We might blame the politicians for buckling under the might of Malik Riaz but the real power behind the man is the military brass. No question about that.
He learnt the ropes of the contracting trade early on when he worked as a clerk at Maintenance and Engineering Services (MES), a civilian branch of the Army that renovates and repairs houses. That’s where he honed his skills in the art of ‘wheeling-dealing.’ In due time, he made enough money to become a contractor with the same MES, this time ‘greasing’ the palms of the junior officers that he had trained himself in all things shady. They grew in career as he grew in wealth or may be the other way around. His level of the interaction has sky-rocketed since then.
The former MES clerk now has among his employees many retired generals. We are told he enjoys it when some of them carry his bag shamelessly. During the initial days of the infamous Arsalan Iftikhar case, a photograph showed two retired generals escorting Malik Riaz while exiting the Supreme Court. One was the former mighty in-charge of military’s political muscle, Major General (retd) Ehtesham Zameer, who ran the political section of the ISI during the Musharraf government. And with a ruthless abandon I must say. The other was the top man of military’s public relations, Major General (Retd) Shaukat Sultan. Perhaps their job description remains the same but this time for a different boss and a really different salary package. No wonder, Malik brags so often that his files never stop.
That one picture captures the state of affairs in the Army, which continues to lose respect because of its partnership with one man.
The former MES clerk seems an uncrowned Field Marshal in terms of the power that he enjoys in all things related to the Brass.
One two-star general, while he was Director General of Welfare and Rehabilitation (under which comes DHA Islamabad), constructed a palatial house on a hilltop for himself not in the DHA but in Bahria Town next door. The house is so grand that people come to see it as a tourist attraction. This is not to cast any aspersions but it was under his tenure that the DHA and Bahria got into the most controversial joint ventures. No proof but in such positions people are expected to exercise some discretion.
Malik was smart enough to realize in the 1990s, when the khakis engineered the fall of a government every two years, that the real power, among the three most powerful proverbial As in Pakistan, lies with the Army. He knew that having the uniforms on your back is the safest bet in town.
Turns out, that’s exactly what Malik did. He sold the land to the DHA after grabbing it forcefully and illegally from not so powerful and influential individuals or housing society owners. Once under the control of the military, he knew there was no way it could come back to bite him. After all who would take the military to court even if DHA Islamabad, or some parts of it, are built on Qabza land.
The case of 2880 kanals owned by Revenue Employees Cooperative Housing Society (RECHS) should explain. The society land was proposed to be converted to Phase-9 of Bahria Town, and members of the RECHS would have been accommodated accordingly. But once the merger was complete, thanks to Pervaiz Elahi, Malik Riaz sold it to the DHA.
It has taken years of litigation and effort by the victims to pressurize Bahria Town to compensate through the courts. Many remain without compensation even after nine years.
Malik Riaz knew he had to keep generals in his pocket, along with the politicians and other civilians. That’s why most of the generals count on his vast empire for future employment post-retirement.
Interestingly, one of the recently retired general – of the NLC scam fame – was the Garrison Commander in Lahore when Malik built The Mall of Lahore, a high rise, posh luxury apartment building smack in the center of Cantonment and right opposite the otherwise red-zoned Corps Commander’s House. To this day, people are amazed that how this construction was allowed at such a sensitive sight. He developed a friendship with the two-star general way back then and as it turns out (some say may be it was orchestrated) that the same gentleman was promoted and posted as the QMG in Rawalpindi who heads all of the army’s housing and land related projects.
He is definitely an expert in knowing which hands to grease. Stories of many generals literally eating from Malik’s hands abound and they are not confined to Army messes. Also affected are lots mid-ranking officers, retired soldiers and, painful for the rank and file, the families of the martyred.
It’s a Rs 62 billion scam. The story goes that the DHA Valley scheme was announced with lots of fanfare. People bought free forms in black because of the hype. The scheme offered plots measuring 150 and 240 square yards to retired officers, JCOs and the families of martyred soldiers.
But the issue is that ‘the land ain’t there.’ The acquisition of around 80,000 kanal required for DHA Valley is far from completion. Those who got cheated include 110,000 civilians, 41,000 serving and retired military officers, jawans and the families of martyrs. I have seen people crying for the loss of their life-long savings. Enters Malik Riaz, the realtor tycoon was contracted to develop the scheme. You may not believe this but the Don was paid Rs 62 billion in advance. The DHA Valley is yet to acquire land but the money for its development was paid against all legal advice. Isn’t it mind-boggling?
Those who lost the money are found appealing to the Chief of Army Staff through press releases in newspaper offices. The COAS seems as helpless as anybody else before this former MES clerk. You have to give credit to the man.
Published on: thespokesman.pk
Dated: 25 February 2013