Monday, October 11, 2010

National Asses

I don't know if you people have been following the whole Royal Palm Golf and Country Club saga, wherein massive irregularities and corruption have been alleged by a National Assembly special parliamentary committee in the establishment of the elite Lahore club on state-owned land during General Musharraf's tenure.

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!


RJ Houston said...

The lawyers website is still "under construction"

Alpha Za said...

screw that, I think we need more Golf Clubs!

just kidding. Transparency was never our focal point, we're just happy with having some sort of foreign investment. Progress my boy, all cost apparently.

As far as mess ups go, this one is fairly tame. After all, no one died.

Maybe I'm just getting used to gross stupidity of it all.

Watch out Pyala, I'm waiting for someone to accuse you of Anti-Mushy'ness Syndrome.

Nadir El-Edroos said...

Well, its one of the best things to set-up no! apart from investing in military run property developments? You have all the right people as members, and no one is going to realistically do anything to change the status-quo. Nice to tell all your friends abroad that look, we have wonderful private club with luscious greens! Come around for a quick round. Just nauseating!

AI said...

We shouldnt trivialize and question everything (as in development) as a scam. It is an unfortunate trait in us. I am not fond of golf clubs and have never been to this golf club, but the fact is that something which was not well managed has been converted into a decent if not a world class facility.
Pakistan will continue to suffer immensely till we keep on harping the same old corruption and scam stories.
If you recall, last year Makro store in Karachi was ordered to be demolished and the 'park' on which the store was made should be restored to its original form. The original form was a "kachra kundi".
Also one must remember, anyone who invests, sees some value in the investment. In times when the country suffers from the worst possible image, then you need to give some sweetener for the investor. As far as corruption in such deals is concerned, when was it ever transparent? And that too in the times of generals!

Anonymous said...

i think you have it all wrong. its very important for the rich to have a facility like this so that they can get away from the smelly ghareebs they are forced to live amongst.

Hussain said...

Um... in response to the response: By this strange logic as you don't clean your house and car properly I'll take them from you and do a better job. You don't deserve to keep them and I should be applauded for looking after your assets.

Anonymous said...

The biggest fear of foreign investors who want to invest in Pakistan is that they might be kicked to the curb once a new government comes in office. The case of HUBCO power plant and many other are case in point. While I am against this monkey business of giving government property at cheap rates I also think taking it back will send a wrong signal to the world that Pakistan can't be trusted with joint ventures. Government of the say signed those papers provided the Malaysian party with all they wanted and we have to live with it now. We should go after Shaukat Aziz and the patriotic Generals who made this deal happen and let the club owners alone.

jaywalker said...

Why is it tagged as "Malaysia"? Because of the word "Palm"?