Musharraf defends Shaukat Aziz against barrage of charges
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
By Rauf Klasra
LONDON: A visibly upset President Pervez Musharraf on Monday spent a lot of time defending serious allegations levelled by probing newsmen against the previous government of Shaukat Aziz during a press conference he addressed before returning to Islamabad.
It was interesting for many to see Musharraf endlessly arguing that questions accusing the Shaukat Aziz government of being involved in mega financial scams during the last eight years were unfair.
"Your comments about the financial scams in the government of the former prime minister are unfair," Musharraf told a journalist at the press conference. The questioner had sought his comments saying the "imported genius (Aziz)" had left the country in a complete mess.
Hours before the press conference, Shaukat Aziz had taken President Musharraf to a restaurant on Sunday night after rushing from Davos to meet his former boss. Shaukat is said to have used this dinner meeting to convey a message to his critics within the ranks of the PML-Q, the political parties and the media that he still enjoyed the confidence of President Musharraf.
The message was particularly directed at the former Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, who was trying to shift the blame of the current wheat, power and gas crises to the former prime minister after he left Pakistan in the first week of the new year.
The first question President Musharraf faced was about the alleged financial scams of Shaukat Aziz government. The president was not expecting such a tirade in the presence of his financial team members like Dr Salman Shah, Governor State Bank of Pakistan Dr Shamshad Akhtar, Dr Ashfaq and others.
This question also surprised local officials of the Pakistan High Commission conducting the press conference as they had taken a lot of care not to allow any journalist to ask any embarrassing question. As part of that effort, despite repeated requests, some journalists were not allowed to ask any question and only known media persons who were not expected to annoy the president were encouraged to ask questions.
But, all of sudden, one journalist somehow got a chance to ask the president about the series of financial scams in the government of Shaukat Aziz. He accused Musharraf of failing to catch those who were involved in financial crimes in Pakistan.
The questioner wondered why no action was taken on those alleged scams. Then the journalist went on to give the details, including those of the stock exchange, sugar, cement, wheat, steel mill, sellout of banks to friends, etc. The questioner told the president that Pakistan had been tolerating all sorts of people from abroad who were imported to rule Pakistan, but they always left the country in chaos and mess.
This question visibly upset Musharraf but he defended his former prime minister. He said we should not talk about someone in this fashion, adding it was an "unfair" comment.
Musharraf said he had been receiving information about all such scams and when he went into the details of those stories, these turned out to be half-cooked.
Musharraf, however, half-heartedly admitted that there might be a little bit of truth in these reports, but overall everything was all right. He said when he received complaints about the involvement of ministers in the sugar scam, he ordered an investigation and was surprised that nothing substantial came out of it.
Likewise, he said, there was no wheat scam and he wondered what the harm was if 400,000 tonnes of wheat was exported to earn some money. But he did not mention that wheat was imported later at much higher rates.
The president said it should be understood that there was a big difference in reality and fiction.
He regretted that a culture had developed in Pakistan to believe that there might be something foul behind every move. Musharraf advised the journalists to stop talking about all these things now.