Has the C.J Finally caught up with Malik Riaz? Saeed A. Malik.
Land grabbing, bribing, answering to endless commissions of inquiry, raking in huge amounts of cash, and being one step ahead of the law. This is pretty much the story of Malik Riaz Hussain’s life.
But no one ever dared to believe that this man could ever be brought to heel. Yet finally when Mr. Justice Saqib Nisar became a part of the chase, the impossible seems to have entered the realms of possibility. It has now begun to appear that the biggest and slipperiest of the rogue elephants may finally have to bend his knee to the power of the law.
And this is because for the first time in a very long while we have a Chief Justice who is willing to confront every outlaw irrespective of his heft and influence, and to make him conform.
But will this really happen? Not many believe it will, because, it is believed, that the bandit is too big to fail or be felled.
Malik Riaz began his career as a lowly clerk in the M.E.S from where he graduated to the rank of a petty contractor. His pet contracts were those requiring underground work like pipe laying etc because in these the quality of work was beyond easy scrutiny, and thus the profits were large. It is from here he took his start and let his motto be known: if one is ready to pay, everyone is equally ready to sell himself.
And so he set about making certain he had enough money to buy everyone he needed to buy. But he was also motivated to build the best there was and to set standards. And this, it needs to be confessed, he has done. But the whole enterprise is underpinned by an undeclared motto of his: steal from the poor, and buy the rich, and in the process become the richest yourself!
His first stroke of genius was to go to the Navy and give them a ten percent stake in his first housing society without any investment on their part, except that they allow him to use the name of “Bahria”
This gave credibility to his housing schemes and gave a sense of security to those who invested in them.
As money began flowing in, Malik Riaz began grabbing land. Small landholders unwilling to sell their paltry holdings, had to be “convinced” that it was in their best interests to sell. For this he needed muscle. And muscle first came in form of Malik Bari who is now dead, and Haji Nawaz Khokhar [ex-MNA] and brother Taji, who are not, but should have been. And into the ranks of these musclemen came other big names like Chaudhary Tanveer [a Rawalpindi legislator], and Major Nisar Bokhari [a first cousin of Nayyar Bokhari, ex-Chairman Senate, and a protector of the Major].
Of these, the Khokhars were the real kingpins. Indeed they maintained a well-stocked menagerie of proclaimed offenders who invested their efforts with serious menace.The standard method of acquiring land was to pay a down payment of ten percent of the price of land as fixed by Malik Sahib. The willing sellers accepted this, while the unwilling ones had to be “convinced” to do so. And this was most ably done by the Khokhars and the rest. But whether willing or unwilling, the buyers had then to spend half their lives trudging up to Bahria offices to get the balance of what was owed to them. It is alleged that during the process of being “convinced” some intransigent villagers who wanted to hold on to their farming, lost a limb, and some their lives. Thousands were run off their dwellings and made destitute. This was most heartlessly done to whole “goths” around Malir.
But irrespective of minor inconveniences suffered by the unfortunate, the prosperity of Bahria kept increasing.
Of the initial conquests of note were the acquisition by Bahria of the Takht Parri and Loi Bir forests Rawalpindi suburbs–land that was just plain could not be legally sold. Old google maps show these forests and are legal evidence of an open and shut case against Bahria.
The first land grab which went sour for Malik Sahib was when his henchmen forced off Maj Gen Akram’s staff off his farm and took it over. The Gen called VCOAS [Gen Yusuf] and reported the matter to him. Yusuf called Kiyani, who was then commanding 10 Corps and instructed him to make certain that the situation was reversed. And thus came about a meeting between Gen Kiyani and Malik Riaz Hussain which was to prove fateful and hugely rewarding for both, a few years hence.
But before the rewards began flowing in there were some hitches. One was a commission of inquiry into Bahria activities by District and Sessions Judge, Mazhar Hussain Minhas, and Malik Riaz was shocked to find that not all people were up for sale. Judge Minhas was one of these.
During the course of this inquiry, there was a nervous current running through all Bahria offices. The judge was not bending and disaster could befall the organization. But then came the rumor that Arsalan Iftikhar, son of the then Chief Justice, had been given a round of Bahria properties to choose from. That the round was a success could be deduced from the palpable reduction in Bahria offices. Within days the inquiry went into cold storage, and fear subsided.
On 29 May 2011, there appeared a Bahria employment advertisement in the papers. The requirement was for: a “recently retired” Judge of the Supreme Court; and a “recently retired” Lt Gen.
The brashness of this advertisement was adequate confirmation to me that Iftikhar Mohammad Choudhary, the honorable Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, had most dishonorably sold himself out to Malik Riaz Hussain. The advertisement was the exultant announcement of a victory of one who rose from truly humble beginnings over symbols of state power–Malik Riaz had arrived!
Yet this accounted only for the Chief Justice. Was there perhaps a similar conquest in the army? I wondered.
Sure enough and most tragically there was. And this came out with the infamous DHA Islamabad scandal i.e the arrangement under which Malik Riaz was charged with procuring land for the army and developing one of the DHA sectors. What soon transpired was that Malik Riaz was buying land very cheap, and palming it off to the DHA at hugely inflated prices.
Also, he was keeping the choicest pieces of land for Bahria while fobbing the army off with marginal land. And the development funds he was receiving on account of developing a DHA sector, he was diverting to his own business, leaving the investors high and dry.
These contracts were given to Malik Riaz by the A.G,[ the Adjutant General] Lt Gen Imtiaz Hussain, reportedly in return for a huge kickback. Rs 22 billion was the figure being bandied about. But those who knew Gen Imtiaz well were certain that he just did not have it in him to get into such a huge heist entirely on his own. It was open conjecture that in this caper was his senior partner was the COAS [Gen Kiyani] himself.
As the disquiet increased among those who were regularly paying development charges for their plots which were to be developed by Bahria, but where no development was to be seen, the hissing was becoming louder and the makings of a scandal were coming together. As a result, three Lt Gens gave this issue as an agenda point to be discussed at the next AG’s conference in which the COAS would be in attendance.
The moment this issue came up for discussion in the conference, before Gen Imtiaz could respond to it, Kiyani hijacked the point and took it on a tangent. It was clear to the perceptive that the issue was off limits. The matter was dropped, but the doubts that Kiyani was somehow connected to the scandal developed more legs.
Soon Gen Imtiaz retired, and on 26 May 2012, he committed suicide. It was said that this was on account of mental depression. The alternate view was that he was under huge anxiety for fear of the scandal bursting open and the consequences that were bound to issue in its wake. The rumor going the rounds was that he went to Kiyani to get reassurance, but that Kiyani told him off.
This scandal did not do much for Kiyani’s, or for that matter, the army’s reputation or morale. Later, the close affinity which the younger Kiyani brothers developed with Malik Riaz, and through him with Asif Zardari, did not do a whole lot of good for the Kiyani name either.
Indeed, Gen Kiyani had done more for the good of the army than all the previous Army Chiefs put together, but sadly he exacted a terrible price for it. In this he proved much like Malik Riaz who feeds a hundred poor people here only to rob a thousand elsewhere!
After he got Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhary and Kiyani right where he wanted them, and already having developed a union of theft with the Sharifs and Asif Zardari, with tons of money stashed both in Pakistan and abroad, Malik Riaz had become probably the most powerful man in Pakistan. On his recommendation Governors were removed or ministers installed, and he packed some of the most influential TV anchors and journalists into his private sleaze stables to do his bidding.
These forays from real estate into the fourth estate, which were initiated by Malik Riaz and followed by others, were to become a defining characteristic of the partnership between our political “elite”, land mafia, and the media.
In this sordid environment, it was a wonder that so many media persons should have ignored all blandishments and chosen to retain the sanctity of their vocations.
But the supreme confidence with which he got infested, as a result, created its own problems for the tycoon.
His confidence came to be seen as arrogance by Chaudhary Nisar Ali Khan, whose congenital constipation could not bear the presence of a second arrogant man in the same district. Thus the Chaudhary got after him hammer and tongs and instituted all manner of cases against him. This is when Malik Riaz maneuvered to get Admiral Fasih Bokhari as Chairman NAB. The plan was to get all Bahria cases shifted to NAB and find exoneration there.
When the Supreme Court found Admiral Bokhari’s appointment as Chairman NAB illegal, it was Malik Riaz who recommended the infamous Chaudhary Qamar Zaman as his replacement. And this man ended up giving a blanket cover to those responsible for the brutal gang rape of Pakistan i.e the Zardari-Nawaz combine and their cronies. And he did this with the style and panache of a man indemnified against any adverse consequence of his crimes. No one man has done more for the cause of crime than him. But he roams free, as do the minions he recruited into NAB, who continue to undermine the cause of law in the one institution made specifically to serve it!
When Chaudhary Qamar Zaman went into gilded retirement, Justice Javed Iqbal succeeded him. Once again it was Malik Riaz who chose the new Chairman and had him endorsed by the surrogates of Zardari and Nawaz Sharif. This is what real power is.
For ten years thus, the three greatest criminals in Pakistan worked in a seamless partnership to bring ruin to their country. This began with the “Charter of Democracy”, ending with the bankruptcy of the state. The horrors that are to follow this lie snugly curled up in the rapidly unfurling future.
But only when this unfolds, will the true dimensions of the treachery of this three-some become fully known.
Thus if the Chief Justice has finally dug his claws into Malik Riaz Hussain, it is no mean endeavor, and the disbelief greeting it is entirely natural. But the question is whether this time this horse will also be made to drink, or if he will be allowed merely to stand by the water?
But if the rule of law is to be rehabilitated in Pakistan, people like Malik Riaz HAVE to be tried and convicted. The charges against him where he acquired state land which was ILLEGAL to do, form open and shut cases which even NAB should not be able to lose.
His acquisition of forest land, whether in Rawalpindi or in Malir are cases in point. The ONLY way these cases can be botched is if those who were bribed to abet his illegal acquisition of state land were to be tried with him in a joint trial. Thus he should be tried SEPARATELY, and ONLY on the charge of acquiring land illegally, OR of acquiring it, selling it, or building on it. Upon his conviction, all Bahria Town properties still on this title should become properties of the FEDERAL government. Where projects are ongoing, such administrators should be appointed to complete them as have experience of running reputable housing societies. Banks will need to be instructed to extend the same facilities to the new administration of these properties, as were extended to the old. Some eggs will indeed break in the making of this omelet, but it is not impossible to bring this larger than life boss of the land mafia to heel.
That people can even think in terms of arch criminals and traitors to the cause of Pakistan seeing the inside of a prison, and the rule of law finally being established for the mega-rich, is a gift of the Supreme Court to the people of Pakistan.