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December 3, 2019

Outgoing DG FIA leaves behind legacy of resistance to unlawful orders

Top Story

December 3, 2019

ISLAMABAD: An uneasy relationship between Bashir Ahmed Memon and a top government official culminated at the former’s resignation from service on the day he was removed from the post of FIA Director General, apparently as an expression of displeasure for not obeying the unlawful orders relating to the arrests of key opposition leaders through fake cases.

“It is usual courtesy in official working not to post out any officer nearing retirement. I have been denied this courtesy, which, in my opinion, is an expression of displeasure towards me. Aforementioned in view, I tender my resignation from service,” reads his resignation letter addressed to Secretary Establishment. Late Friday, he was replaced withPanama Papers JIT-fame Wajid Zia who was holding the charge of IG Railways after.

Memon, a BS-22 police officer of courage and character has been through thick and thin his entire career for saying ‘no’ to the high and mighty. Since every choice has its price, he paid it happily and stood the ground. During PPP government, he earned the ire of Asif Ali Zardari, then president, who had him removed from the position of DIG Hyderabad. Incidentally, both of them not only belonged to the same area, they were together at Petaro Cadet College. Zardari was his senior. Memon nevertheless didn’t compromise when was assigned investigation against Muzaffar Tappi, step-brother of Zardari. Fake account scandal that has landed Zardari in jail was also unearthed by FIA under Memon’s watch.

Yet another showdown awaited him soon after he was appointed DG FIA. A money-laundering investigation against an MQM MNA was under progress and the government wanted FIA not to put him on notice. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was prime minister. One day he called Memon who had already refused to secretary interior on this matter. “We have to run the House (National Assembly). Please help us (by not pursuing the case),” Abbasi is quoted to have requested Memon. “Sir, running the House is your responsibility and the law-enforcement is mine,” he replied. Contrary to expectations, Abbasi not only appreciated his blunt answer but also said he needed more straightforward officers like him. On the occasion, Abbasi asked for anything he could do to improve FIA and allocated as much funds as demanded by Memon.

As PTI formed the government, Memon thought the days of facing political pressure were over. The events that followed were not less than rude shocks for him. He was simultaneously being pressed on fabricating cases against key opposition leader. “Name any noted opposition leader,” an official said when asked to explain against whom the government wanted cases registered. Most of them were from PML-N but a number of PPP politicians were also on radar.

Sharif family was at the top. The government was unhappy when FIA submitted a reply before SC that it couldn’t find any tangible evidence to proceed against Nawaz Sharif and others. “You could have lingered it on, no matter there was no evidence,” a top government official told him conveying displeasure on its closure. Other than Nawaz Sharif, the government wanted to proceed against Makhdoom Javed Hashmi on the basis of Asghar Khan Case as it was also conveyed to FIA.

Shahbaz Sharif was the next target. As Memon refused to proceed unless any substantial evidence is found against him, he was asked to collect it by holding meetings with bureaucrats who had served under Shahbaz. At one point, he was sent to Lahore for the purpose. After failing to have him arrested through FIA, NAB was involved. A day after Shahbaz’ arrest, FIA was taunted for not cooperating and NAB was lauded for swift action. “You see, I have made one call to him and he arrested Shahbaz the following day,” a top government official told Memon. In another meeting a few days later, he was told that NAB has started even arresting opposition politicians who are being named “next target of NAB” in talk shows by government spokesperson. “This is called loyalty,” he was reminded. Pressure started fizzling out on FIA after NAB took over this assignment, said an official.

As Shahbaz was on bail at the time Maryam Nawaz held presser on accountability judge’s video scandal, FIA was again under pressure to arrest all the noted PML-N leaders who were in attendance. Maryam Nawaz was the first target this time. As Memon argued that it could not be done on the basis of presser, a desperate government official demanded the arrest of Senator Pervez Rashid if not Maryam. But there was no answer to the question that under what law it could be done. Starting investigation against Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was another demand. Under what excuse? Find something from Air Blue, he was told. Arrest of Ali Jehangir Siddiqui was also on the government’s wishlist.

How to do it? Find some irregularity in his partnership with Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in Air Blue business or something wrong he would have done as ambassador in Washington. At this Foreign Office intervened that it would be disastrous making foreign ministry controversial. Then came another order. Implicate the foreign ministry’s official trying to save Siddiqui. How to do this? Allege the official of taking bribe from Siddiqui for ambassadorial posting. Khawaja Asif was yet another target and still is. The government wanted him to implicate on the grounds that since he had UAE iqama, he had been selling national secrets to a foreign government as foreign minister.

Where to get evidence? More so because Supreme Court had already cleared him. There was no answer. Memon was then told to issue a press release announcing that he is being investigated for committing treason by sharing secrets with a foreign government. Memon refused to do that saying FIA can’t make such an announcement in absence of any evidence. During a heated debate, Memon told a top bureaucrat that if FIA starts registering cases on such flimsy grounds, a time comes when PM will face such charges on the basis of spending times with his sons who are British citizens.

Before ANF, Rana Sanaullah’s arrest was also decided through FIA which refused again due to the want of evidence. “At least, on four occasions, Memon was asked to pick Rana Sanaullah on any charge,” an official privy to the situation said.

Son of former Chief Justice, Arsalan Iftikhar Chaudhry, PML-N’s Engineer Amir Muqam Khurram Dastgir, Javed Latif, Rana Mashood and Khawaja Saad Rafique were also on the hitlist but FIA refused to register case without any substantial evidence. Khursheed Shah was arrested through NAB after non-cooperation from FIA. Sherry Rehman, Rehman Malik and Mustafa Khokhar were other PPP leaders the government wanted to arrest by FIA. NAB former chairman Ch Qamarul Zaman also forms the part of potential targets.

Ahsan Iqbal and Marriyum Aurangzeb were not immune from these threats either. The main charge against them was speaking against the government. “How comes do they dare castigating us while sitting in Pakistan,” FIA was told. I need to take some officials from FIA along during the next visit of an Arab state, said a top man. “You will see his administration. Nobody can dare speaking against him,” Memon was told with reference to an Arab ruler.

As one PIA inquiry was pending with FIA wherein the recovery of an outstanding amount from Airbus company was under discussion which current PIA MD has managed to recover, FIA was asked if there was any politician involved in it. Upon the answer in negative, a top government official grumbled: “These (opposition) politicians are barking dogs. All of them must be in jail.” However, a top government official’s reaction was altogether different when Aleem Khan was picked up by NAB. “There is nothing against Aleem Khan. NAB has started arresting our people,” the top official reacted before FIA officials.

As The News contacted Adviser to Prime Minister, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, for the version, to ask why Memon has resigned, she said initially he went on leave and now has tendered the resignation. Asked if it is true that he was being pressured to arrest leading opposition politicians on baseless charges, she denied this but added that the government has a discretion to adopt a policy and direct bureaucracy to act upon it. “What it had to do with FIA? It was NAB’s job,” she further commented. When pressed on a point that several cases now being dealt with by NAB were first referred to FIA, the conversation interrupted probably due to another call to her. She didn’t pick when tried again. The News sent her questions, which has not been responded yet. Memon was reluctant to speak but didn’t either deny or confirm when approached for comments.

However, another government official, on condition of anonymity, said that all the allegations are baseless and concocted.

He said that every person thinks himself righteous, and when removed from a position, considers that he has been wronged. He said that government believes in transparency in governance, alleging that these elements are part of the mafia; they raise hue and cry when government get its hands on them.

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