Pakistan Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif dismissed 12 military officers, including two generals, in a surprise move on Thursday after corruption charges were proven against them.
The unprecedented sackings came two days after Sharif sought “across-the-board accountability” to root out corruption. The move will put pressure on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to act on revelations in the Panama Papers, which showed his two sons and a daughter were among Pakistanis with offshore assets.
The army chief’s earlier statement was greeted with scepticism by members of the ruling PML-N party, who privately accused the general of interfering in the government’s affairs.
The sacking of the officers over corruption amounted to a rare display of accountability by the army. Lt Gen Obaidullah Khan Khattak, Major General Ejaz Shahid, five brigadiers, a colonel, three lieutenant colonels and a major were among the officers.
Military sources privately confirmed the move and said the reason for sacking in all cases was corruption. A senior army official said the dismissed officers will not get any benefits and the amounts they are accused of embezzling will be recovered from them.
Prime Minister Sharif did not seem pleased with the development and told a meeting of PML-N leaders and government officials in Islamabad a few hours after the army move that his record is blemish-free. He said conspiracies were afoot to show his government in a bad light and he would thwart them.
“Some quarters do not want the people of Pakistan to benefit from all the work we are doing to better their standard of living,” the premier said.
Defence minister Khawaja Asif welcomed the move and said it set a good precedent. He repeated the army chief’s call to eradicate corruption.
But opposition leader Imran Khan, who heads the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, continued to attack the government. He told reporters that the Prime Minister had internationally shown the Pakistan Army in a bad light. “He told the Indian government he wants peace with India but the main obstacle is the army,” Khan said.
Political analyst Mazhar Abbas commented that Khan’s remarks “mean that he is accusing Sharif of being a traitor”.
Leader of opposition Khurshid Shah, who belongs to the Pakistan People’s Party, was not as harsh as Imran Khan. Shah told the media the army chief had started accountability with his own home and other political parties too should start from their homes.
Shah’s remarks were a reference to the demand by opposition parties that Prime Minister Sharif should initiate a probe against the around 220 Pakistanis, including his three children, named in the massive leak of documents from Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca.
The premier insists his family has done nothing wrong. He has not given in to demands by Imran Khan to appoint a sitting Supreme Court judge with powers to act against those found guilty of moving black money abroad.
The army chief’s move was welcomed by many. “We all said charity begins at home and that is exactly what he has shown with this move,” said analyst Mosharraf Zaidi.
The ball now “is in the court of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to set an example”, he added.
Most of the sacked officers had served in the paramilitary Frontier Corps. Lt Gen Khattak was promoted to the rank in 2013 when he was serving as inspector general of the Frontier Corps in Balochistan province. Personnel of the Frontier Corps have been accused of involvement in drug smuggling and other illegal activities in Balochistan, which borders Iran.