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August 25, 2020

Jakarta Embassy building sale case: Musharraf had protected ex-Maj Gen Anwar

Top Story

August 25, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The NAB’s latest reference filed against a former ambassador to Indonesia Major General (retd) Syed Mustafa Anwar for alleged selling the Pakistani Embassy building in Jakarta at "a throwaway price" during 2001-02, ignored General (retd) Musharraf for protecting the ex-envoy and victimising the Foreign Office senior official who had pointed out the wrong.

The News had reported the scam in 2002-03 but instead of proceeding against the ex-envoy, General Musharraf had transferred back and suspended the officer who had complained to the Foreign Office of the alleged fraud. Gen Musharraf not only kept the officer an OSD till his retirement in 2007-08 but also gave a further extension to Major General (retd) Syed Mustafa Anwar. The retired Maj General was said to be a relative of Musharraf’s wife.

It was reported by The News in 2003 that buildings, which were reportedly sold for merely $3 million, were situated at the most prime location of Jakarta. The buildings constituting the chancellery and ambassador’s residence were proposed to be sold by the ambassador to buy a much bigger and expanded building structure in relatively less important location of the capital.

The government procedures, which had been evolved to sell the country's foreign assets, were simply ignored while selling these assets to a local party in Jakarta. These procedures included the involvement of a high-level official committee from Pakistan, advertisements in local media to call bids to get the maximum price, etc.

Neither was the committee involved nor was the advertisement given in the Indonesian newspapers. The ambassador did not even have the sanction from the FO to sell the assets. Rather a committee constituted by the ambassador under him and comprising two officials posted in the mission, signed a deal with a private party. But soon after the signing of the agreement, one of the two members of the mission’s committee had approached the FO with a disclosure that kickbacks were involved in the controversial deal. The officer was asked to report the matter in writing so that the deal could be cancelled.

The officer did the same but the deal was never cancelled. On the contrary, the officer - Dr SMH Rizvi - was called back and made Officer on Special Duty (OSD). Interestingly he was made OSD with the Establishment Division instead of keeping him with his parent department- the foreign ministry. He remained OSD till his retirement in 2007-08. Later within a few years time, the officer died. After the matter was reported by The News, a fact finding committee was ordered to look into the incident. The committee had probed the matter and confirmed that set procedures were ignored while selling the government’s assets located in the heart of Jakarta but spared the ambassador.

However, no formal inquiry was held to inquire into the allegations of kickbacks in the deal. Rather, the Foreign Office official, who informed the government about the dubious deal, was made an "example".

In 2004, Musharraf had extended the contract of Maj-Gen (retd) Syed Mustafa Anwar Hussain for the fourth year as Pakistan Ambassador in Indonesia, leaving the aspirant Brigadier (retd) Ejaz Shah, the then home secretary Punjab and presently minister interior, high and dry. Shah was nominated for the top position in the country’s mission in Jakarta, however, later he was asked to hold on while offering one-year additional contract to the incumbent retired general. The Foreign Office was waiting for the approval of Ejaz Shah’s agre’ment by the Indonesian government that it received the orders for further extension in the contract period of the retired major general.

Later during the last PML-N tenure in 2015, a parliamentary committee, which probed the matter said that Dr SMH Rizvi was treated in an unfair and biased manner. It was also found that the Foreign Ministry despite its request was not allowed to undertake inquiry against Razvi, and his case was transferred to the Establishment Division.

According to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) reference filed recently, Anwar illegally sold the building and caused a loss of $1.32 million to the national exchequer.

The reference read that the former ambassador had issued an advertisement for the sale of the building without the Foreign Ministry’s approval. Therefore, he had misused his powers under Section 9 (A) 6 of the National Accountability Ordinance.