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6 Pakistani Army Officers Linked Corruptions, are dismissed

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6 Pakistani Army Officers, Linked to Corruption, Are Dismissed

  • April 21, 2016

 

 

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The Pakistani Army’s top commander has dismissed six senior officers, including a three-star and a two-star general, for what Pakistani news accounts described on Thursday as smuggling and other corrupt acts.

The dismissals, which were confirmed by two military officials, added to the pressure on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose family’s hidden wealth has escalated into a political crisis.

The military officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the dismissals had not been formally announced, described them as forced retirements, carried out by the country’s military commander, Gen. Raheel Sharif.

They did not go into detail about the reasons. But Pakistani news media said the dismissed officers — a lieutenant general, major general, three brigadiers and a colonel — had been implicated in corruption, including smuggling.

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It is not the first time that purges of senior army officials have been disclosed in this way, but the timing was striking given the prime minister’s problems, which have flared over disclosures in the so-called Panama Papers of hidden wealth in offshore accounts.

Opposition politicians have demanded that Mr. Sharif resign or step aside until an investigation into possible financial misconduct is completed. The prime minister has denied wrongdoing and expressed a willingness to form a commission of inquiry, but how it will be conducted remains in dispute.

 

Mr. Sharif visited London last week, spawning rumors that he had fled the country. But he returned this week.

Political and military analysts said the dismissals in the military had weakened Mr. Sharif indirectly.

 
“The signal to the civilians is very clear,” said Ikram Sehgal, a Pakistani security expert who served in the military. “The military is saying that we can take action against our own. Now, it’s your turn. The sword of Damocles is hanging over you.”

Cyril Almeida, an editor at Dawn, a leading Pakistani newspaper, said, “If the civilians aren’t going to raise the bar themselves, then General Sharif has signaled that he’ll help do it for everyone.”

He added, “The corruption issue has tapped into a vein of wide disgruntlement in Pakistan.”

Word of the dismissals has further burnished the public image of General Sharif, who already enjoyed enormous popularity because of his counterstrikes on militants in regions where his predecessors feared to go.

General Sharif carried out an operation in North Waziristan, a longtime haven of Taliban militants, in 2014. This month, troops took action against militants in southern parts of Punjab Province. Paramilitary troops are also taking part in an operation against politically powerful criminal gangs in the southern port city of Karachi.

Military officials identified two of the dismissed senior officers as Lt. Gen. Obaidullah Khan Khattak and Maj. Gen. Ejaz Shahid. Both had served as inspector generals of the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force, in restive southwestern Baluchistan Province.

One official who was part of the inquiry, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss it publicly, said its origins dated from 2014, when General Shahid took possession of a sports car that had been impounded because of nonpayment of customs duty.

According to the official’s account, a colonel and a major died when they crashed the car during a test drive taken at the request of the general, who tried to cover up the accident. The colonel’s widow wrote to the army chief, who ordered an investigation that uncovered corruption by military officials in Baluchistan.

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Khawaja Muhammad Asif, the minister of defense, and of water and power, said in an interview on Geo TV that he welcomed the dismissals but that opposition political parties had twisted the news to target Mr. Sharif. “All demands have political objectives,” he said. “They don’t want impartial accountability.”
Mr. Sharif reiterated in a statement on Thursday that he was determined to overcome the political challenge. “With God’s grace our hands are clean,” he said. “We have faced ruthless accountability in the past too, with success.”Nonetheless, political analysts say Mr. Sharif is in an increasingly tough situation. Opposition political parties are threatening street protests if he does not justify his wealth. Retired military officials have also urged Mr. Sharif to provide more explanations.

“The ball has started rolling,” said Naeem Khalid Lodhi, a retired lieutenant general. “If the judiciary also follows suit, there will be tremendous pressure on the political setup.”

 

   
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