Mafias and the ruling elite
By Imtiaz Gul
Express Tribune, March 05, 2015
In Pakistan, the term ‘ruling elite’ is nearly synonymous with impunity in words and actions. Our elite do not pay taxes but blatantly flaunt their wealth to appear kind-hearted. They advocate the rule of law but themselves flout the law for personal motives. Coincidentally, a number of lawmakers are often found either directly involved, or operating through a nexus, with organised crime.
Wasi Zafar, former law minister under General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, slapped a waiter at a restaurant in Islamabad. He behaved in the same manner at the VIP lounge of the Islamabad Airport with an official of the Civil Aviation Authority. Last year in July, a parliamentarian from the ruling party, Rana Shoaib Idrees, along with 40 armed accomplices, raided a police station in Faisalabad and took away four people who had been accused of complicity in a murder. In fact, one of them, Rana Zulfiqar, carried a bounty of Rs100,000 on him. They also beat some police officials, including Sub-Inspector Riyasat Ali, and vandalised the station — all actions caught on CCTV cameras.
Anjum Aqeel, who is a member and a financier of the PML-N, did more or less the same when his goons attacked a police station in a bid to enable him to flee from the police. He had been arrested in connection with a fraud case. A couple of days later, several newspapers carried pictures of Aqeel raising the victory sign outside Adiala Jail. What was the victory sign about? Was he pretending to be innocent after admitting before the apex Court that he was involved in a Rs6 billion fraud? Or was he conveying to his supporters that soon his colleagues in parliament would collude to lessen the burden of crime on him.
All this represents a malaise, i.e., abuse of power and authority with impunity. This also reflects another bitter fact of life: the existence of a nexus between politics, organised crime and the bureaucracy. An incident on February 21 highlighted the helplessness of the people at large. A residential society was busy demarcating its property in the E-11 sector of Islamabad when armed goons of a local big shot attacked and prevented them from doing so. Following police action, the masterminds behind the attack offered to negotiate. “Negotiations over what?” asked the president of the residential society. “The plot is our property.”
A former senior official of a government department stunned me by saying that, for political objectives, governments often tend to draw on the financial support of both legitimate big businesses as well as from criminal elements. “In order to generate funding for dirty businesses, such as buying support in or outside parliament, governments ask agencies to get them funds.” These in turn approach business magnates who dole out funds in return for unofficial support when it comes to annexing or occupying somebody else’s land, according to the official.
Together, these groups and persons provide the financial lifeline to major political parties in crunch times; for example, when politicians were flying out to London to sign the Charter of Democracy in May 2006; or when the Sharif brothers attempted to return home, there were certain people who sponsored their tickets and chartered the aircraft.
Can the ruling elite then move against their own benefactors and financiers?
Imtiaz Gul is the executive director of the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies