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Inside Story of DG FIA’s Removal

Inside Story of DG FIA’s Removal

By Umar Cheema
The News International

Why Khosa went, why Zafarullah came?  The newly appointed DG FIA, Zafarullah Khan assumed charge of his office on Friday. He replaces the highly-respected Tariq Khosa who has ostensibly been given a promotion and made a federal secretary but according to knowledgeable sources, the ruthlessly honest officer has been removed because he was causing a lot of problems for the land’s mightiest and their friends involved in multi-billion rupee money laundering operations, human smuggling, bank fraud and other big time crimes.

Much to the chagrin of those lording over this nation, Khosa and his men were in the midst of some very high profile criminal investigations, involving some of the biggest names in the country and Khosa was persistently refusing to toe the "pragmatic" line. According to one source, the prime minister also tried staving off immense pressure for Khosa’s removal for the last month and half, as he was close to arresting some of the big fish, but his replacement shows that the country’s CEO may not be so independent after all.

Amongst other matters, Khosa was also said to be pushing the prime minister secretariat to allow him to arrest the federal minister of state whose money exchange firm was found involved in the money laundering of about Rs 20 billion. The proverbial last straw which broke the prime ministerial camel’s back may have been the fact that the FIA team had found financial irregularities in the Pakistan Steel Mills and the FIA had submitted its report to the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Sources said Khosa had now planned to follow the law and arrest all those officials of the PSM who were found guilty of corruption in the inquiry report, including the former PSM chairman who had been unceremoniously dismissed by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani during his speech in the National Assembly. The sacked chairman is reported to be a close friend of the occupant of the other most powerful office in Islamabad. The replacement of the DG FIA in the midst of investigation of high-profile cases has not only drawn surprise reaction from different quarters; it also calls into question the commitment of the new FIA boss, already suffering from credibility deficit.

Tariq Khosa has been replaced with Zafarullah Khan, whose relations with a top figure dated back to his service in Sindh where he served in Nawabshah, later in Badin and Sukkur. With many big-wigs already facing charges directly or indirectly, the latest in the ring was the arrest of private secretary to a state minister on charges of receiving bribe of US $2,000 per license of prohibited bore weapons.

Other cases under investigation were of Dr. Firdous Ashiq, Federal Minister for Population, Abdul Razzaq Abbasi, State Minister for Kashmir Affairs & Northern Areas, and Riaz Lal Jee, a sidekick of a top man implicated in Steel Mills scandal. The FIA was investigating his escape to Dubai, his name on the ECL notwithstanding. The Supreme Court had directed the FIA on November 26 to give its final investigation report on Steel Mills scandal within two weeks. Khosa had also warded off the political pressure for the recruitments of sub-inspectors and others in the FIA made recently.

Zafarullah Khan, who now will head this investigation agency, was himself investigated by the NAB for amassing assets beyond known means. The probe was dropped later for not having found undeniable evidences, a NAB NWFP spokesman told The News. Khan also made headlines in 2004 while serving as director IB, for pressing the police to hush up a murder case against his nephew. Talking to The News, Zafrullah Khan denies the veracity of these charges. Malik Rabnawaz Noon, the counsel of the victim family, while arguing the case, had told the court that the accused destroyed evidences with the help of Intelligence Bureau (IB) officials. He had said that the police investigated the case under huge pressure of the IB and helped the accused party in destroying the evidence. Zafarullah Khan strongly rejected theses allegations as being baseless.

Zafarullah Khan’s younger brother, Khalid Umerzai, now commissioner Kohat, has already served a jail term in a corruption case, a report confirmed by the new DG FIA himself. Talking to The News, Zafarullah also confirmed having been investigated by the NAB, besides endorsing the fact that his brother had served the said jail term. Asked if it was true that the PM had appointed him on the insistence of president, he said that "all such appointments are done in consultation". Although, he confirmed having served in Nawabshah and Badin, Khan denied having any direct relations with Zardari.

The replacement will reverse 180 degree the progress made in the last eight months," a senior FIA official said, commenting on this high profile reshuffling. Khosa who took charge on January 1st this year has been removed from the position before he completed a year as the head of the agency. Any likely protest from him has been pre-empted through his elevation as a federal secretary, though apparently of a low profile Narcotics Division. By the time of the change of guard, some political figures were running out of patience with they themselves or their close people facing an uncompromising DG FIA in Khosa. In the case of Dr. Firdous Ashiq, the Minister for Population Welfare whose alleged involvement in human smuggling case was investigated, Khosa had told The News that nobody could intervene into his business and that he was "accountable to the court, not others." Khosa was these days trying to bring back two teenagers smuggled to Italy impersonating them as sons of Dr. Firdous Ashiq. He had promised to put hand on the minister once the children were brought back.

Minister Awan is already on record as having denied the charges. The minister, when contacted for her version in the past on the same issuem denied the practices attributed to her. She said she would not have personally gone to the Nadra chairman to draw his attention to the wrong entries in her record had she done something wrong. She also denied the FIA director-general’s statement that Ilyas had confessed earlier but backed out later. But a judgement of the Islamabad High Court (before its dissolution) in post-arrest bail of Nadra employees implicated in the case observed on June 22, 2009: "Deputy Attorney-General had failed to satisfy this court about the encashment of cheque of Rs 500,000 by the private secretary of Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan. The police file is absolutely silent about this aspect of the matter and no attempt appears to have been made by the investigating officer to explain this puzzle… This circumstance alone prima facie casts some doubt on the veracity of the prosecution story."

Dr Firdous Ashiq said she had sacked Ilyas before this investigation started. She also wondered how a teenager got a passport in the absence of parents. The minister said this whole mess was a glaring example of institutional failure of Nadra, the FIA and other departments.

The company of Senator-State Minister Abdul Razzak "Malik Exchange Private Limited" was also being investigated in a Rs 15 billion foreign currency exchange scandal. The evidences so far collected were also sent to the prime minister and president. The files have also been sent to the State Bank of Pakistan for its opinion on the evidences. The next phase in the investigation was to seek the government’s permission to investigate the minister.

Khosa, in the past, said on record that about Rs 15 billion were either shifted out of Pakistan or brought in Pakistan through these illegal channels thanks to the three employees of Malik Exchange. He said during the preliminary investigations, a total of Rs 40-50 billion were said to be in use of these secret bank accounts which were opened in the name of fake companies owned by the employees of Malik Exchange. But, he said, the FIA estimated that a sum of Rs 15 billion was actually sent out of Pakistan or received from abroad through illegal channels.

In an earlier and already reported conversation with The News, Minister Abdul Razzak had confirmed at the time that his Malik Exchange was under investigation by the FIA. He denied any illegal action by the company, which was being run by his two brothers. When asked to make a comment about the digging out of 22 secret bank accounts by his employees, the minister laughed and said if FIA claimed to find out such sort of amount from those accounts, they could keep the money. However, he then corrected himself and said as the record was with the FIA, so he was not in a position to say anything definite. He said his hands were clean as he was not involved in any irregular transaction. He said it was wrong to assume that his company was not reporting the transactions to the SBP. According to him, the SBP had the powers to check the online record and transaction of his money exchange firm at its own will. The minister said he did not have any hope to getting justice from the FIA. He denied that the Malik Exchange was involved in any illegal transaction of money from Pakistan or visa versa.

Khosa previously had also taken a written statement from Federal Minister Dr. Firdous Ashiq to get her take on the alleged involvement in human scandal. She was implicated in the case after the confession of her private secretary that he had handed her the money sent by a trafficker for helping in smuggling the children abroad using her passport. Firdous had later issued a statement that FIA cleared her of the charge, a claim strongly rebutted by the FIA that said no accused had been given the clean chit, including the minister.

Talking to The News, Tariq Khosa refused to make any comments when asked if he was punished for his decision to investigate high level cases of corruption. Khosa said he was given the slot of a federal secretary, which was an honour for him. Khosa said he was grateful to the PM Gilani for giving him this elevated position.

When contacted, Interior Ministry spokesman clarified that the interior ministry had nothing to do with this transfer/promotion as it was the sole prerogative of the prime minister. To a query by The News, the prime minister’s assistant press secretary said that Tariq Khosa had been promoted keeping in view his excellent record and it would be baseless to describe a top level promotion as a punishment of any sorts. It was a routine promotion of a capable officer and nothing else.  (Sourced from The News)

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