The Politics of NRO: Beneficiaries List Released

Posted on November 22, 2009
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Law & Justice, People, Politics
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Adil Najam

The list of beneficiaries of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) was released yesterday amidst more pomp than it deserved – since, the list verifies what we knew rather than tell us too much new information. There are, however, details that are new and potentially important in the volatile politics of Pakistan. At a time when the country is facing a whole cascade of existential problems, from terrorism to economic collapse to political fragility and more, the NRO has – unsurprisingly become a lightening rod, especially for the mainstream media.

The politics of NRO and of the NRO list is clearly going to continue to consume it. It is not clear what will come out of it, but whatever comes is likely to be consequential. At least four thoughts about this politics are worth highlighting:

  • First, what is in the list, is in the list already and one can do nothing about it at this point. But the politics we choose to construct around this list is our choice; and, indeed, our responsibility (see the three news reports below). The politics we construct around this list today (or may already have constructed) is the politics we will be condemned to inherit tomorrow.
  • Second, while corruption by the powerful classes – including politicians, bureaucracy and the military -  remains both systemic and profound in Pakistan, as a matter of legal principle this is a list of the ‘accused’ whose guilt is assumed but not yet proven. As a matter of political precedent, we also know that official lists of the corrupt in Pakistan have been created for political effect rather than for real concerns about corruption. This does not mean that those on the lists are necessarily innocent. It just means that we have yet to prove that they are necessarily guilty.
  • Third, good things could, indeed, come out of the politics of NRO, in at least one of two ways. One way would be if this politics leads to a dismantlement of the culture of impunity in the country. This could happen either through judicial action by the courts, or by the voluntary action of those on the accused (e.g., through resignations or through the most prominent of the accused themselves asking courts to reopen their cases so that their names can be ‘cleaned’, etc.). Another way would be if this politics leads to the creation of real reconciliation, whereby real steps are taken to put in place mechanisms that would not allow mechanisms for vengefulness to be used for political purpose, including the creation of transparent mechanisms of reconciliation and national dialogue. That either of these desirable courses would be followed seems unlikely right now, but for the eternally optimist amongst us, it is at least a possibility.
  • Fourth, there are far more ways by which bad results will result for Pakistan from this politics, than good. For example, by distracting attention away from deeper and more important problems (including those of a nation at war and a nation whose economy is crumbling before it), or by reducing this simply to the politics of removing an unpopular President, or reducing this even further to yet another political tamasha for us political tamashbeen. After all, this has all the ingredients of a perfect political topi drama – and we may already have made it just that.

To think a little more about the points above – especially the first point – note how our media is dissecting the list already. Here, for example, are how the three main English language newspapers reported the main story on what is in the list (it becomes even more interesting if you include the main Urdu newspapers).

The headline in Dawn read, “NRO list out, 34 politicians among 8,000 beneficiaries”:

ISLAMABAD: A majority of the NRO beneficiaries have been bureaucrats and government officials as a list, released by the government on Saturday, contained names of only 34 politicians out of a total of 8,000. According to the list, almost 97 per cent of the beneficiaries are from Sindh. The ordinance will lapse on Nov 28 in the light of the Supreme Court’s July 31 verdict in the PCO judges case. The list shows that a total of 8,041 people — 7,793 from Sindh — have benefited from the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), promulgated by former president Pervez Musharraf on Oct 5, 2007.

These people have got withdrawn 3,478 cases (3,320 in Sindh) registered against them on charges of corruption, financial bungling, misuse of authority and criminal charges. Gen (retd) Musharraf promulgated the NRO after striking a deal with PPP leader Benazir Bhutto in order to grant amnesty to all those against whom politically-motivated cases were registered between Jan 1, 1986, and Oct 12, 1999. Mohammad Afzal Sindhu, the Minister of State for Law and Justice, released the list at a news conference soon after a meeting with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. In reply to a question, the minister said the government would not defend or protect any NRO beneficiary.

Earlier this month, the PPP had to withdraw its earlier initiative of presenting the NRO before parliament following a vociferous protest by the opposition and the decision of all its major coalition partners not to support the bill in the legislature. The NRO is among the 37 ordinances about which the Supreme Court, in its July 31 verdict, had decreed that their fate should be decided by parliament within 120 days. There are no surprises in the list as most of the prominent names had already appeared in the national press over the past few days. Interestingly, the list provided by the minister contained the breakdown of only those withdrawn cases that pertained to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement. The document is silent about the number of cases registered against other beneficiaries.

The minister said there were only 34 politicians among the NRO beneficiaries, belying the insinuation that it was the politicians who had benefited the most from the amnesty. Mr Sindhu said President Asif Zardari enjoyed indemnity under Article 248 of the Constitution and no new or old cases could be opened against him as long as he was in the Presidency. ‘In my opinion relief once granted cannot be reversed under the law. However, the government will implement the Supreme Court’s decision on the matter in letter and in spirit.’ He recalled that two petitions challenging the NRO were already pending before the apex court.

According to Mr Sindhu, several cases in Sindh were disposed of on the recommendations of a review board that had been set up under clause 2 of the NRO. He said PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif had himself admitted that most of the cases against President Zardari and PPP leaders were politically-motivated. The two parties had agreed in the Charter of Democracy, signed by Ms Bhutto and Mr Sharif in 2006, to withdraw all politically-motivated cases. He said the name of the prime minister’s wife was not there in the list. The list showed that MQM chief Altaf Hussain had got withdrawn the highest number of cases against him – 72, including 31 on murder and 11 on attempt to murder charges.

Dr Farooq Sattar, the MQM’s parliamentary leader, occupied the second slot. A total of 23 cases were withdrawn against him, including five on charges of murder and four on attempt to murder. The third biggest beneficiary appeared to be provincial minister Shoaib Bukhari, of the MQM, against whom 21 cases were withdrawn, including 16 on murder and attempt to murder charges. The Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping, Babar Ghouri, Sindh Governor Ishratul Ibad, Imran Farooq, Saleem Shahzad, Waseem Akhtar and former MNA Kunwar Khalid Yunus are other prominent MQM leaders who benefited from the NRO. Among the beneficiaries belonging to People’s Party were Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, Nawab Yousuf Talpur, Mir Baz Khetran, Sindh provincial minister Agha Siraj Durrani and Senator Jehangir Badar.

Salman Farooqi, secretary-general to the president, Pakistan’s Ambassador in Washington Hussain Haqqani and Wajid Shamsul Hasan, High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, were prominent in the section that had names of individuals other than politicians. Although PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif had been claiming that no member of his party had benefited from the NRO, the list showed that at least four PML-N members had got relief. They are MNA Chaudhry Shaukat Ali, Rana Nazir Ahmed, former MNAs Chaudhry Abdul Hameed and Haji Kabir, and former MPA Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali. Despite the official release of the list, a number of “beneficiaries” denied that they had taken any relief under the NRO.

The parliamentary leader of the MQM in the National Assembly and Federal Minister for Overseas Pakistanis announced that his party was ready to face all cases in courts. Pakistan’s High Commissioner to UK Wajid Shamsul Hassan told a private TV channel that he was not an NRO beneficiary and that he would take up the matter with the prime minister. Hussain Haqqani, the ambassador to Washington, also protested innocence. Senator Jehangir Badar, the PPP secretary-general, also contested the inclusion of his name. The following is a list of other prominent NRO beneficiaries:  Nusrat Bhutto (PPP); Haji Nawaz Khokhar (former deputy speaker of National Assembly); Malik Mushtaq Awan (PPP); Mian Mohammad Rasheed; Tariq Anees; Anwar Saifullah Khan (MNA); Sardar Mansoor Leghari (ex-MNA); Aftab Sherpao (MNA); Habibullah Kundi (former NWFP minister); and Ahmed Sadiq (ex-principal secretary to PM).

The Nation’s headline read, “Murder, embezzlement & balwa amongst the pardoned crimes”:

ISLAMABAD – List of beneficiaries of National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) released by Ministry of Law and Justice on Saturday took the top politicians of the state to task and perceived them as black sheep of the society. Some 34 politicians have been ranked first in the list of some 8,041 persons in terms of money, murders, attempted murders, balwa, embezzlement, corruption, malpractice, terrorism, kidnappings and other crimes of heinous nature. Keeping in view their massive embezzlements, these politicians seem to be heavy burden on the country that is already facing a severe financial crunch.

The Law Ministry for the first time has brought the big fish to surface by releasing the list of country’s most corrupt people. “The notorious guns of malpractice of these black sheep which left the poor at the mercy of God had been used as common practice against the innocents since decades,” NRO list observed.

The top beneficiary of NRO is Altaf Hussain whose 72 cases including 31 murder cases were dismissed. President Asif Ali Zardari had seven cases against him, while the number of Dr Farooq Sattar’s cases was 13. Most politicians had one to two cases against them. Madam Nusrat Bhutto, the spouse of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, also heads over thousands in the notorious list.
The MQM headed over other political parties whose workers hit the iron when it was hot. However, the PML-Q workers kept them away from that shoddy practice.

Addressing a press conference, Minister of State for Law & Justice Mohammad Afzal Sindhu on Saturday released the much-awaited list of the beneficiaries of NRO. The total number of NRO beneficiaries is 8,041 and 34 top politicians, 248 bureaucrats and three ambassadors are included in it, he told.

“Corruption, embezzlement and criminal cases dumped under NRO will likely to be reopened, as the goose of the said ordinance will be cooked on November 28, 2009,” he said. Many stalwarts of the country’s political arena will fight legal battle in the courts as the top court of the country terms NRO null ab initio, he explained.

Sindhu also announced a few important names in the list, which include President Asif Ali Zardari, MQM Chief Altaf Hussain, Begam Nusrat Bhutto, Federal Ministers Ch. Ahmad Mukhtar, Rehman Malik, Dr. Farooq Sattar, and Babar Ghori, Governor Sindh Dr. Ishrat-ul-Ibad Khan, Jahangir Badr, Anwar Saifullah, Yousaf Talpur, Ch. Shaukat Ali, Haji Nawaz Khokhar (late), Agha Siraj Ahmad Durrani, Mir Baz Kithran, Mushtaq Awan, Sulman Farooqi, Hussain Haqqani, Wajid Sham-ul-Hassan, A.R. Siddiqui, Saleem Shahzad, Aftab Ahmed Sherpao, Mian Mohammad Rasheed, Tariq Rasheed, Tariq Mahmood, Sardar Maqsood Leghari, Ghani-ur-Rehman, Javed Ahmed Qureshi, Brig. (Retd) Imtiaz, Brig. (Retd) Aslam Hayat, Safdar Barqi and Saeed Mehdi.

The News led with a simpler headline, “Government issues list of 8,041 names“, but added a number of other stories (where one was never sure whether it was opinion or news being presented):

ISLAMABAD: With the release of the first ever official list of those accused of robbing the masses blind, of killing and torturing adversaries, the ugly truth of abuse of power has a face. Eight thousand and forty one faces to be precise. On Saturday, Minister of State for Law, Afzal Sindhu released the official list of the 8041 beneficiaries of the shameless law called the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).

Sindhu released the list of NRO beneficiaries including 248 politicians at a crowded press conference here. The highest number of NRO beneficiaries belong to the province of Sindh as 7,793 people have benefited from the ordinance there. The prominent figures in the list are: President Asif Ali Zardari, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar, Ambassador to United States Husain Haqqani, Ambassador to the UK Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Salman Faruqui, AR Siddiqui, Haji Nawaz Khokhar, Anwar Saifullah, Begum Nusrat Bhutto, Jehangir Badr, Rana Nazir, Chaudhry Abdul Hameed, Tariq Anis, Sardar Maqsood Leghari, Agha Siraj Durrani, Mushtaq Awan, Usman Faruqui, Brig Aslam Hayat and Brig Imtiaz.

Afzal Sindhu said persons who had been benefiting from NRO’s Article-2 in Sindh and in lieu of the Review Board, included MQM chief Altaf Hussain, Babar Ghauri, Ishratul Ebad Khan, Dr Imran Farooq, Nouman Sehgal, Dr Farooq Sattar, Saleem Shehzad, Kanwar Khalid Younis, and Safdar Baqri. He said in Sindh, 7,793 people benefited from the ordinance. Adviser to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Saeed Mehdi, is also among the NRO beneficiaries. Likewise, he said political figures from the NWFP who benefited from the ordinance included former NWFP chief minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, Ghaniur Rehman, former provincial minister Haji Gul Sher Khan and former senator Habibullah Kundi.

“Similarly from Balochistan, Mir Baz Khan Khaitran also benefited from the ordinance. There were two cases against Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, but he has been acquitted in both cases. The name of his wife is not on the list,” he added. The minister said many corruption cases were pending for decades. “Only one case was decided, after which three judges had to resign,” he added. In reply to a question, he said NRO was brought to the Parliament on the orders of the Supreme Court, adding his party had always accepted court verdicts. He said cases filed against the PPP leaders by the NAB during the tenure of Nawaz Sharif were totally based on political victimisation.

When asked that cases were also registered when Farooq Leghari was the president of Pakistan, he said he (Farooq) faced the repercussion as well. “Despite being an elected MNA, Farooq Leghari even cannot dare to attend the session of the Parliament,” Sindhu added. He said under Article 248 of the constitution, the president enjoyed immunity and no criminal case could be filed against him. “The president is the symbol of the federation and should be given the status of the president as well,” he added.

It is neither surprising nor necessarily disturbing that different newspapers will lead with a slightly different slant on what is in the released list. However, we highlight this to suggest that the politics around NRO that has and will continue to captivate our media is not just about what (or who) is on the list, but about how that information can (and will) be used as tools to influence the current and future political dispensations in the country.

To conclude, let me repeat what I have already said above: The politics we construct around this list today (or may already have constructed) is the politics we will be condemned to inherit tomorrow.

44 responses to “The Politics of NRO: Beneficiaries List Released”

  1. plz give a brief history of nro that what is nro then what is amendment ok plz i request you that explain it in detail ok

  2. proud Pakistano says:

    Why are Pakistanis being represented by a man with NRO in the UK i.e. will such a high commissioner of Pakistan in the UK be able to talk to UK government officials with his head help high with honour!I watch with interest when both PML-N and PPP leaders defend their corrupt leadership when asked about their properties worth hundred of million of dollars. In their defence they say that property in UK can be bought with 10 percent deposit and you can get a loan.
    The question that needs to be then asked is:
    What income did they declare to get the loan as the income needs to enough be able to pay monthly instalments? For houses or palaces which costs millions, hundreds of thousands of dollars will make 10 percent for the deposit and tens of thousands monthly instalments. So the next question is:
    Was this income declared to the tax man as these so called leaders don’t show any leadership when it comes to pay the taxes. They like collecting and spending on themselves!

  3. kaiser says:

    Every dog has his day and every night dogs bark.Let us now wait and see divine justice,all these dogs will develop rabies.

  4. Mrs. NAZAR ABBAS says:

    Where are the name of Schon Group,

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