Monday, November 2, 2009

Ansar Abbasi, Jang Group/GEO TV and Senator Saif ur Rehman

Shame on Mr Ansar Abbasi [Editor Investigation The News International/Jang Group of Newspapers] who has quoted EX-PML - N Senator Saif ur Rehman [Former Accountability Chief IN PML-N 2nd Government]'s Press Conference of 1997 against Asif Ali Zardari [detailed story with date, text and link is at the end Zardari, Bilawal buy 300 acres of Islamabad land for peanuts By Ansar Abbasi, Tuesday, November 03, 2009 ]. Very well, let me quote as to Senator Saif ur Rehman used to deal with the Jang Group of Newspapers in 1997. During those days Ansar Abbasi used to be in Daily Dawn. By the way Senator Saif ur Rehman is the person who as per The Friday Times, Editorial by Najam Sethi, Feb. 15, 2001

The Sunday Times of London has recently published a story that damns politicians and state institutions alike in Pakistan. The report suggests that an official of the Intelligence Bureau was ordered in 1998 by the head of the Accountability Bureau, Mr Saif ur Rehman, to tap the telephones of Justice Abdul Qayyum of the Lahore High Court (illegal order by politicians, illegal implementation by IB). The IB official later pocketed the tapes and decamped to London, eventually handing them over to the British newspaper. If true, the conversations between Justice Qayyum and Saif ur Rehman, Khalid Anwar (then law minister), Mrs Abdul Qayyum and others are fascinating because they reveal the political bankruptcy of the system and those who are elected or nominated to make it work.

The tapes suggest that Justice Qayyum was bullied by the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his minions into convicting former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and her spouse Asif Zardari for corruption in 1998. This means that - irrespective of the substantial evidence laid against the two accused - the trial wasn`t conducted entirely in a free or fair manner as required by law. Ms Bhutto shrieked as much during and after the trial but critics, including TFT, dismissed her allegations against Justice Qayyum as inconceivable. Hence when the review petition comes up for hearing before the Supreme Court on February 26, the court will be hard put to choose between acquitting the couple or ordering a fresh trial. If it clings to a third option - upholding the verdict - it risks being tarred by the same brush. The Friday Times, Editorial by Najam Sethi, Feb. 15, 2001

QUOTE FROM Hegemony of the Ruling Elite in Pakistani by Abdus Sattar Ghazali. NAWAZ SHARIF'S CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE PRESS

A number of incidents during 1998-99 indicated a pattern of harassment and intimidation of individual journalists as the government was increasingly becoming intolerant. Imtiaz Alam, a Lahore-based journalist, complains of threat over the telephone and then of his car being set on fire in a mysterious manner the other day. Another Lahore journalist, Mahmud Lodhi, is picked up and held in illegal custody for two days. He was questioned about his involvement with a BBC team filming a documentary on the rise and wealth of the Sharif family. Hussain Haqqani is picked up in a cloak-and-dagger fashion and interrogated at a FIA Center in connection with charges vaguely to do with money embezzlement while he held government office.

The residence of Idrees Bakhtiar, a senior staff reporter of Herald monthly and BBC correspondent in Karachi was raided by CIA police on Nov. 26,1998. The police harassed the family and also arrested his 28-year old son, Moonis, who was later released. On Feb. 13, 1999, three persons, including Senator Abul Hayee Baloch and a lady worker from Lahore, were injured when the police baton-charged, used water cannons and threw bricks on a peaceful procession of the Pakistan Awami Ittehad in front of the parliament house in Islamabad. The march, organized by the PAI for the freedom of the press, was led by PAI president Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and secretary general of the alliance Hamid Nasir Chatta, besides a number of sitting and former PPP MNAs and senators.

The owner of the Frontier Post, Rehmat Shah Afridi, was arrested in Lahore on April 2, 1999, by the army-run Anti-narcotics Force on charge of possessing 20 Kgs of charas and three guns. The Peshawar-based Frontier Post was critical of government policies, particularly the paper opposed the construction of the Kalabagh Dam. Afridi's arrest was seen by the journalists and others another official attempt to gag the Press.

On May 8, 1999, several dozen officials of ISI stormed into the house of Najam Sethi, Editor of The Friday Times, Lahore and dragged him out of his room. Before leaving the house with Mr. Sethi, they tied his wife Jugnoo's hands with a rope and locked her up in a dressing room. Later the federal government confirming the arrest said that Mr. Sethi had been taken into custody for interrogation by ISI for his alleged connection with he Indian intelligence agency, RAW (Research and Analysis Wing).

The Lahore High Court, on May12, declined to assume jurisdiction in the Najm Sethi case saying he was being detained by a military agency (ISI) and the offence he was suspected of and was being investigated for fell within the purview of the Army Act, 1952. Consequently, all three petitions filed by Sethi's sife, Jugnoo Mohsin, for his recovery and production and miscellaneous reliefs like medical examination and registration of a case of kidnapping with intent to torture and kill against two uniformed policemen and eight plainclothes personnel were dismissed in 'limeline' as not maintainable. The Deputy Attorney General told the court that Sethi "is presently in the custody of Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) authorities for his suspected links with hostile intelligence agencies." The suspected offence falls within the mischief of Section 123-A of the PPC (sedition) and finds mention in the Army Act schedule. Advocate for Sethi, submitted that the ISI does not function under the Army Act and can be headed by a retired officer and that the ISI reported to the prime minister and not to the army. One day later, the government agencies seize all copies of The Friday Times in Lahore. The Web site of The Friday Times was hacked and the pages and contents were erased.








The Attorney General Chaudhry Farooq on June 2, 1999 told the Supreme Court that the government had decided to set free Najm Sethi. In a short statement on behalf of the state, the AG said that Najam Aziz Sethi, who was detained in the case initially by ISI and was later taken into custody by the police as a result of an order obtained from the Special Court on June 1, in connection with the FIR registered with Kohsar police station, Islamabad, had been set free. [On May 31, the Supreme Court was informed that a case had been registered against Mr. Sethi in Islamabad for his alleged anti-state activities on the complaint of a ruling party MNA, Inamullah Niazi.] The AG further said that the government reserved its right to initiate proceedings afresh. However, Justice Mamoon Kazi, a member of the three-man bench which disposed Mr. Sethi's bail application, told the government that Mr. Sethi should not be arrested in future with permission of the court.

EX-PML - N Senator Saif ur Rehman [Former Accountability Chief IN PML-N 2nd Government] & ATTACK ON JANG - QUOTE FROM Hegemony of the Ruling Elite in Pakistani by Abdus Sattar Ghazali.

The government of Nawaz Sharif started a campaign against the Jang group in July 1998 when it refused to sack a number of journalists critical of the government policies. First, the government objected to the Jang group newspapers' reporting about the law and order situation in the country and put a ban on its advertisement for the Jang group. On Aug. 13, a report was published about non-payment of Rs. 700 million to farmers by the sugar mills owned by the Nawaz Sharif family. Three days later, the government sent notices to Jang for non payment of taxes and the case was shifted to the Ehtesab cell. On Sept. 27, 1998, the government asked the Jang group not to publish a report of The Observer London that said that PM Nawaz Sharif has siphoned off millions. The report was not published by the Jang but it was published by its sister English newspaper The News. On Nov. 5, bank accounts of the Jang group were frozen and FIA raided the Jang and the News offices in Rawalpindi and customs authorities stop delivery of newsprint to the Jang.

On Dec. 17, Sentaor Saifur Rehman said that another case is being prepared against the Jang group. On Jan 27, 1999, FIA encircles the Jang group office in Lahore and Karachi. And on Jan 28 1999, a sedition case was registered against Mir Sahkilur Rehman for publishing an advertisement of Muttahida's Khidmat-e-Khalq Foundation on January 1, which according to the police, was aimed at inciting people against the state. Offices of the Jang group in several cities were surrounded by security and taxation people; its godowns were sealed and newsprint was not allowed to be delivered for its paper.

Mir Shakil-ur Rehman revealed that Senator Saifur Rehman asked him to sack a number of Jang employees who should be replaced in consultation with the government. He released to the press audio-tapes of conversation with Senator Seifur Rehman on this Senator Saifur Rehman, addressing a press conference in Islamabad on 25th Jan. 1999 acknowledged that he had asked the Jang group to "avoid sensationalism and concentrate on objective reporting. He said the government has asked the Jang group for support on the 15th amendment because it wanted enforcement of the Islamic order according to the aspirations of the people. The Senator said he was asked to extend support to the government in what he called strengthening of democratic institutions. He particularly referred to the tragic incidents in Karachi and imposition of governor's rule in Sindh. He also said: Mir Shakilur Rehman evaded tax and customs duty to the tune of Rs. 2.6 billion during the last two years.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, a press freedom organization, said on June 1, 1999 that it was conducting an investigation into a "hit list" prepared by the Pakistan government that contains 35 prominent journalists of Pakistan. According to reports received by the CPJ, the federal government had decided to establish a special media cell comprising officials from the police, Intelligence Bureau and the Federal Investigation Agency to punish the journalists who have been writing against the government. Ehtesab Bureau Chairman, Senator Saifur Rehman Khan would head this cell which would function simultaneously at Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi and Peshawar with its head office in Islamabad.

According to the CPJ, the names were: Irshad Ahmed Haqqani, Rehmat Ali Razi, Anjum Rasheed, Suhail Warraich, Sohaib Marghoob and Roman Ehsan, (Jang Lahore), M. Ziauddin and Ansar Abbasi (Dawn Islamabad), Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, Javed Jaidi, Nusrat Javed and Mariana Babar (The News, Islamabad), Rehana Hakeem and Zahid Hussain (Newsline), Ejaz Haider, Khalid Ahmed, Jugnu Mohsin and Adnan Adil (The Friday Times, Lahore), Mahmood Sham (Jang, Karachi), Rashed Rehman (The Nation, Lahore), Amir Ahmed Khan (Herald, Karachi), Imtiaz Aalam, Beena Sarwar, Shafiq Awan, Kamila Hyat and Amir Mir (The News Lahore), Abbas Athar (Nawa-e-Waqt, Lahore), Kamran Khan and Shehzad Amjad (The News Karachi), Azam Khalil (Pulse), Mohammad Malik (Tribune), Imtiaz Ahmed (The Frontier Post, peshawar), Ilyas Chaudhry (Jang Rawalpindi), Naveed Meraj (The Frontier Post Islamabad) and Syed Talat Hussain (The Nation, Islamabad).

Commenting on the Nawaz Sharif government campaign against the press, the US Human Rights report for 1998 said: Although the press largely publishes freely, the government uses its large advertising budget to influence content, journalists practice self-censorship, and the broadcast media remains closely controlled by government monopoly.Favorable press coverage of the prime minister's family compound/hospital/college south of Lahore was widely understood to have been obtained for a price. Rumors of intimidation, heavy-handed surveillance, and even legal action to quiet the unduly curious or non-deferential reporter are common. The government has considerable leverage over the press through its substantial budget for advertising and public interest campaigns, its control over newsprint, and its ability to enforce regulations.

The country's leading Urdu daily, Jang, and the English-language daily News, both owned by Shakilur Rehman, were cut off for a time from critical government advertising revenue after publishing articles unflattering to the government. The Jang group also was served with approximately $13 million in tax notices, harassed by government inspectors, and pressured not to publish articles. There is credible evidence that Senator Saifur Rehman, a close associate and head of the Accountability Bureau, demanded a number of journalists and editors be fired. Jang also reportedly had difficulty in obtaining sufficient newsprint to publish.

Rehana Hakim, editor of the English-language monthly Newsline also has complained that her publication, which is highly critical of the government does not receive government advertising revenue, has been raided and harassed by tax inspectors and security agents. The editors of the weekly The Friday Times have alleged government harassment of their staff as well. On March 19, Public of Karachi, a local Urdu-language daily, was banned by the local magistrate and ceased publication on March 20. [References /Dawn 26-1-1999 - 27. Dawn 27-2-1999]

ISLAMABAD: A private company owned by President Asif Ali Zardari and his son Bilawal Zardari purchased 2,460 Kanals (307 acres) of prime land in Islamabad in March 2009, valued at a CDA price of over Rs 2 billion, for a mere Rs 62 million, proving after a long wait that a 1997 NAB reference against Zardari for the same deal was justified, but had to be dropped then for lack of some missing links. The deal which Zardari was accused of in 1997, was thus completed this March, 15 years later, after a complex process of legal cases, suits and counter-suits, between a person once declared by the then government as a front man of Asif Ali Zardari, another person believed to be closely associated with the president and a private company that is jointly owned by the president, his son and a few others.

Documents and legal papers, including the sale deed and court judgments given by the PCO-led Islamabad High Court, available with The News, prove that a Karachi-based private company, Park Lane Estates (Pvt) Ltd, purchased almost 2,500 Kanals of land near Sangjani from Faisal Sakhi Butt, who himself purchased the land from a Pakistani-American living in Houston, USA, named Muhammad Nasir Khan, for merely Rs 62 million. Nasir Khan was the original purchaser of this land in 1994 and was declared to be the front man of Zardari in the Ehtesab Bureau reference filed against him in 1997. The latest officially CDA-assessed price of similar land, adjacent to the land in question, is Rs 850,000 per Kanal. If the Park Lane land is assessed on the basis of the rate fixed by the CDA, its market valuewould be around Rs 2 billion for the entire lot. A big chunk of land, adjacent to the presidentís land, is being acquired by the CDA at this rate although Zardari and his company got it for only Rs 25,000 per Kanal, a magic deal by all standards. However, what is important to note is the fact that all the legal requirements were met in the purchase and transfer of this land to Park Lane Estates Pvt Ltd. According to the Form-A Annual Return of this company, its share capital, as reflected in the SECP record, shows it has 120,000 shares of which Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Ali Zardari own 30,000 shares each. Zardari is shown as a Director and his son as a member with four others who appear as members and debenture holders. Another man closely associated with Zardari, Muhammad Iqbal Memon of Federal B Area Karachi, is not only the Chief Executive of the company but is also reflected as its director besides owning 30,000 shares. Three other persons with the same address as that of Iqbal Memon own the remaining 30,000 shares. Memon was himself a much wanted man after the dismissal of the second Benazir government. Besides President Zardari and Muhammad Iqbal Memon, the other directors are Rahmatullah Habib, Muhammad Younus and Altaf Hussain. All these directors and Bilawal Ali Zardari own the total 120,000 shares of the company as on August 31, 2008.

The purchase of the land at a throw-away price raises numerous questions about the president and his reported role in acquisition of the land in 1994, allegedly forcing the owners to sell their land to Nasir Khan, referred to in the Ehtesab Bureau reference as a front man. From him another middleman purchased the land in 2007 and when the PPP returned to power in 2008, the entire land was transferred to the company owned by Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto, the PPP Chairman. The company documents prove that Zardari and Bilawal were majority shareholders, which raises questions about misuse of power and conflict of interest in such situations. The same charges were levelled by the Ehtesab Bureau in 1997 but then there were several missing links as the land had not been transferred into Zardari’s company’s name. Now these documents and the March 2009 deal prove comprehensively that the 1997 reference against Zardari had considerable weight but remained inconclusive. After 15 years the purchase of the same land at such a low price has provided the evidence that the land belonged actually to Zardari then and had been legalised now. Otherwise there is no one in the world who would sell land worth Rs 2 billion at only a fraction of the market price, that is Rs 62 million. Interviews with locals of the area also show that everyone in Sangjani knows that the land belongs to Zardari, who, according to some, had even visited the land during Benazir Bhuttoís second tenure.

When in 1997 the Ehtesab Bureau led by Mian Saifur Rehman had initiated a case against Zardari, the FIA had arrested some persons in the case. Media reports in 1997 had then alleged that Zardari had forcibly acquired this 2,500 Kanals of land forcibly, uprooting 300 families, to set up a polo ground and a riding pavilion in Sangjani, 25 minutes from main Islamabad. Former Ehtesab Bureau chairman Saifur Rehman had told a news conference on June 10, 1997 (reported in newspapers the next day) that the then chairman of CDA, now late Shafi Sehwani, a PPP-appointee, was also involved in the land scam. Some local residents including Sardar Ishaque, Raja Mehboob Elahi and Haji Bashir had also then appeared before reporters and had claimed that they had been forced to sell their land at a throw away price in 1994 and Zardari wanted to build a polo ground in Sangjani. It was then said that a US resident Nasir Khan had been used as a front man by Zardari. According to a 1997 news report Nasir Khan was instrumental in making the deals with the owners, whose lands were reported to have been forcibly acquired by the revenue administration of Islamabad, not for official projects but for private ownership of Nasir Khan, who was said to be acting for Zardari.

In his complaint, one Ishaque narrated at that time the details of how he was summoned in August 1994 by the then Tehsildar of Islamabad, Tariq Haideri, and taken to the PMís House to convince him to sell his land measuring 392 Kanals 8 Marlas, at the rate of Rs 4,000 per Kanal, which even at that time was much below the prevailing market price. Ishaque was later forced to sign an agreement at the residence of Nasir Khan and was told that if he did not cooperate his land would be acquired through CDA at the rate of Rs 2,900 per Kanal. From 1997 till recently, nothing changed on the ground as Nasir Khan remained the legal owner of the land. NAB also could not do much because of some key missing links. However, in an important development in 2007 Faisal Sakhi Butt, another friend of Zardari, filed a civil suit in an Islamabad civil court claiming that he had purchased the same land measuring 2,460 Kanals and 17 Marlas on 18-1-2007 from Nasir Khan for Rs 62 million. He told the court that in May 2007, he paid Nasir Khan Rs 61 million, leaving a balance of Rs 1 million. Butt said that he wrote to Nasir Khan, who lives in Houston, USA, to execute the necessary Sale Deed in his favour before Sub Registrar Islamabad but did not receive any reply. He prayed before the court for a judgment and a decree against the defendant, Nasir Khan. It appears that the men were fighting a mock battle in a court to legalise the transfer of the massive land.

Nasir Khan in his reply from USA did not contest the charges and conceded almost everything that Butt demanded and explained that due to his business pre-occupation coupled with ill health he could not leave USA and come to Pakistan for execution of Sale Deed in favour of Butt. He also did not deny the prayer clause and allowed the court to proceed in favour of Butt after paying balance sale consideration of Rs 1 million to him through his counsel. Accordingly the civil court in June 2008 decided in favour of Butt and referred the case to the Islamabad High Court where Butt had gone for the execution of his decree. On Nov 11, 2008, Nasir Khanís counsel told the IHC that he has no objection to the execution of the sale deed through an official of the court in favour of Butt or his nominee/assignee. Buttís counsel stated that he was going to file the assignment deed in the court, therefore, an adjournment for three weeks be granted. The court fixed December 16th as the next date for hearing of the case. On December 16, 2008 Zardariís Park Lane Estates Pvt Limited figured for the first time when Buttís counsel told the IHC the decree as well as the rights ensuing from the decree had been assigned in favour of Park Lane Estates of Karachi by Butt for which a new execution petition would be filed on behalf of Park Lane Estates the same day. It was done accordingly and quickly and the case was turned from the previous Faisal Sakhi Butt vs. Muhammad Nasir Khan to Park Lane Estates (Pvt) Limited vs Muhammad Nasir Khan (defendant) and Faisal Sakhi Butt (original decree holder). According to this petition, Butt sold his decree to Park Lane Estates. The Park Lane Estates told the IHC that it had paid Rs 46 million to Butt as per Deed of Assignment dated 27-11-2008. Consequently on January 29, 2009 the then PCO Chief Justice of the IHC passed the following order: ìLearned counsel for respondent No. 1 (Nasir Khan) as well as respondent No. 2 (Faisal Butt), both have no objection for assignment of the decree in favour of Park Lane Estates (Pvt) Ltd.

ì2. Office is directed to prepare amended decree accordingly.

ì3. There is no objection on behalf of respondent No. 1 for execution of amended decree. Learned counsel for respondent No. 1 states that Muhammad Nasir Khan is living in USA and is not able to personally sign the sale deed.

ì4. Both the parties pray that an official of this court be appointed to appear before the Registrar and execute the sale deed on behalf of vendee/judgment debtor.

ì5. Mr Noor Muhammad (Reader of this Court) is directed to appear before the Registrar, to sign the sale deed and admit its execution/registration.

ì6. Petitioner is directed to place on record the sale deed, printed/typed on the stamp papers, valued according to the value of suit property, within two weeks. He shall also deposit Rs 10,000/- as fee of Official of Court.

ì7. Disposed of accordingly.

Sign Chief Justice.î

Accordingly a sale deed was made on March 3, 2009 between Nasir Khan, represented by IHC reader Noor Muhammad and Park Lane Estates and registered by Joint/Sub Registrar Islamabad after payment of just Rs 1,240,000 as CVT. Later the revenue department issued a FARD on June 29, 2009 reflecting the sale of land by Nasir Khan to Park Lane Estates for a mere Rs 62 million. Everything went smoothly and hassle free. Nasir Khan and Faisal Butt cooperated in a slavish manner and transferred the land to Park Lane Estates, owned by the President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari. Nasir Khan is still in the US and is considered a close associate of the president. Faisal Butt is also closely associated with President Zardari, who had informally made Butt the monitor on CDA last year. ìI am making my own input in the CDA so that the development activity paces up,î he had told The News on January 23rd. In the same story, he was identified as close friend of the president. No one denied any point in the story then.

Butt is today the most important person for CDA affairs and dealings in the federal capital. Faisal is member of the Islamabad Development Steering Committee, which is led by Babar Awan. PPP Senator Nayyar Bukhari is another member. Despite repeated efforts Butt was not available for comments. A senior staffer of The News visited what is believed to be his ìsecret officeî situated at House No 5, street 8, F-6/3 at least thrice on Monday but he was shy to face the media. Repeated messages were also dropped at his mobile that was attended every time by his PA, who introduced himself as Bukht. The spokesman of the presidency Farhatullah Babar when approached by The News initially denied that President Zardari had any shares in any company by the name of Park Lane Estates (Pvt) Limited and said that these are speculative allegations. Babar, however, admitted that a case regarding Sangjani lands against Zardari was initiated in 1997 but it was closed down as there were no evidences available to prove the alleged corruption. When Babar was informed that the SECP documents show Asif Ali Zardari as one of the directors of the company while his son Bilawal Ali Zardari was also a share holder of equal status, he said he was not in the knowledge of any such thing.

Regarding the allegations that Nasir Khan was front man of Zardari for the purchase of this land in mid-90s Babar again showed his ignorance. When asked whether he knew that a close friend of President Zardari, Faisal Sakhi Butt first purchased this land from Nasir Khan at a throw away price and then sold it at the same price to Park Lane Estates owned by President Zardari, Babar again showed his ignorance. Another important player of this whole deal Muhammad Iqbal Memon, when contacted, confirmed to The News that he is Chief Executive of Park Lane Estates (Pvt) Ltd. When asked whether President Zardari and his son Bilawal are the directors/share holders of his company, Memon said that he did not remember exactly. Asked whether it was true that Park Lane Estates had purchased 2,460 Kanals of land in Sangjani Islamabad for merely Rs 62 million, Memon initially said that he didnít want to talk on the issue. When pressed to answer the question and asked if President Zardari, who is also a director of his company, had used the influence of his office for getting this land at a throw away price, he said: “No, no such influence was used. It was a fair business deal.î (Mohammad Ahmed Noorani contributed to this story) Zardari, Bilawal buy 300 acres of Ansar Abbasi Tuesday, November 03, 2009

1 comment:

nota said...

Since you mentioned "NAWAZ SHARIF'S CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE PRESS", I hope you highlight what everyone else is overlooking. As you know, there is a plan to limit the media but what no one is mentioning is that the draft approved by the parliamentary committee was approved unanimously meaning every PML-N member also voted for it so if any restrictions on the media are put in place, PML-N will be as responsible for them as PPP.

See: "ALL parties back steps to muzzle TV channels"