'I made one phone call and he arrested Shehbaz': How disloyal bureaucrats are punished

Umar Cheema
Former DG FIA Bashir Ahmed Memon. Photo: File

ISLAMABAD: An uneasy relationship between veteran bureaucrat Bashir Ahmed Memon and a top government official last week culminated in the former tendering his resignation from service - fearing an unceremonious dismissal - just days before he was due to retire.

The resignation was apparently an expression of displeasure at the unlawful orders of the top government official that related to the arrest of key opposition leaders on fabricated charges. Late on Friday, Memon was replaced as DG FIA with Wajid Zia of the Panama case fame.

“It is usual courtesy not to post out any officer nearing retirement. I have been denied this courtesy, which, in my opinion, is an expression of displeasure towards me. I tender my resignation from service,” reads the resignation letter of Memon, addressed to the Secretary Establishment. 

Bashir Ahmed Memon, a BS-22 police officer of courage and character, has been through thick and thin his entire civil service career for saying ‘no’ to the high and mighty in the government. Since every choice has its price, he has paid it happily but stood his ground. 

During the PPP government, he earned the ire of Asif Ali Zardari, then president, who had him removed from the position of DIG Hyderabad. Memon was removed after he had reportedly refused to compromise in an investigation against Muzaffar Tappi, the step-brother of Zardari.

The fake accounts case that has landed Zardari in jail this year was also unearthed by the FIA under the leadership of Memon. Incidentally, both Zardari and Memon not only belong to the same area, but were together at Petaro Cadet College as well, Zardari being his senior. 

Yet another showdown awaited Memon soon after he was appointed DG FIA in August 2017. A money-laundering investigation against an MQM MNA was under progress and the PML-N government wanted FIA not to put the politician on notice. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was prime minister. 

One day, Abbasi called Memon, who had already refused the warning of the secretary interior on this matter. “We have to run the House (National Assembly). Please help us (by not pursuing the case),” Abbasi is quoted to have requested Memon. 

“Sir, running the House is your responsibility and the law-enforcement is mine,” he replied. Contrary to expectations, Abbasi not only appreciated his blunt answer but also said he needed more straightforward officers like him, and asked if he could do anything he could do to improve FIA.

As the PTI formed a government at the center in 2017, Memon thought the days of facing political pressures were over. The events that followed were no less than rude shock for him. He was constantly being pressed on fabricating cases against key opposition leaders. 

“Name any noted opposition leader,” an official said when asked to explain against whom the government wanted cases registered. Most of them were from the PML-N, but a number of PPP politicians were also on radar. The Sharif family was at the top. 

The government was unhappy when FIA submitted a reply before the SC that it couldn’t find any tangible evidence to proceed against Nawaz Sharif and others. “You could have lingered it on, no matter there was no evidence,” a top government official told Memon. 

Other than Nawaz Sharif, the government also wanted to proceed against Makhdoom Javed Hashmi on the basis of Asghar Khan Case, as the request was conveyed to the FIA. Former Punjab Chief Minister and PML-N supremo Shehbaz Sharif was also a target, suggested reports. 

As Memon refused to proceed against anyone unless any substantial evidence was found against them, he was asked to collect it by holding meetings with top bureaucrats who had served under Shehbaz and others. At one point, he was sent to Lahore for the purpose. 

After failing to have Shehbaz arrested through the FIA, the PTI government brought NAB to the forefront. A day after the arrest of Shehbaz, FIA was reprimanded for not cooperating with the government and NAB was lauded for taking swift action. 

“You see, I have made one call to him and he arrested Shehbaz the following day,” a top government official told Memon. In another meeting a few days later, he was told that NAB had even started even arresting opposition politicians who were being named “the next target of NAB”.

Government spokespersons often talked about the next targets of the accountability bureau in news shows broadcast on television channels across the country.  “This is called loyalty,” Memon was reminded. Pressure started fizzling out on FIA after NAB took over assignments. 

When Shehbaz was out on bail, PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz held a press conference on a video scandal involving an accountability court judge that compromised his rulings. FIA was put under pressure to arrest all the noted PML-N leaders who were in attendance. 

Maryam Nawaz was the first target this time. As Memon argued that it could not be done on the basis of a presser, a desperate government official demanded the arrest of PML-N Senator Pervez Rashid, if the FIA could not arrest Maryam. However, the arrests could not be made. 

Apparently, there were no laws under which the government officials were demanding these arrests. Starting an investigation against foremr PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was another demand. Under what excuse? Find something from Air Blue, Memon was told. 

Arrest of Ali Jehangir Siddiqui was also on the government’s wish-list. How to do it? Find some irregularity in his partnership with Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in the Air Blue business or something wrong he would have done as ambassador in Washington, Memon was ordered. 

At this point, the Foreign Office intervened, arguing that it would be disastrous to make the foreign ministry controversial. Then came another order. Implicate the foreign ministry official trying to save Siddiqui. "Allege the official has taken a bribe from Siddiqui for the posting."

PML-N leader and former minister Khawaja Asif was yet another target and remains so to this day. The PTI government wanted to implicate him on the grounds that since he had iqama from the UAE as well, he had been selling national secrets to a foreign government as foreign minister.

Where to get evidence? Memon was confused since the Supreme Court had already cleared Asif. There was no answer from the government. Memon was then told to issue a press release announcing that Asif was being investigated for committing treason. 

Memon refused to do that, saying FIA cannot make such an announcement in absence of any evidence. During a heated debate, Memon told a top bureaucrat that if FIA started registering cases on such flimsy grounds, a time would come when the PM will face such charges. 

Before the ANF, the arrest of PML-N leader Rana Sanaullah arrest was also tried through the FIA, but Memon refused to do it due to the want of evidence. “At least on four occasions, Memon was asked to pick Rana Sanaullah on any charge,” an official privy to the situation said.

Arsalan Iftikhar Chaudhry, the son of a former chief justice, PML-N leaders Amir Muqam, Khurram Dastgir, Javed Latif, Rana Mashood and Khawaja Saad Rafique were also on the hit-list, but the FIA refused to register cases without any substantial evidence. 

Khursheed Shah was arrested through NAB after non-cooperation from FIA. Sherry Rehman, Rehman Malik and Mustafa Khokhar were other PPP leaders the government wanted to arrest through by FIA. Former NAB chairman Ch Qamarul Zaman also a potential target. 

Ahsan Iqbal and Marriyum Aurangzeb were not immune from these threats either. The main charge against them was speaking against the government. “How come they dare castigating us while sitting in Pakistan,” FIA was told. 

"I need to take some officials from FIA along during the next visit to an Arab state," said a top official. “You will see his administration. Nobody can dare speaking against him,” Memon was told with reference to an Arab ruler. 

As one PIA inquiry was pending with FIA wherein the recovery of an outstanding amount from Airbus company was under discussion, which current PIA MD has managed to recover, FIA was asked if there was any politician involved in it. 

Upon an answer in the negative, a top government official grumbled: “These (opposition) politicians are barking dogs. All of them must be in jail.” However, a top government official’s reaction was altogether different when Aleem Khan was picked up by NAB. 

“There is nothing against Aleem Khan. NAB has started arresting our people,” the top official reacted before FIA officials. Geo News contacted Adviser to Prime Minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan to ask why Memon resigned. "He went on leave and now has tendered the resignation."

Asked if it is true that he was being pressured to arrest leading opposition politicians on baseless charges, she denied the allegation, but added that the government has a discretion to adopt a policy and direct bureaucracy to act upon it. 

“What it had to do with FIA? It was NAB’s job,” she further commented. When pressed on a point that several cases now being dealt with by NAB were first referred to FIA, the conversation interrupted probably due to another call to her. She didn’t pick up when tried again. 

Geo News sent her questions, which has not been responded to yet. Memon was reluctant to speak but didn’t either deny or confirm when approached for comments. However, another government official said that all the allegations were baseless and concocted.

He said that every person thought of themself as righteous, and when removed from a position, considers that they have been wronged. He said that the government believes in transparency in governance, alleging that these elements are part of a corrupt mafia.