A view of the Royal Palm pool and courseways: strategic assets?
In case you haven't, read this October 2 report in The News from Rauf Klasra which details the charges of a Rs. 25 billion scam against three former generals who facilitated the establishment of the club, this October 4 report wherein former ISI supremo General Javed Ashraf Qazi passes the buck to the then finance minister Shaukat Aziz, this October 10 report where the management of the club make counter-accusations against two of the 20-member committee, and this report, finally, in Dawn today.
Basically, according to the "comprehensive" report issued by the National Assembly's 20-member committee - which investigated the matter for more than two years - the fancy club was established in 2001 on state-owned Railways land through "deceit and fraud and in connivance with the then high-ups of Pakistan Railways." These "high-ups" included then minister Lt. General Qazi, then secretary and chairman Lt. General Saeeduz Zafar, then general manager Maj. General Hamid Hassan Butt and then secretary Khursheed Alam Khan. Not only was the contract for the lease of the land signed in a non-transparent and patently hasty manner against the norms of tendering and business practice (in one day, without checking the bonafides of the company involved), it was later revised to unduly benefit the club and its Malaysian owners (such as reducing land utilisation charges from Rs. 52.43 to a mere Rs. 4 per yard) and to illegally grant further land without any open bidding. Purely on the basis of illegality on the additional grant of land, the committee calculates that the state suffered a Rs. 4.82 billion loss. I would urge you to read at least the first report to understand the scale of the scam.
Incidentally, Klasra had broken the story back in 2001 when questions had been raised by the Auditor General about the transparency of the deal but had been roundly condemned by the then powerful General Qazi. And of course nothing much happened, since as we all know, it's not illegal and corrupt if military figures are involved rather than civilian politicians.
Now, have a gander at the following advertisement, pubished in Dawn yesterday (October 10, 2010) by the Royal Palm Golf and Country Club management:
The advertisement petulantly poses the following (grammatically incorrect) question: "What Price We Have To Pay To Build Our National Assets?"
I just have one question. How is a super-elite swanky golf club with only 2300 members (each of whom have shelled out millions to be a part of this privileged surrounding) in a country of 180 million plus (most of whom live either below or just above the poverty line, have no land to live on much less spend their non-existent leisure time on, and could not give a flying toss about golf), a "National Asset"?!?
I mean I know the definition of 'national interest' and 'national assets' has often been stretched beyond belief but this is just ridiculous!