ISLAMABAD: Why has retired Admiral Fasih Bokhari been nominated and immediately rejected by the Opposition in yet another controversial appointment to a critically important national institution which could curb corruption?
A submariner, who remained Pakistan Navy Chief from 1997 to 1999, was allegedly involved in different questionable deals, was accused of not proceeding against those submariners who had received kickbacks from Agosta Submarine scandal after becoming Naval Chief despite knowing all the facts and a case of ‘Brooks and Garcia Spares Case’ allegedly involving Bokhari was heard by Public Accounts Committee few month before.
In ‘Brooks and Garcia Spares Case’ in PAC Admiral Bokhari is alleged to have favoured one of his close friend Commander (R) Naeem Sarfraz. Fasih Bokhari is on record uttering remarks against Pakistan’s historic decision to explode nuclear bombs to maintain nuclear deterrence against India in 1998 and is also known for his views against creation of Pakistan.
Top most ex-Navy officers also accuse him of taking a luxurious plot which in fact falls in the category reserved for ‘widows of martyrs’ by changing the category of plot in his capacity as Naval Chief.
Credible sources confided to The News that Admiral Fasih was in fact recommended by a close friend of the president for this position. It is also learnt that after becoming NAB chief Fasih could be used to proceed against some political leader(s) belonging to an opposition party.
Former senior Navy officer Rear Admiral (R) Tanveer Ahmad while talking to The News said that even if Fasih Bokhari was not directly involved in Agosta Submarine scandal, he as a submariner let all those submariners who were involved, off the hook, and instead gave them promotions after becoming naval chief.Tanveer disclosed that he has brought to light the misappropriations regarding ‘Brooks and Garcia Spares’ when Admiral Fasih Bokhari was admiral and Admiral Mansoor-ul-Haq was Naval Chief and on his move the process was stopped.
Tanveer said, however, when Fasih became the Naval chief the same practice was started again. Tanveer said that a case on the same matter was taken up by the Chaudhry Nisar Ali led Public Accounts Committee some nine months before.
Tanveer also disclosed that Fasih Bokhari had accepted a plot which was meant for the quota of widows of the martyrs, but when the issue was raised it was replied that the Naval Chief could change the category of any plot. It was also revealed that Fasih Bokhari later sold that plot to a close friend but later on raising of the issue this friend returned the money back to Fasih Bokhari. However, later another person who was in fact a front man of the same friend again purchased the same plot.
Former Naval chief Admiral Abdul Aziz Mirza in his interview with The News last year has said that three navy officers of ranks of captain and commodore and were found involved in receiving kickbacks and were fired from Pakistan Navy but he said that he believes that besides politicians in power at that time some top ranking officers of Pakistan Navy who were senior to these ousted officers were also involved in receiving this bribe money.
“They, however, (the top Naval officials) remained undetected for want of proof or witnesses,” Mirza had told The News. Mirza, who led the Pakistan Navy from Oct 1999 to Oct 2002, while quoting the then Naval chief Admiral Saeed Khan, had also revealed that Benazir Bhutto’s defence minister Aftab Shaban Mirani had clearly indicated to the Pakistan Navy’s high command the government’s preference for the induction of the French submarines.
Experts say that even if all the evidence and witnesses were not found against him, the biggest defence corruption scandal in the country’s history had taken place under the nose of admiral Bokhari, in which the appointing authority of NAB chief and present top rulers were also allegedly involved in the scam at that time.
So, experts say, he has a heavy baggage of failing to stop a corruption scandal and then pardoning those who were punished in the scam. Senior political analyst Shireen Mazari confirmed to The News that in one of her meetings with Admiral Fasih Bokhari, when the later was the Naval chief, Adm Bokhari had condemned Pakistan’s decision to explode the atomic bombs in 1998. Mazari said that she had given details of this meeting and one of Bokhari’s statements in a seminar in a Gulf state in her column published in The News on February 6, 2008.
The relevant paragraph of her column with subject ‘Reciprocity: A costly omission’ reads: “What’s with the admirals of the Pakistan Navy? When Admiral Fasih Bokhari was Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), soon after Pakistan’s nuclear tests in May 1998, I was surprised to be asked to a meeting with him but was then horrified to find him questioning why I had supported Pakistan’s nuclear testing. He declared that Pakistan had made a big mistake at which point I asked him why as naval chief he had not given his view officially. Anyhow, it was not at all astonishing to find Admiral Bokhari, after retirement, declaring at an IISS meeting in the Gulf, that Quaid-i-Azam had made a mistake in seeking the creation of Pakistan. It appears Admiral Bokhari got away with a mild rebuke when his peculiar view became known to the military leadership.”
Former judge of the Supreme Court Justice Wajihuddin Ahmad while commenting on the nomination of Admiral Bokhari said that it is in fact a mindset to make controversial decisions especially in case of extremely significant appointments to which one’s own interest is attached in order to keep on creating controversies and making delays to avoid proper investigations and prosecutions in high-profile corruption cases.
Wajih said that whenever a top constitutional holder has to consult other constitutional officer holders for such high level appointments, it has been a practice that a panel of at least three names is sent. “But, when your objective is to create controversies and confusion, you always do so and appoint your close aides or friends on such positions which otherwise needs people with completely spotless career and impeccable integrity,” Wajih added.
Senior PML-N leader senator Mushahidullah Khan in his interview with media said that NAB chairman could only be that person who was completely spotless and everyone agreed to his name. He said that Admiral Bokhari is among friends of President Zardari and allegedly responsible for Agosta Submarine scandal so he was unacceptable.
A credible source also revealed to The News that though PML-N is not opposing the nomination of Admiral Fasih Bokhari but those who are bringing Bokhari wanted the latter to initiate action against senior PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
The News tried to reach Admiral Fasih Bokhari on his and her daughter’s cell numbers but it was conveyed that Bokhari did not want to interact with the media. He was unavailable on Monday as well.
However, a senior politician who had remained close to Admiral Bokhari while talking to The News said that Bokhari is an honest and respectable person. He said that when the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appointed the then army chief General Pervez Musharraf as chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Admiral Bokhari considering Musharraf as much junior officer to him had resigned as Naval Chief on October 6, 1999.
The politician, speaking on the condition of not being named, also said that Bokhari had also launched a powerful protest against Musharraf’s Kargil war and had demanded constitution of a commission to completely probe the Kargil issue.