Dead Man Walks to High Office

Posted on November 14, 2006
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Disasters, Law & Justice
9 Comments
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Adil Najam

The above headline is taken verbatim from a story in Dawn (15 November, 2006) because, frankly, I cannot improve upon it. (BTW, no, this is not a Halloween story… this story is much scarier!). The story is indeed a ‘fantastic’ one and Dawn claims to have relevant documents to prove its claims. Here is the story in full:

A ‘dead’ man who managed to rise to a high office in the federal bureaucracy looks to be on his way out. Officials of the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (Erra) were not amused when Dawn approached them to check the amazing resurrection of their Director Finance, Syed Aimal Shah. They suddenly realised that the walking dead man was “surplus” to their staff requirements and must be sent back to his “parent department”.

That would mean Aimal Shah returning to the Pakistan Sports Board where he started his adventurous career in the mid 1980s? He was removed from there in 1991 for going on 15-day leave to take his ailing father to the United States and vanishing there. What he did during his stay in Chicago and Los Angeles until April 1992 is not known. But it is known he contracted a health insurance policy there with the Monumental General Insurance Group of USA.

That turned out to be monumental when almost a year after his return home his mother filed a claim with the insurance company in August 1993 for $51,000, supported by a death certificate and an FIR declaring that Aimal Shah died in a road accident in Islamabad on June 7, 1992.

Both the certificate and the FIR were discovered to be fake by a Pakistani company engaged by the Monumental General Insurance to investigate the claim. That surely killed the claim, but not the spirit of Aimal Shah.

Resurrected in 1993, he got himself reinstated in Pakistan Sports Board in November 1994. This happened even though some officials of the Sports Boards were aware of the ‘death claim’. His time-barred appeal against his 1991 dismissal was granted and in 1997 he was promoted to Grade 18.

His present employer, Chairman ERRA Altaf M. Saleem, told Dawn that he had no knowledge of his director finance’s past doings. But he added the officer would be surrendered to Pakistan Sports Board, along with what has become known about him, for “appropriate action”. Another senior ERRA official confided that though inducted as director finance, Aimal Shah was never allowed to function as such. “From day one the Director-General Finance had refused to accept him. His role was confined to evaluating PC-1s of reconstruction, that too under strict checks,” he said.

In case you got lost in the way the story is written (I did), my understanding is that Mr. Aimal Shah:

  • First disappeared from Pakistan and vanished in the US in 1991 (one assumes illegally?). He was then removed from service with the Pakistan Sports Board.
  • In August 1993 an insurance claim was filed by his mother with a Monumental Insurance Company in USA claiming he had dies in 1992 in a road accident, and a death certificate and FIR report were attached. Both documents were found to be fake and (one assumes and hopes) that he did not get any money from this scam.
  • By November 1994 he was alive again and back at his job at the Pakistan Sports Board.
  • In 1997 he was still alive and, apparently, kicking; as he was promoted to Grade 18.
  • Now it turns out he is the Finance Director at ERRA: Yes, that is that Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority.

The irony would be a cruel one, but it does seem like someone who could not make money out of his own fake death is now in a position to do so from other people’s real and tragic death! (here).

I am most concerned by the last paragraph of the story with reactions from ERRA officials; so let me repeat it in full:

His present employer, Chairman ERRA Altaf M. Saleem, told Dawn that he had no knowledge of his director finance’s past doings. But he added the officer would be surrendered to Pakistan Sports Board, along with what has become known about him, for “appropriate action”. Another senior ERRA official confided that though inducted as director finance, Aimal Shah was never allowed to function as such. “From day one the Director-General Finance had refused to accept him. His role was confined to evaluating PC-1s of reconstruction, that too under strict checks,” he said.

It seems from the phrasing of the report that Chairman ERRA has either done nothing about it or does not know what to do (read the eurphemism: ‘appropriate action’). More disturbing is the statement from the ‘senior ERRA official’ which seems to suggest that people at ERRA – inclduing the Director-General Finance – KNEW about the antics of good old Shah Saab. Why else, pray tell us, would his activities have been under ‘strict check’?

There are too many things smelling too badly here for me to hold on to my nostrils any more.

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9 responses to “Dead Man Walks to High Office”

  1. Bloody Civilian says:

    Fraudulent, yes. Fantastic, no doubt. Tragic, absolutely. Probing a little deeper though, such individual lapses reflect the willful destruction and displacement of Pakistan’s civil institutions by an autonomous and unaccountable military. In essence, ERRA is a military-run operation with the current chairman merely providing a civilian face to neutralize donor agencies’ concerns. There is no way on earth that the gentelman in question was appointed to this important post without the approval of the generals. Who is the real culprit here, really?

  2. Anwar says:

    Thanks Eidee Man,
    I have had an honor to supervise a good bunch of PK students – over 18 years period however there is a visible shift of work ethics among new kids. This I attribute to a combination of lack of institutions, state of law, political insecurities and socio-economics in the country. A state of mind is outcome of synergy with its environment besides other elements. That was the basis of my concern. Similar views have been expressed by my academic friends in other schools as well.
    I admit, the area I work in is not available to majority of students in civilian universities unless they are in the air force, but previously students did work hard to coverup academic defficiencies – that sense of effort and accomplishment now is rare. Of course there are exceptions and students graduating from NUST or GIK are indeed better because of their exposure to better faculty and laboratories – a luxury missing in most other universities.

  3. Sidhusaaheb says:

    It’s definitely a very amazing story and one that could be made into a movie. :D

    However, please don’t think that only your country is the victim of large-scale corruption.

    If I may take the liberty, I would like to recommend the following, which includes several humorous takes on corruption in India: http://www.musicindiaonline.com/music/punjabi_bhan gra/m/artist.1127/

  4. Eidee Man says:

    @Anwar,

    – Behavior does not affect “genetic make-up” :)
    – About your graduate students…there are PLENTY of law-abiding, honest, and decent people in Pakistan. As far as the bad “traits” you mentioned, as someone who has gone to school in the U.S., I can tell you that there is basically no difference between local and foreign students…I think foreign students are not as good at covering up.

    Of course that all depends on the quality of the institution you teach at… :)

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