Old debate centering army in Pakistan politics has reemerged following remarks by the country’s Prime Minister Imran Khan.

A report in Pakistan’s leading daily The Dawn said:

“Opposition parties have taken exception to the reported remarks of Prime Minister Imran Khan that the army knows who is corrupt in the country, terming the statement ‘irresponsible’.”

The report by Amir Wasim said:

“The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) even called for impeachment of the prime minister for his ‘irresponsible statements’ about the ‘Pakistan’s military and national security institutions’.

“Similarly, Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) chief Senator Sirajul Haq has said that the prime minister’s assertion that the army is standing behind him is ‘tantamount to dragging the national institution in politics’.”

The report headlined “PM’s remarks about army termed ‘irresponsible’” said:

“Prime Minister Imran Khan while talking to journalists at his Banigala residence had reportedly said that the army knew well that neither he was making money nor was he corrupt as he was working hard day and night and, therefore, he was not afraid of the army.

“The prime minister had made the statement while responding to a question about a general perception that he was no more enjoying good relations with the establishment.

“Mr Khan had made it clear that the government was going nowhere and that ‘the agencies know who is doing what and that is why those who indulged in corruption, have fears’.”

The Islamabad, February 16, 2020 datelined report said:

“In a statement PPP secretary general Nayyar Bokhari said that the countries were run through statesmanship, and not in a childish way.

“‘Intoxicated with power, Imran Khan has lost his senses. His cure is only a parliamentary impeachment,’ he said.

“Mr Bokhari said that making the army controversial through such statements that could cause chaos in the country did not suit a person sitting in the highest office of prime minister. He alleged that Mr Khan was making such statements in an effort to hide his incapability to deliver.

“The PPP leader said the nation was waiting for the outcome of the corruption references, including helicopter scam, Malam Jabba, Billion Tree Project and BRT. He also criticised the prime minister for giving a clean chit to those responsible for the recent wheat and sugar crises in the country.

The report added:

“Addressing the Jaffarabad District Bar in Balochistan on Saturday, JI chief Sirajul Haq said this was not the first time that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government had attempted to cause embarrassment to the military.

“According to a statement issued from JI headquarters in Mansoora, Mr Haq said the chief executive of a country was instead expected to claim that the masses, and not the army, were standing behind him.

“He lamented the rulers never let go any moment to issue ‘irresponsible statements.” They, he said, were also incompetent and knew nothing how to run the government.

“At the foreign front, he said, the government failed to fight the case of Kashmir and at home it brought irreparable damage to economy by handing over the country to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“The JI chief said the irony was that the persons who were being appointed by the government on recommendations of the international lending agency were also quitting the key posts. The poor were starving to death due to inflation and thousands had lost their jobs due to the flawed economic policies implemented by the government on the dictation of the IMF, he said.

“He criticised the prime minister for making rhetoric about mafias on a daily basis, suggesting him to look around if he was serious in taking action against those who were creating fake shortages of food items and earning billions of rupees through it.

“‘Mafias are sitting in the government and they make open claims about their access to Banigala,’ he added.

“Mr Haq said the public wanted to know the names of those who made their lives miserable and risked their livelihoods.”

Irregularities at top bank

An “Irregularities Found at Pakistan’s Top Bank After U.S. Sanction” headlined Bloomberg report said on February 17, 2020:

“A Middle East operation of Pakistan’s largest bank displayed ‘significant irregularities’ in dealings with politically exposed clients and screening some transactions, according to an inspection by the South Asian nation’s central bank that took place more than a year after the lender was shut out of the U.S. financial system.

“The findings are contained in a State Bank of Pakistan report, finalized in the first half of 2019, on Habib Bank Ltd.’s operations in the United Arab Emirates. The inspection was conducted after the Financial Action Task Force, a global watchdog for illicit financial activities, put Pakistan on its monitoring list.

“FATF is due to review whether to downgrade Pakistan a step further, to its blacklist, at a meeting in Paris that started on Sunday. That would have serious consequences for the nation’s economy and its bailout program with the International Monetary Fund.

“Employees in some of Habib Bank’s U.A.E. branches helped certain customers disguise transactions by issuing pay orders in their own names, while gaps in risk profiling and monitoring reflected an ‘ineffective compliance function and compliance culture,’ the central bank said. In an earlier draft version of its inspection report, also seen by Bloomberg News, the central bank said U.A.E. staff skirted rules when opening an account for Duduzane Zuma, the son of former South African President Jacob Zuma, and for relatives of Gabonese President Ali Bongo.

“The critical nature of the findings, which haven’t previously been reported, offers further evidence of the sorts of weak controls FATF has been looking at more broadly in its assessment of Pakistan, though the central bank’s final inspection report also notes some remedial measures taken by the bank. After Pakistan was put on the FATF monitoring list in June 2018, it pledged to improve observance of global anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing controls.”

The report said:

“The previous September, New York’s banking regulator fined the Karachi-based bank for weak anti-money-laundering controls and sanctions compliance and ordered it to surrender its license, effectively removing the lender from the U.S. financial system.

“In response to questions from Bloomberg, State Bank of Pakistan said its draft and final inspection reports are confidential and as a result it’s unable to comment ‘on the veracity of observations purportedly related to inspection reports or inspection process.’

“The draft report on the U.A.E. operations of Habib Bank was prepared soon after an on-site inspection by the central bank. It includes lists of customer accounts that were flagged for allegedly involving various violations by Habib Bank staff. The final report has the same broad conclusions but incorporates input from the bank, and omits the lists of specific accounts.”

It said:

“The inspection report also said the U.A.E. operation provided banking services to ‘politically exposed persons’ without marking them as PEPs, a category used by banks to highlight the risk of accepting money that results from bribery or corruption. In other cases, priority banking accounts were opened ‘by granting regulatory exceptions.’

“Banks around the world have been tightening up on their dealings with PEPs and other wealthy people after a series of scandals following the 2008 global financial crisis. Regulators have stepped up scrutiny over the past decade and many banks have stopped doing business with clients perceived to be risky.

“In a list of PEPs given the exceptions, the preliminary report said Duduzane Zuma’s account at Habib Bank was opened in June 2016 and involved a “waiver of proof of income document.” That was around the time South Africa’s banks were closing accounts of companies owned by the Gupta brothers, who have been linked to numerous corruption cases in South Africa, citing reputational risk and regulatory concerns. The Guptas, who have moved to Dubai from Johannesburg, have denied all wrongdoing and said that the account closures were politically motivated.

“Duduzane Zuma was closely associated with the Guptas, and was a director of at least 11 companies that had members of the family on the board. In 2017, he complained in an open letter to South Africa’s then finance minister Pravin Gordhan that all his local accounts had been closed because of political pressure.

“Rudi Krause, a lawyer at BDK Attorneys which act for Duduzane Zuma, said he had passed questions about the Habib Bank account from Bloomberg to his client, but hadn’t heard back.

“Noureddin Bongo, the Gabonese president’s son, was given an exception allowing him to send remittance instructions by fax or email due to his inability to ‘personally visit the branch to submit fund transfer’ instructions, when he opened the account in July 2014. Sylvia Bongo, Ali Bongo’s French-born wife, was given a ‘waiver of proof of residence document’ when she opened an account in June 2013.

“Sylvia and Noureddin Bongo didn’t contravene any rules when they opened the accounts, which have since been closed on their personal request, their lawyer Claude Dumont Beghi said in an emailed response to questions. Their only obligation as PEPs was to declare their identities to the bank, which they did, Dumont Beghi said.

“The finalized version of the inspection report didn’t mention the Duduzane Zuma or the Bongo accounts. It also said that Habib Bank identified the previously unmarked PEP accounts during the last quarter of 2017, and that they were subsequently closed. It improved its procedures for identifying PEPs in the first quarter of 2018, the report added.

“In a statement, Habib Bank said it has had policies in place for sanctioned countries and for handling PEP accounts for a number of years. ‘In 2017 a handful of transactions were identified at HBL UAE which contravened our processes and standards. This should never have happened,’ the statement said. ‘Following disciplinary proceedings, the staff members involved are no longer employed by’ the bank, it added.”

Habib Bank, majority owned by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, had total assets of 3.1 trillion Pakistan rupees ($20.1 billion) at the end of September. It is now focused on building up its operations in China to tap more business under China’s Belt and Road initiative.


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