Truth commission | Farrukh Saleem


What is true and what is false? What is genuine and what is fake? Who is honest and who is not? Is it politics or is it business? Who is corrupt and who is not? Is there a relationship between politics and morality? Who is ethical and who is immoral? Is politics business or public service?

On May 9, 2014, Mohammad Ishaq Dar, Minister for Finance, Revenue, Economic Affairs, Statistics and Privatization, told the National Assembly that “at least $200 billion of Pakistani money was stashed away in Swiss banks.” Remember, Pakistan’s accumulated foreign debt hovers around $80 billion.

In March 2017, the United States Department of State released its International Narcotics Control Strategy Report-according to which money laundering costs Pakistan $10 billion a year. Remember, “one-third of all [Pakistani] children are underweight, nearly 44pc are stunted, 15pc are wasted, half of them are anemic and almost one-third of these children have iron deficiency anemia.” And money laundering amounts to a wholesome $10 billion a year, every year.

On February 22, 2017, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed remarked that the Chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB) tried to give insurance policy for the prime minister; but, “NAB had passed away for us the day before.”

On July 17, 2017, Muhammad Zafar Hijazi, chairman Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), was granted a five-day bail by a special court in Islamabad on charges of tampering with the records of the Sharif family’s companies.

On March 21, 2017, Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif appointed Saeed Ahmad as president of the National Bank of Pakistan (he was serving as deputy governor of the State Bank of Pakistan). Minister for Finance, Revenue, Economic Affairs, Statistics and Privatization Mohammad Ishaq Dar told the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which was probing money-laundering allegations, that Saeed Ahmed was running a nursing home in London before his appointment as deputy governor of the State Bank of Pakistan.

We must bring back the $200 billion of Pakistani money that is stashed away in Swiss banks. We must put an end to the $10 billion worth of money laundering a year. We must know who is stealing public money to appease private greed. We must know who is living beyond his or her known sources of income. Politicians must be held accountable. Public servants – both civil and military – must also be held accountable.

We need a body mandated to unearth the truth. We all have a ‘right to the truth’. Financial crimes must not go unpunished. The Philippines Truth Commission brought out the truth about ‘large-scale graft and corruption’. Chad had formed the Commission of Inquiry into the Crimes and Misappropriations Committed by Ex-president Habre, his accomplices and/or accessories.

The Panama-related JIT has done something never done or known before. We now have six unsung heroes. All our current institutions have inherent limitations. We need a new institution – and a new national narrative. We need a new ‘truth-seeking and truth-telling’ institution. I suggest we institutionalise the JIT. I suggest we convert the JIT into a Truth Commission.

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad.

Email: Twitter: @saleemfarrukh