- Gen Raheel Sharif dismisses eight senior army officers from service on corruption charges
- Officials sacked over corruption remain entitled to pension and medical facilities
Pakistan Army Chief General Raheel Sharif has sacked eight senior officers over corruption charges, in what is being hailed as a bold move by the military days after the popular military leader called for uprooting corruption and “across the board accountability”.
According to sources in the military, the senior officers were forcibly retired after a long-running internal enquiry being conducted within the army for over a year.
The sacked officers include one lieutenant-general, one major-general, four brigadiers, one lieutenant colonel and a major. The officers served in the Frontier Corps (FC) in Balochistan.
The top names in the list include former Inspector-General Frontier Corps (IG FC) Balochistan Lt Gen Obaidullah Khattak and Major General Ijaz Shahid.
Other senior names in the list of sacked officers include Brigadier Asad Shahzada, Brigadier Amir, Brigadier Haider, Brigadier Saifullah, Lt Colonel Haider and Major Najeeb.
The eight officers named above served with the Frontier Corps (FC) Balochistan and have been charged for corruption during their service with the paramilitary force. The others dismissed were junior commissioned officers who worked with those named above, said an intelligence official.
Following the investigation conducted by Adjutant Gen Zubair Mahmood Hayat on the orders of the army chief, the charged officers were asked to return all earnings accumulated through corruption, the official said.
According to sources, the senior officers have been stripped of their ranks, and perks and privileges they were entitled to. The officers will only continue receive their pensions and medical facilities.
There has been no official announcement as yet from the military in this regard.
“I can confirm the sacking of at least six senior officers which include a lieutenant general,” said a senior officer based in military headquarters, crediting Gen Raheel with launching the investigation leading to the dismissals. He said it was unclear when the officers were fired, the precise nature of the charges, or whether they would face criminal proceedings in a civilian court.
According to unconfirmed reports, Lt Gen Obaidullah was convicted of amassing illegal wealth through smuggling of non-custom paid vehicles and other items.
Sources said an enquiry was launched into corruption in FC Balochistan after the family of two army officials who died while accompanying the son of Maj Gen Ijaz Shahid on a test drive of his Ferrari sports car wrote to the army chief holding the boy’s father responsible for the deaths.
“An intelligence enquiry into the allegation was launched on the orders of the army chief but the investigation was later turned into a corruption probe after Maj Gen Ijaz failed to explain how he had acquired the expensive vehicle,” said a source.
The unprecedented move comes days after Gen Raheel said that the ongoing war against terrorism and extremism cannot bring enduring peace and stability until the menace of corruption is uprooted from the country.
“Across the board accountability is necessary for the solidarity, integrity and prosperity of Pakistan,” said the army chief on Tuesday, speaking during a visit to the Signal Regimental Centre in Kohat.
The “ongoing war against terrorism and extremism being fought with the backing of entire nation cannot bring enduring peace and stability unless the menace of corruption is not uprooted. Therefore, across the board accountability is necessary for the solidarity, integrity and prosperity of Pakistan.
“Pakistan Armed Forces will fully support every meaningful effort in that direction, which would ensure a better future for our next generations,” he had said.
The army chief’s statement had followed Panama Papers revelations shrouding the prime minister’s family among many other prominent political figures holding off-shore wealth.
Around 220 Pakistanis, including three children of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, have been named in the massive leak of documents from a Panama-based law firm.
Prime Minister Nawaz has rejected any allegations of money laundering, claiming that his children have legitimate businesses abroad, and has called for the establishment of an inquiry commission.
The move was hailed by commentators because wrongdoings committed by the army, which has ruled Pakistan for around half of its existence and continues to exert control over foreign policy, rarely come to light.
“It’s an extraordinary development,” retired general Talat Masood said.
“The military has taken the lead in punishing corrupt officials and has set an excellent example. It will have a very serious impact and very positive impact in the future. Those who are corrupt should be worried now.”
In August last year, a long-delayed but much awaited military probe into the Rs4.3 billion National Logistics Cell (NLC) scam had found two former generals guilty of illegal investments in the stock exchange.
Following the inquiry, military’s media wing, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), said that in light of findings of the inquiry, the two accused retired generals were punished under the Pakistan Army Act.
Opposition leaders have demanded a probe into the Panama Papers scandal, with some calling for the PM to step down.
Quarters close to the PM’s Office say PM Nawaz is determined to have his three children cleared of accusations of money laundering and tax evasion in the aftermath of Panama Papers leak.
Politicians and analysts weigh in:
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Zubair Umar said that although the army chief’s move was laudable, only the PML-N and prime minister should not be targeted. He called for holding “corrupt elements” within the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and PPP accountable as well.
PTI’s Shah Mahmood Qureshi appreciated the development, terming the move a signal that Operation Zarb-e-Azb and the war against corruption will not stop. “This action will bring more credibility to the state’s security in carrying out an across-the-board operation.”
Qamar Zaman Kaira of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) said it was time for the PM and his family to come clean regarding the Panama leaks, adding that the opposition parties had “no differences over the initiation of a transparent inquiry”. “Things done through consensus take time, and the Panama inquiry will also take some time.”
Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq said the civilian leadership should stand united against “economic terrorism” like it stands against militancy and terrorism after Army Public School massacre. He said the government was “still confused about forming a commission over Panama Papers”.
Former president Pervez Musharraf also lauded the army chief’s action.
Defence analyst Hassan Askari said the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and other agencies will be pressed to take similar action regarding bureaucracy.
The army chief’s actions will have repercussions for civilian institutions and corrupt politicians under the microscope would be probed transparently.