Articles of the year 2006

The Stock Market Scam revisited
Published on July 21st, 2006

I have just read in a national paper that a team of financial forensic experts have arrived in Pakistan to conduct a post mortem on the stock market crash of march 05 which left many players badly hurt, but the Fab Five walked away with huge profits.

The then Chairman of the SECP Dr Tariq Hassan (Phd. Harvard.)conducted an in depth enquiry which had laid some very serious charges, but before any notice could be taken of the report, the good Doctor was removed ( ordered to leave on Eid day, without being allowed to clear his desk—not bad for an Eid gift). The report was subsequently hushed up, as is the norm for all such enquiries that may have revealed embarrassing details of government officials or persons under their patronage. The good Doctor should consider himself lucky he was not slapped or did not land up in jail ( it may still be on the cards if the Presidents mood on TV is an indicator.).I am concerned not for the freedom of forensic team, for they have the protection of the mighty Bush, but for the report. Will it ever see the light of day, or will it be still born, and lie relegated to gathering dust in some corner of the Ministry of Finance, till some new Accountability cell is created in the distant future who may use it to settle political or financial scores? The people do have a right to know the findings of this commission. I understand it is Washington based, and comes with impeccable credentials, but the impartiality can only be proven if the report is made public. It is indeed important that the PM's motives in bringing such an internationally known team to Pakistan to investigate the Stock Markets players, are to be lauded, but we hope that they will not to be utilized by the Americans in having an excuse to level money laundering charges on our Blue chip stock brokers , and to move extradition charges against the Fab Five.

Along with Dr. Qadeer, it seems that Haji Razak of ARY is also under investigation, and may lead to a longer list of Pakistanis on a Wanted for questioning in the US.Undoubtedly these are matters of high international Diplomacy, and the General has faced the test admirably, but the behaviour of the Stock Market players may have given the US authorities cause for concern, for it is highly unlikely that a forensic financial team would travel to sunny Karachi ( when the State Dept has listed Pakistan as a nogo area, and continues to do so)under these conditions to conduct an investigation. When the details of all the transactions are available on the computerized records of the KSE, what would the forensic team be looking for? It may indicate that the forensic team is not what it appears to be, and the makeup may be far more sinister.

In any case with the Presidents penchant for transparency, it would be in keeping with this avowed desire of the President then, that all matters of the Stock Exchange should also be made available to the Public. Then the public can decide who are the current robber barons. It does seem that every Government in Pakistan spawns a new crop of robbers, and a new crop of cops. The robbed remain the same—the people of Pakistan. Surely if the names of the robbers and the methods used by them are made public, then the robbers may indeed find it difficult to move about even in their black tinted windows, and their consorts and hangers on may find themselves facing the glares of an indignant people if not more physical abuse.

The latest scam to hit the unsuspecting public is the Dubai property investment scheme by the same company ARY named above, whereby 90% of the depositors money is being returned after 2 years with a 10% deduction for service charges!(The News—July 20.) A rough calculation would show that 1 billion dollars worth of property is now being sold at twice the initial price, good old Haji sahib has netted a cool US$1 billion in profit, using the Pakistani depositors monies. One had thought that the Nigerians were the frontrunners on inventive scams, but Haji has really shown that he is way up there with the best. Will the President be able to take note of this one?