Who Will Become Millionaire, Again, In Islamabad?

A young democracy reverts back to corruption as a battle ensues between two Pakistan Government titans over a commission worth US$ 20 million

by Tania Khan


Pakistan hit a new high in corruption when ‘state actors’ joined a resourceful cartel to create a fake nationwide shortage in a major commodity – sugar – and made millions.

Now some very powerful people in Islamabad are on their way to hitting another jackpot: a commission between US$ 15 to 20 million on a sugar consignment meant to plug the hole created by the fake shortage.

Two senior figures in the government, a federal minister and an ambassador to a Gulf state, have locked horns to grab the millions of dollars in commission. But only one of them will win and bag the bounty.

This is also a classic case of how corruption by junior government officials is hijacked by big fish when the commission is high.

Responding to a tender floated by the federal government for the import of 600,000 tons of sugar, Al Khaleej Sugar Trading (Pvt.) Ltd.submitted a bid of US$ 740 (London sugar price) plus US$ 80 as freight and premium charges on a per ton basis.

The initial negotiations for this bid were handled by Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates Mr. Khursheed Ahmed Junejo. Apparently the final deal that Amb. Junejo reached with Mr. Jamal al-Ghurair, the CEO of Al-Khaleej Sugar Trading, involved a hefty kickback of somewhere around US$ 15 to US$ 2o million. In return, Mr. Junejo committed himself to pulling all the necessary strings to ensure Mr. al-Ghurair’s bid is not only accepted but that the bid is exempted from federal government’s ceiling of US$ 50 on freight and premium charges.

What Ambassador Junejo did not anticipate is that the sweet deal might go sour on him and the rewards – the commission – would be bagged by people more powerful than him in the present government in Islamabad.

At some point, federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik jumped into the fray, backed apparently by no less than the President of Pakistan. Now, according to sources in the federal government, Mr. Malik is poised to win the race for the millions in commission in the Al-Khaleej Sugar Trading deal. According to sources, Mr. Malik will grab this deal instead of Mr. Junejo thanks to backing from no less than the President. No brownie points for where the commission is bound for. Suffice to say that it will be far from the pockets of the man who was supposed to have pocketed it in the first place.

In an agricultural country where sugar cane is a major crop, the sugar shortage crisis is highly suspicious in the first place. It has become a case of state actors backing a resourceful mafia for the exploitation of national resources.

And once again, Pakistan’s democracy is under the threat of reverting back to the well known corruption stories that resulted in the failure of the entire political system in the past.


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