Pakistan’s judicial crisis: remembering another sordid tale

Justice (retired) Nasim Hasan Shah’s offer

Salman Akram Raja, writing on the moral position of the lawyers’ movement reminds us of this grim chapter of our history:

Is it time now to abandon concern for what is right? Justice (retired) Nasim Hasan Shah reminds us in his remarkable memoirs that during the Bhutto appeal before the Supreme Court he had offered, on behalf of all Punjabi judges, a deal that Justice (retired) Dorab Patel had turned down. The deal was that the Punjabis would not grant Mr. Bhutto the death sentence if the non-Punjabis would agree to convict the accused and punish him with life imprisonment. Justice Patel’s overly moral and legalistic rebuff was “How can I convict a man I think is innocent?” It is clear to Justice Shah that it was the failure of the deal offered by him on account of Justice Patel’s obsession with the law and the morality of his position as a judge that caused Mr. Bhutto’s death. Is there a time when doing the right thing is not right…”

Mr Raja is at the forefront of the lawyers’ movement. His emphasis on the moral argument is understandable. This little snippet just reminded one of the most bizarre court cases with tragic consequences; not to mention the public admission by the good Judge on a TV show that the Supreme Court made a mistake in hanging Bhutto!!


Filed under Democracy, History, Justice, Media, Pakistan, Politics, Writers

3 responses to “Pakistan’s judicial crisis: remembering another sordid tale


    Schon has been a controversial group and its chairman Athar Hussain, a former pilot with PIA had been taking great pain to explain the origin of seed money for the group. Do you think Schon Group can start once again the same financial corruption in Pakistan ?
    Schon Group was once supported on massive chain of Government loans obtained through fraudulent means. They had found convenient pawns inside the Mr.Nawaz Sharif and Bi Bi Government machinery, such as NDFC, CLA, Privatization Commission and Income tax. With looted wealth from Pakistan Group is happily living in Dubai
    Schon has been a controversial group and its chairman Athar Hussain, a former pilot with PIA had been taking great pain to explain the origin of seed money for the group. After the dismissal of Benazir govt in November 1996, Athar Hussain and his two sons fled Pakistan because of scandals about their deals with the Privatization Commission and their relationship with Asif Zardari, husband of former prime minister. Schon bought National Fibre, Pak-China Fertilizer and Quaidabad Woolen Mills in Nawaz Sharif’s privatization and nearly succeeded in acquiring Pak-Saudi Fertilizer Company during Bhutto’s privatization , through a front man. The group was founded in Singapore in 1973 to engage in import and export business while Athar Hussain was working as a pilot with the Singapore Airlines. It started as an Export House and grew around the hefty rebates that the group got on the export consignments. Nasir Hussain in an interview with Ovais Subhani of ” The News”, Islamabad narrated how he got his first order of shirts worth 300 dollars to Singapore and later took a furlow from college in the United States to supply a big garments order. ” Winning a export order from the Export Promotion Bureau proved to be the turn I was looking for. And in a little time we had enough resources to bid for a textile mills and later for a fibre unit under Nawaz Sharif’s privatization”, he said in the interview. According to Privatization Commission figures, Schon had acquired National Fibre and Pak-China Fertilizer for total bid prices of Rs 1,21,3.84 million ( Rs 756.64 million and Rs 456.84 million respectively) but was handed over the management after a down payment of Rs484.5 million and the bulk of the balance amount is outstanding against the group. In November 1991, at an investors conference in Islamabad, the Schon group announced plans for the setting up of a 30,000 barrels per day refinery at Port Qasim, in collaboration with PHOENIX Corp and Petro-Chem of United States under Benazir Bhutto govt when members of Schon group had close contacts with Asif Zardari, political clout was used to put together a financial package for the refinery in which National Investment Trust and several banks forced to join the project as equity partner. After the sacking of Bhutto govt, newspapers carried several reports that Schon wanted to dispose off National Fibre and other units, prior to dismissal of Benazir Bhutto govt which was a violation of deed signed with Privatization Commission. A report in the daily, The News, Islamabad, in December 1996 also reproduced extracts of a letter by Tahir Hussain to Asif Zardari, revealing that a bid was being made to sell National Fibre through an intermediary. ” With regard to the visit of Pir Murad Ali Shah in connection with the purchase of National Fibre Limited, it is informed to your goodslef that as this unit is under heavy financial burden, therefore, it is of immense importance to get these loans waived off before further negotiations in respect of sale of this factory could be carried further. It is also informed that Corporate Law Authority has created a case against us which is becoming a problem for Schon Group. I shall be highly obliged if this case can be closed against National Fibre Limited. Accept my hearty felicitations and thanks on helping us to have the extended loan facility by the Habib Bank which was not possible without your personal interest in the matter “, the letter said. Athar Hussain was taken into custody after dismissal of Bhutto govt but he managed to flee and is now living happily in United States. In November 1997, 8 residential plots and shares of Schon Bank were auctioned by Ehtasab Cell but a deal was mysteriously and quietly struck by Ehtsasab Cell and Athar Hussain. Details of the deal were not made public despite questions asked in the Senate but National Development Finance Corporation (NDFC) which started the legal process to repossess the National Fibre Limited was asked by the Ehtasab Cell to delay the takeover. According to the report published by The News, Islamabad on March 27, 1998, Ehtasab Cell has disbursed Rs 123 million to clear the dues of Pak-China Fertilizer to workers of the unit and WAPDA so that the unit can resume operation. S No Name Assets Turnover 1 National Fibre 1,851 838 2 Schon Textile 187 132 3 Schon Textile – – 4 Pak-China Fertilizer – –
    TOTAL 2,038 970
    Financial Assets 5 Schon Bank 1,994 6 Schon Modaraba 265 Unlisted Companies 1. Schon Refinery 2. Schon Air 3. Schon Mineral 4. Schon Chemical 5. Schon Hosiery 6. Schon Export House 7. Schon Capital Market

    From 1991 to June 2006Unit Name Sale Price Transfer Buyer Name National Fibres Ltd 756.6 Feb-92 Schon Group Pak China Fertilizers 435.4 May-92 Schon Group

    Schon granted amnesty against surrender of assets

    Bureau Report Week Ending : 14 June 1997 Issue : 03/24
    ISLAMABAD, June 12: The chief of Prime Minister’s Accountability Cell, Senator Saifur Rahman, signed on behalf of government of Pakistan a “settlement agreement” with the owners of the Schon group granting them amnesty in exchange of assets worth Rs1.4 billion.
    Mr. Rahman signed two separate documents of the same agreement at a press conference at the prime minister’s secretariat claiming that the amount recovered from the sale of these assets would be used to pay back the loans amounting to Rs2 billion illegally acquired by the group with official patronage from nationalized banks and development financial institutions during the previous government.
    Earlier, Mr. Nasir Hussain, a director of the Schon group, and his family members, at present staying in the United States and Dubai, signed these “settlement agreements” in Pakistani embassies in Washington and Dubai. With the signing of these documents, Mr. Nasir Hussain will be free to come to Pakistan and resume his business for generating further resources to pay back the remaining outstanding loans, Mr. Saifur Rahman told the press conference.
    The reporters at the press conference were also shown a documentary prepared by the accountability cell in which it tried to establish active business links between Mr. Hussain and Asif Ali Zardari. The prime concern of the present government is to revive country’s economy, said Mr. Rahman justifying the government’s action to grant amnesty to Mr. Hussain who, according to them, had looted public money with the connivance of Mr. Asif Zardari and Ms Benazir Bhutto. He said they had thoroughly discussed the agreement with the legal experts and had got it vetted by the law ministry.
    Mr. Rahman failed to come up with a satisfactory reply when asked whether they had not compromised the whole penal laws of the country and basic principles of justice by granting pardon to an accused in exchange of just Rs1.5 billion. However, he promptly denied links of Mr. Hussain with Mian Shahbaz Sharif during the first Pakistan Muslim League government. The Schon group, in a very controversial deal during the first terms of Nawaz Sharif, had acquired Pak-China Fertilizer.
    The in charge of accountability cell said they had involved the Interpol and got a red warrant of Nasir Hussain issued which compelled him in paying bank Rs1.4 billion in the government exchequer. He said some of the relatives of Nasir Hussain were staying in Dubai. He said the government approached authorities in the UAE and convinced them in putting their list on a computer disallowing them from leaving Dubai.
    Mr. Rahman alleged that the Schon group had earmarked a budget of Rs2.6 million and 15,000 dollars to bribe government machinery with the objective to scuttle the investigations initiated against them. He said two officers of FIA, Rafique Mughal and Masood Baig, had been arrested for receiving huge amount from the Schon group. During the past few weeks they disbursed a huge amount through an agent to bribe some investigation officers. The cell, he added, had proposed that all the cases of national interest should be televised live from the courts on the pattern of the USA where the trial of OJ Simpson was shown on television.
    “The investigation by the Ehtesab cell documentary evidence transpired Nasir Schon’s correspondence with Mr. Asif Zardari, requesting him for favors in obtaining loans and other financial benefits,” said a press release distributed at the news conference.
    The Schon group allegedly presented a fake equity amounting to Rs540 million ($16 million) to an American-based Company which, he said, helped government to get initiated legal action against Nasir Schon in the United States.
    A list of Pakistan’s RICHEST Individuals

    (Rs in millions)
    S.NO Name Wealth Wealth Tax 12 S Tahir Hassan 4,988,6910 1,225,610 14 Amir Hassan 4,611,7850 1,251,690 15 Nasir Hassan 4,566,4741 1,218,955
    Cases of corruption in Privatization.
    A :Fixing the reference price at will. A chairman of the Federal Anti-Corruption Committee (FACC), late Malik Mohammad Qasim, at a press conference on Feb 9,1995, accused Nawaz Sharif govt. of arbitrarily fixing the reference prices of the privatized state units and ignoring those suggested by the evaluations. It was revealed thatA chairman of the Federal Anti-Corruption Committee (FACC), late Malik Mohammad Qasim, at a press conference on Feb 9,1995, accused Nawaz Sharif govt. of arbitrarily fixing the reference prices of the privatized state units and ignoring those suggested by the evaluations. It was revealed that bids for a total amount of Rs 759 million were received for 16 Ghee Mills but they were sold for 636 million. The management of these units were handed over after a down of Rs 315 million, out of which Rs 137 were repaid as govt. share in Golden Handshake Scheme. The balance has not been paid to-date since the new owners have gone to court, on one pretext or another. Sartaj Aziz defended the allegation in ” The privatization of Ghee Mills, a rejoinder to FACC” released at a press conference. This is how he responded to the allegation that several state enterprises were sold at a price below those suggested by valuateors. ” No arbitrary fixation of price took place at all. The reason for any deviation from the figures worked out by the consultants have been explained in detail in review note of the valuation of each unit. The Privatization Commission, with approval of the Cabinet Committee on Privatization (CCOP) had agreed to adopt a uniform basis for the value of the goodwill in case of profitable units, as two years purchase of average profit, net of tax. Similarly in the case of loss-making units two years average losses net of tax credit were to be considered. Also a uniform rate of depreciation based on the normal tax depreciation rate was to be considered for depriciable fixed assets. These factors have been uniformally applied to arrive at the reference prices of all units offered for disinvestment without any exception”. The transparency in deciding the sale price is evident from the statement above which is not easy to comprehend. But the crux of what it said is ” YES, WAYS WERE FOUND TO CHANGE THE REFERENCE PRICES FIXED BY THE EVALUATORS”. Selling the units at a price far below the reference price was not limited to ghee units alone. At least half of the industrial units have been sold much below the reference price, on one ground or another he Cabinet Committee on Privatization (CCOP) had agreed to adopt a uniform basis for the value of the goodwill in case of profitable units, as two years purchase of average profit, net of tax. Similarly in the case of loss-making units two years average losses net of tax credit were to be considered. Also a uniform rate of depreciation based on the normal tax depreciation rate was to be limited to ghee units alone. At least half of the industrial units have been sold much below the reference price, on one ground or another
    B:-Schon Group National Fibre was one of the most profitable public sector units whose profitability induced others like ICI to set up polyester fibre projects. In 1991-92 when the project was privatized it had an impressive balance sheet of paid up capital of Rs 423 million, annual sales of Rs 990 million and a profit of Rs177 million. It was sold on Feb 2, 1992 for Rs 756 million to Schon Group and delivered after a down-payment of Rs 302 million, which is still defaulting in payment of Rs 356 million for National Fibre. In May 92, Pak-China Fertilizer was also sold to Schon group for Rs 456 million and handed over on a payment of Rs 182 million. A balance of Rs 240 million was outstanding against the group but no effort was made to recover it. Instead, Bhutto govt. approved the sale of Pak-Saudi Fertilizer to front-man for the Schon group but thanks largely to the alarm raised by the workers union and intervention by President Farooq Leghari the deal did not go through.
    After taking over the management of National Fibre, Schon applied to the Corporate Law Authority (CLA) for the consent to issue shares in the stock market for Rs 35 per share because the company was poised to launch a major expansion programme of Rs 1,700 million. The permission was granted but Karachi Stock Exchange took the plea that the share was overpriced and therefore, the share price was reduced to Rs 26.50. The offer was oversubscribed but on Dec 30,1992 the annual general meeting of the company was called ” to approve the management of surplus funds by Schon Management (Pvt.) Limited, an associate company of the group”. Both National Fibre and Pak-China Fertilizer have been closed since their privatization.
    Several cases were registered against members of the Schon group by the caretaker govt. of Meraj Khalid and second Nawaz govt. However, the chairman of the group Akhtar Hussain and his sons managed to escape and are currently living in exile in United States. Under an agreement whose details have not been revealed, despite questions in the Senate and National Assembly, shares of Schon Bank and real estate of Schon Bank have been auctioned by the Ehtasab Bureau for Rs 620 million. An additional amount of Rs 300 million was deposited by the group with the Ehtasab Bureau. Several other properties including two Rolls Royce cars, 12 aircrafts of Schon Air and a plot owned by the Schon Refinery are proposed to be auctioned in near future.
    A report in daily, the News, Islamabad March 27, 1998 said that Ehtasab Bureau has released an amount of Rs 123 million to clear the outstanding payments to the workers of Pak-China fertilizer and that factory would soon resume operation. A clarification issued by the Ehtasab Bureau, as published in daily, The News, Islamabad two days later said that Bureau had also provided Rs 150 million to the Schon group to start the factory so that 600 factory workers can resume employment. It was not clear as to how Schon group was allowed to continue managing the factory while absconding from law. It was also not clear from the report, from which account Senator Saif-ur-Rehman of Ehtasab Bureau had released Rs 123 million for clearing the bills of Pak-China Fertilizer which for all practical purpose is a private company and not owned by the government. _______________________________________________________________________
    Big Cover up in Corruption in Privatization
    Corruption in privatization under Benazir and Nawaz Sharif governments during 1990-97 has made legends. Volumes can be written about corruption in their privatization simply by complying the charges that they have traded with each other. It would appear that not a single deal of privatization during the last seven years has been free from corruption. Yet the full story of corruption in privatization has not been told because the leadrs of of the two parties talked about each other’s corruption when in opposition. But when in power they displayed a vested interest in covering up others corruption. In fact interviews by the author, with present and former cabinet ministers and officials of the Privatization Commission have revealed that Meraj Khalid govt. in which Shahid Javed Burki, Senior Vice-President of World Bank served as Finance Minister took a conscious decision to sleep over the scandalous default in the payment of balance amount due to the Privatization Commission by new owners of privatized units.
    According to an exercise undertaken by caretaker govt. Benazir and Nawaz govts. had privatized 88 industrial units till October 15,1996, for a consideration of Rs 15,409 million, of which Rs 4 billion was in default against owners of 30 privatized units. Of them 13 had not paid a single penny after assuming control of privatized units. A federal minister dealing with economic affairs in the caretaker govt. of Meraj Khalid told the author that the cabinet was aghast at the amount in default to the Privatization Commission from the owners of privatized units but decided to let the matter pass to the elected government since they had their hands full. ” We were already dealing with the scandal of Rs 120 billion bank loans default and could not afford another scandal of default in the payment to Privatization Commission”, the minister said. The cover up of default of Rs 4 billion to the Privatization Commission pales into insignificance in relation to the transfer of liabilities that have only been technically passed over to the new owners. But first a look at the default of balance amount due to the Privatization Commission.

    Companies defaulting in payment to Privatization Commission. (IN MILLIONS )
    1 National Cement Dandot 110 28.5.92 84 2 Pak PVC Ltd 63.57 8.2.92 46.37 3 Ravi Engineering – 7.1.96 12.28 4 Textile Machinery Corp 28.8 5.10.95 22.89 5 National Petro Carbon 189 – 37.45 6 Bara Vegetable 30.5 26.7.92 22 7 Crescent Factories 63 5.1.93 24 8 A&B Industries 36 16.3.93 26 9 Suraj Ghee 14.58 5.1.93 0.9 10 Pak Hayee Oil – 25.7.95 59 11 Dhaunkat Rice 79.2 28.6.93 74 12 Shikarpur Rice 42.28 – 10 13 Wah Cement 2,750 25.5.92 2,179 14 Baluchistan Wheel 270.58 3.2.92 116 15 National Fibre 756.64 6.5.92 56.03 16 Pak-China Fertilizer 456.84 12.1.93 240.32 17 Naya Daur Motors 40.52 1.10.92 40.48 18 Sindh Alkali 152.3 – 13.07 19 Sindh Ceramics 60.2 31.5.92 13.65 20 Metropolitan Steel 66.67 23.5.92 28.49 21 Sh FazRehmanGhee Mills 64.28 25.1.93 30.37 22 QuaidAbadWoolen Mills 86 8.7.92 14.17 23 Haripur Vegetable 30.1 19.5.92 25.15 24 Kakakhel Industries 52.28 5.1.93 1.5 25 Asif Industries 13.2 26.7.92 12.06 26 Chilton Industries 49.7 5.1.93 24 27 Crescent Industries 63 – 180 28 Pak Dyes & Chemicals 17 – ? 29 Ittehad Chemicals 452 – 180

    (The above table was compiled from charts namely 1) Payment schedule up to October 15,1996 and 2) Statement showing balances up to and after October 15, 1996 prepared by the Privatization Commission under the caretaker govt.)
    The cover up of corruption in privatization is also evident from the fact that both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif considered the feasibility of ” the repossession of privatized units” because of the gross irregularities committed in their privatization and breach of agreement by the new owners. In a meeting on January 13, 1995 the cabinet presided by Benazir Bhutto considered the matters relating to the privatization of several industrial units by Nawaz Sharif and took the decision that ” the Privatization Commission should submit a schedule for repossession of such privitazed public sector units which were now closed or abandoned”.
    In April 1997, the Priatization Commission headed by Khawaja Asif sought the advice of Ministry of Law whether or not the Privatization Commission can take over the privatized units in which the new owners have breached the contract. The letter sent by the Privatization Commission asked the Ministry of Law to examine; A)- Whether the PC can repossess subject units, Naya Daur Motors Ltd. which is operational and other units, in which sales agreements contain the re-possession clauses and buyers have committed breaches in implementing the provisions of the agreement and the units are otherwise operating. B)- The legal formalities which will be required to be completed before the re-possession action is taken and whether serving of a show cause notice upon the buyer is a necessary requirement under the law? The Privatization Commission also asked the Ministry of Law ” to examine the issue of promulgating a law empowering the govt. to repossess the privatized public sector units in the case of default”. In its reply of May 28,1997, Ghulam Rasul, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Law stated that the Denationalization Act of 1992 had provided that the govt. can not “compulsorily acquire or take over privatized unit, for any reasons whatsoever, once it has been transferred.” However, Ministry was of the opinion that the transfer deed is not complete until the new owners complete the terms of agreement signed with the Privatization Commission. The letter stated clearly that the Privatization Commission “enjoyed powers to repossess Naya Daur Motors.” The matter was discussed by the Cabinet which decided to let the matter rest and continue with business of privatization, as usual. ‘

    Dr. Akhtar Hasan Khan
    Schon Group
    The closure of PRIVITIZATION UNITS has played havoc to the national economy and the first phase of privatization has contributed to the lower rate of industrial and economic growth. The GDP growth which was above 6% in the 1980s declined to around 4% in the post privatization period.

    The reasons for closure are many. First the units were sold out without
    checking the creditworthiness of the party. Schon Group whose horrible
    reputation is household knowledge in Pakistan was given three units, National Fibre, Pak China and Quaidabad Woolen Mills. All these were closed after privatization. The ADB consultants have opinioned: “It has been suggested by some that these were not privatized transparently and Schon Group were able to access other offers before submitting their bids”. Moreover, they did not pay the first installment and the Privatization Commission did not take a strong line to forfeit the bogus investors. The Consultants were shocked to observe: “Both companies are being bailed out without underlying ownership problem being resolved”. Messrs. Saeed Qadir and Sartaz Aziz owe an explanation to the nation for the unwarranted favour shown to Schon, if we do not doubt their integrity, to say the least.

    Schon Group to take back Pak-China Fertilisers

    KARACHI (March 08 2007): Schon Group recently announced the revival of all its business activities in Pakistan. In a milestone victory, by virtue of a Sindh High Court order, the possession of Pak-China Fertilisers, Haripur, is being restored to theSchonGroup.

    The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has re-examined all cases against the Schon Group, and concluded that the Group was not involved in any acts of corruption or corrupt practices. Accordingly, all previous charges where withdrawn, and the group was officially exonerated by the courts. In a statement made to the public, Schon Group said, “We are elated that after years of struggle ,justice has finally been served.”

    They added: “Through sheer determination and persistence against these unfounded allegations, the group has been cleared, and now we are fully focused on investing in the future and economic development of Pakistan.”

    The Schon Group has been active in the booming global real estate sector through a property development company with global headquarters in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The company, under the name of Schon Properties, is responsible for the construction and development of the renowned Dubai Lagoon residential complex located in Dubai Investment Park. Dubai Lagoon, which is one of the single largest private developments of the UAE and is spread over 1.75 million square feet with 4,104 residential units consisting of studios 1, 2, and 3 bedroom and penthouse apartments. This project is being promoted under the patronage of His Excellency Nasser Abdullah Hussein Lootah.-PR
    Copyright Business Recorder, 2007

    1. Gershenkron, Alexander, Economic Backwardness in Historical
    Perspective, Praeger, London, 1962
    2. S.N.H. Naqvi and A. R. Kemal, “The Privatization of the Public
    Industrial Enterprises in Pakistan”, PDR Summer 1991.
    3. Yotopoulos, Pan A. The Tide of Privatization: Lessons from Chile,
    World Development (1989)
    4. Annual Reports Privatization Commission of Pakistan 2000, 2001,
    5. Asian Development Bank, Impact Analysis of Privatization in
    Pakistan, October,1998.
    6. Stiglitz George, Globalization 2000.

  2. Ghulam mustafa

    Today by chance i read this whole story, i know some e part of this scandal. in this case Mr. Saif ur Rehman took 18 million us dollars from SCHON GROUP as to cover and finish these cases, that ammount was transfered from City Bank New York to Mashraq Bank New York To Mashraq Bank Maroor Road Abu Dhabi in the name of Fazal Waseem Khan emply of REDCO SUWAID READY MIX ABU DHABI and ralative of aif, I was working as Public Relation Officer in Redco Abu Dhabi and supervise these transitions on the instruction of Mr. Saif. Mr. Saif took this amount from mashraq bank and the transfer it to Dhoa Qater and some swiss banks in Switzerland, I know all this and i also helped miltry authorities in pakisatan, but i think Saif also give shere to them. in this reward i was kidnap and beaten by saif and other agencies in Pakistan, then I escape form Pakisatn in strange situation to Abu Dhabi, and here also I was attacked by saif,s people, i moved from there to USA with my family, I do have all this documentary prove with me that senator saif took this amount from SCHON GROUP

    Ghulam Mustafa

    and can be contected

  3. Kamal Rao

    Everyday we taste & enjoy the mix chaat of corruption stories on print & electronic media and then forget it for the next day. All the characters of these stories are still remain around us, but as a nation we have lost our integrity; we have no courage to ask them how dare you to rob our riches. It is only because gradually we have also become the part of this corrupt culture, we are also giving & taking bribes or undue favors wherever we can, we also avoid paying tax and finally we vote the same people to rule on us. Then we talk about revolutions & changes; in above scenario only earthquacks & floods could be expected not revolutions.