineers Lt Col Shakeel and Major Yasir lost their lives while testing a non-custom paid sports car for the son of the then IG FC Maj Gen Ejaz Shahid, according to multiple sources in the army.
Lt Col Shakeel had been tasked to fix the car that had been confiscated from Chaman.
Following the death of the two officers, an inquiry conducted by the FC headquarters ironically held them at fault and recommended that their posthumous compensation not be paid to their heirs. This action was resented by the families of the two officers, who complained to the army chief’s secretariat and an inquiry was initiated by the Military Intelligence. The probe then led to unearthing of corruption in the FC, the sources said, adding that Maj Gen Shahid was posted out after the start of the inquiry.
There had been allegations against the FC as back as 2006/07 that its officials connived with smugglers of oil, cars, luxury goods and other items earning a huge amount of money. But the allegations were never investigated (till the tragic accident occurred) due to insurgency in the province and the FC continued to enjoy a free hand in the Balochistan.
Political parties generally welcomed the move, but some suspected that it was meant to build pressure on the government to act against corrupt politicians and bureaucrats.
Describing it as a ‘bold action’, the Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Association (PESA) hailed the punishment announced for the officers.
PESA said there was an urgent need to examine the weaknesses and loopholes in the system that let these officers indulge in such criminal acts. The association also asked Prime Minister Sharif to explain how his children amassed wealth and invested in offshore companies.
PML-N parliamentarians cautiously welcomed the action. “Presently parliament, the army and the judiciary are on the same page over the issue of accountability,” said PML-N Senator retired Maj Gen Abdul Qayyum.
While lauding the act by the army chief, Minister of State for Petroleum Jam Kamal Khan said accountability of politicians was an ongoing process. “The politicians face accountability at the hands of the masses in elections,” he said.
Senator Saeed Ghani, parliamentary leader of the PPP in the Senate, said impression about the army being a ‘sacred cow’ had been addressed to a large extent. “This is a good act by the army chief, and it is good for the image of the army also in the eyes of ordinary citizens,” said Sen Ghani.
He also acknowledged that this act has placed some pressure on the parliamentarians, too, as there was a need for legal steps to control corruption in the country.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf lawmaker Dr Arif Alvi said fighting corruption was welcomed by everyone. He said the civilian side should follow the army chief’s move and start accountability in its ranks.
Published in Dawn, April 22nd, 2016