Ex-Navy chief confirms French kickbacks–> The News

Source: http://www.thenews.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=26619

By Ansar Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: Former Naval chief Admiral Abdul Aziz Mirza gives credence to the recent French investigative report that talked of almost $49 million kickbacks in the Agosta-submarine deal allegedly received by President Asif Ali Zardari and others, including Naval officers, disclosing that the then Benazir government had urged the Pakistan Navy to go for the French subs.

Mirza, while quoting the then Naval chief Admiral Saeed Khan, also revealed that Benazir Bhutto’s defence minister Aftab Shaban Mirani had clearly indicated to the Pakistan Navy’s high command the government’s preference for the induction of the French submarines.

Despite these clear indications by the defence minister, the top naval command again met and deliberated on the subject and decided to recommend two options to the government — the British Upholder and the French Agosta. The government later approved the induction of the Agosta.

Mirza, who led the Pakistan Navy from Oct 1999 to Oct 2002, said the Navy first formally came to know about the kickbacks in the Agosta deal in 1998 following which it proceeded against three officials of the rank of captain and commodore for getting bribe. They were eventually removed from service. “My hunch is that besides the politicians, some top ranking naval officers, even above the rank of commodore, might also have received kickbacks as reflected in the recent French media reports. They, however, (the top Naval officials) remained undetected for want of proof or witnesses,” Mirza said.

He claimed that even the condemned formal Naval chief, Masoorul Haq, was not convicted of the Agosta kickbacks but for the bribes that he had pocketed in other defence deals. According to a recent report in a leading French newspaper, investigations have revealed that Zardari received $4.3 million in kickbacks from the sale of three Agosta 90 submarines for Eu825 million. These reports also suggest that Naval officials might have received kickbacks out of this $49 million.

This deal was struck during Benazir Bhutto’s second tenure in 1994. According to former DG Naval Intelligence Commodore Shahid Ashraf, he had informed in early 1995 the then Naval chief Mansoorul Haq and his vice chief vice admiral AU Khan of the cash pay off to Capt ZU Alvi and Col (retd) Ejaz as bribe for further distribution amongst Naval officers.

Ashraf, who was dismissed from service, claimed in his statement in 1998 that he had informed the Naval chief and the vice chief in early 1995 of the Agosta kickbacks issue but was asked by them to keep quiet. Ashraf insisted that he was innocent and victimised by the Pakistan Navy in 1998 to save the skin of several other allegedly corrupt Naval officers, who had received kickbacks in the Agosta deal.

Admiral Mirza admitted the facts that Ashraf did make the same claim in his statement in 1998 and that retired vice admiral AU Khan too had confirmed the same fact when questioned in 1998 by the fact-finding inquiry.

But Admiral Mirza still insisted the ex-DG Naval Intelligence did receive kickbacks in the Agosta deal as was confirmed by the other two officers, Capt ZU Alvi and Capt Liaqat Ali Malik, who were blamed to have received bribes directly from the French. For the same reason, he said, the ex-DGNI was penalised.

He said that Capt ZU Alvi and Col (retd) Ejaz were the two main witnesses with the former having agreed to become approver on the condition of revealing all the details of kickbacks and corruption. Mirza though conceded that Ashraf was Admiral Mansurul Haq’s right-hand man, he did never carry the reputation of being corrupt before he was convicted to have received Rs 1.5 million from Alvi, who was the direct recipient of the kickbacks.

Mirza, who has also served as the country’s ambassador to Riyadh, said that one Zafar Iqbal, a middle man of the French company, was also interrogated and had admitted to have received $160,000 to be paid to four commodores. He, however, said that both Iqbal and Ejaz never paid this amount to anyone of them. The former Naval chief said that the four commodores were never charge sheeted or confronted by a board of inquiry as a fact-finding inquiry had already found them innocent, which led to their promotion as rear admiral.

Zafar Iqbal claimed during interrogation to have been assigned by the French company to bribe the Naval officials up to the rank of commodore. For top ranking Naval officers and for political bosses, Mirza quoted Zafar Iqbal to have claimed that some other middle men, including Aamir Lodhi, were responsible for the kickbacks and commissions of persons with higher status both in Navy and in the government.

Since these middle men were never caught and probed so it still remains a secret as to who amongst the senior most Naval officers of that time received how much money, he said. But he believed that there were some top men, who must have received the kickbacks but remained free.

Referring to the latest French media reports about the Agosta kickbacks, he said he gives such reports due credence also for the reason that the French, Germans, Italians and other manufacturers of defence equipment do have a recognised provision of allocating about 10 pc of the contract value as kickbacks, entertainment, gifts etc as a matter of policy.

When asked whether the kickbacks and commissions in defence deals in Pakistan could be curbed, he stated that with a little bit of sincere effort the kickbacks in defence procurements could be considerably reduced if not altogether eliminated.

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Lawyers to observe ‘Iftikhar Day’ on 31st—>The News

While condemning the continuous ‘house arrest’ of deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, his ten companion judges as well as legal fraternity leaders, lawyers announced that they will observe January 31 as “Iftikhar Day”.

The Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA), on the recommendation of its President Rasheed A Razvi, decided to hold “Iftikhar Day” on January 31 and authorised its managing committee to invite members of political parties, civil society and other international organisations to participate in the event.

Lawyers on Thursday boycotted court proceedings in the Sindh High Court against the removal of the Chief Justice and other judges of the superior courts. They also observed a token hunger strike in this regard.

A protest meeting was held at the SHCBA hall which was addressed by the Pakistan Bar Council member Yasin Azad, Sindh Bar Council’s Salahuddin Gandapur and SHCBA’s President Rasheed A Razvi.

The speakers lauded the role of lawyers who continued their struggle for the independence of the judiciary. They urged civil society, political parties and professional bodies to support the cause of the legal fraternity for the restoration of deposed judges and independence of the judiciary.

The general body reiterated their pledge to continue their struggle in the light of guidelines given by the Pakistan Bar Council.

The two lawyers that observed a token hunger strike were Hashim Padhiyar and Adnan Ahmed

KBA: The Karachi Bar Association (KBA) has also announced to observe January 31 as ‘Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry Day’ in order to honour him as a ‘courageous judge’ who was facing a tough time since March 9, when he was first deposed by the the president of Pakistan.

This was endorsed at a general body meeting of the KBA which was held on Thursday with Naeem Qureshi its Secretary General in the chair. The Pakistan Bar Council has announced to observe the day, which was endorsed by all the courts association of the country.

On the day a ‘peace rally’ will be taken out from the City Courts which will march towards the Sindh High Court (SHC). The final destination of the rally would be announced on the day. Every lawyer participant will hold a placard in his hand with the portrait of the deposed Chief Justice of Pakistan.

The speakers at a general body meeting foresee a massive protest movement which soon be started, as they said that the speech of Justice (retd) Rana Bhagwandas at an oath-taking ceremony of KBA has given a message to the legal community, which stated that the desposed judges would soon be reinstated.

They said that lawyers would finalise a future strategy with regard to the movement in light of the speech delivered by the retired justice, which they termed a ray of hope to the community.

The speakers, however, cautioned the legal representatives to maintain solidarity as some anti-judiciary elements may try to sabotage the ongoing peaceful movement, which started in March last year.

They strongly condemned the detention of SCBA President Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan and Ali Ahmed Kurd and demanded their immediate release.

The lawyers, on Thursday, completely boycotted the courts proceedings as per schedule announced for the day.

About 400 UTP (under trial prisoners) were not brought and thousands of cases deferred for the next date. The 150 people arrested from different city areas for allegedly disturbing the law and order situation were waiting for remand and left the courts without any hearing.

The hunger strike plan schedule was postponed due to the absence of KBA President, Mehmood-ul-Hasan. On the first day of hunger strike, two of the main office-bearers — KBA’s Secretary General, Naeem Qureshi, and its President — were supposed to sit on the two-hour token hunger strike. Now, the hunger strike schedule will be revived after Ashura, Naeem Qureshi said.

CJP Iftikhar Urged Political Parties To Boycott Elections Under The Dictator

De-Jure Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has urged political parties and people to boycott elections which, he said, were being held under the umbrella of emergency and unconstitutional set up.
In a statement issued here on Tuesday, Secretary Lahore High Court Bar Association Sarfraz Cheema said the  Chief Justice told him in a telephonic conversation that the boycott was imperative because of the unusual state of affairs in the country. “More than 60 judges of the superior judiciary were detained in their houses while the Constitution was held in abeyance,” Cheema quoted CJP saying. CJP also said judges had been forced to live a life of prisoners in their houses. “Personnel of different agencies have been deployed inside and outside my house who are constantly spying on me and my family,” CJP told.
The CJP felt sceptical about the status of a common man in a circumstance where judges of the superior courts had been deprived of their rights. 
 

New Army Chief Takes Charge of Pakistan Army

General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kiyani takes charge of Pakistan Army today  as Pervaiz Musharraf steps down as Chief of Army Staff.

 General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kiyani (Is heready to face the challenges?)

Apart from political and constitutional aspects, the latest development however can have some positive impacts as from now our army chief will be a non political person(although the traditional role of the army will be there).

Now the next step to stability can only be the step to reinstate the non PCO judges of supreme court,high courts and subordinate courts of Pakistan and also to end the military actions within the country as they are proving disasterous for the country.

Musharraf has a great chance to prove himself different from Ayub,Yahya and Zia(Former military dictators of Pakistan).

I hope he will realize all this.

President Pervez Musharraf administers the oath of the office of the Chief Justice of Pakistan to Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in 2005. Where it went wrong?