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Former FIA Chief Alleges Political Victimization

by Newsweek Pakistan

In interview, Bashir Memon has claimed that the ‘highest office’ of Pakistan had wanted him to file weak cases against opposition leaders

Bashir Memon, a former director general of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), has alleged that while he was in office, he was summoned to the “highest office” of the country, and directed to file a terrorism case against PMLN leader Maryam Nawaz and her husband Muhammad Safdar over a picture of the first lady that was circulated on social media.

During an exclusive interview with journalist Matiullah Jan, he said that he had questioned under what law he could file the case.

“It was a picture of the first lady on social media. How is this terrorism? There is a definition of terrorism in law. It was a normal picture, how was that terrorism?” he said, adding that this had happened shortly after the 2018 general elections. While refusing to name anyone directly, he stressed that the demand had come from the “highest office” of Pakistan, in a seeming reference to Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“[I was told] to take action on this against [Maryam Nawaz’s] social media cell. I didn’t say this couldn’t be done. I just asked under what law? Because we have to work according to the law,” he said, adding that the government’s expectations of the FIA had since been “fulfilled” by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

Alleging that authorities had wanted FIA to pursue corruption cases against PMLN President Shehbaz Sharif and his family, he said this was not within FIA’s purview. “There were two reasons [for this]. One, I didn’t have the inquiries. Second, this was the mandate of the provincial anti-corruption [unit],” he said, adding that he had been provided a record of the case during a meeting with senior Punjab bureaucrats.

“I told them that all of this is the mandate of provincial anti-corruption [unit]. They can do this, we cannot. Because FIA is a law enforcement agency. A law enforcement agency will [handle] law. We will remain within our mandate. We can’t go and jump around,” he said, adding that he had been criticized for not pursuing such cases against the PMLN.

“[P.M. Khan said] ‘you didn’t do this, you didn’t do that, you released that person’ and all I said was ‘sir NAB is there’ [to pursue such cases],” Memon added.

The former FIA DG said that nearly all the cases referred to the FIA had since been transferred to NAB. “Regarding NAB cases, whenever I hear the remarks and the verdicts that are given […] I say that God wanted to protect my dignity. In this age, all you care about is your respect,” he said.

Providing another example of a government-mandated investigation, Memon said the government had wanted a treason case filed against PMLN leader Khawaja Asif for availing a salary from a company in Dubai while serving as defense minister. “I’m not saying [this is impossible]. But we need evidence for that,” he said, adding that this instruction had been conveyed to him during a cabinet meeting and was included in the minutes. “Cabinet had asked to carry out an inquiry. We did that but could not find evidence,” he added.

In yet another example, the former FIA chief alleged that a meeting that was also attended by the prime minister had termed Karachi Electric “ruined.” He said the FIA had proven that K-Electric had to return Rs. 87 billion to Sui Southern Gas Limited and the money should be recovered. “In his [Imran Khan’s] opinion, FIA did wrong by conducting this investigation [against KE]. That this investigation should not have been conducted,” he claimed, adding that in his final meeting with the prime minister, the latter had “gotten emotional” and berated him for not pursuing cases against certain politicians.

“I told him that my retirement is only three months away and I am a Grade-22 officer. There is no higher post than DG FIA and no higher grade than 22. This is how it will work […] I don’t care. For God’s sake, don’t do this,” he claimed. Referring to being appointed as FIA chief by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, he claimed he had never been directed to file a case by the PMLN leader.

He said that he had only met Abbasi once, shortly before the PMLN government completed its term, during which the premier had questioned the FIA serving MQM-P’s Khawaja Sohail Mansoor with a notice pertaining to money laundering.

“I told him [Abbasi] that sir, it is your job is to run the House, my job is to enforce the law. He didn’t mind. He appreciated it,” he said.

PMLN responds

In a press conference after the interview started to go viral on social media, PMLN spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb reiterated the opposition’s calls for Imran Khan to resign.

She claimed that after the premier had failed to get Memon to act on his directives, he had turned his attention toward the NAB chairman. “Memon said that everything that is happening currently, he was told to do. After he refused, the NAB-Niazi nexus was formed,” she claimed, adding that this interview had raised new questions over the role of the NAB chief.

She said Memon should be provided security after the interview, as there was no telling the “extent to which the prime minister would go.”

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