Very senior journalist Haroon-ur-Rasheed set an unprecedented example on Jan 27th by declaring that he was ready to return the money he gained from selling three different plots, which he got from different governments for being a journalist.
Speaking on the Off The Record of Jan 27th 2010, the senior journalist and columnist Haroon-ur-Rasheed said that he had taken three residential plots from the governments and sold them all. He said he sold these plots because his financial condition was not good at that time. “But, now I am financially independent” Haroon said, adding “I will return all the money I made from selling the plots, when, and if, the government, or anyone, will ask me to do so.”
Haroon said that he had been seriously thinking about it for the last three days. In an anguished tone, he added: “I don’t want this condition applied on others, but, from my end, I will definitely return this money to the national exchequer.”
Haroon-ur-Rashed said in categorical words that he was against the policy of allotting plots to selected segments of society because it ended up creating greater disorder and inequality in the society. He said he was against the allotment of plots to journalists, judges, generals, politicians and civil servants. He questioned the need of extending concessions in traveling fares only to the journalists, while, other more deserving segments of the labor market went without. “Why are the journalists, judges, generals, civil servants and politicians are extended such concessions while the ordinary Pakistani goes without?” Haroon said, adding: “Now this ‘drama’ should come to an end.” He said every member of the influential classes is responsible for this mess and he did not absolve himself either from his culpability.
While speaking in the program on the question of getting plots from the governments, Haroon, first he said had taken only one plot. The exact quote of his statement is, “Government of Pakistan had never given any plot only to me except when plots were given to other journalists also. I never applied for any plot and never visited any government office through out my life for this purpose. The only plot, I got, was first held by Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi and when all the journalists got their plots, I was given at the end. All my assets are declared and legal and if a single penny is proved as illegal, I will surrender all my assets.”
However, after about twenty minutes into the same program, Haroon said, “You have talked of journalists and judges; I declare this by swearing to Allah that I was thinking for the last three days that this should be stopped. And as far as I am concerned, I have sold all the three plots that I got as I was desperately in need. If the government asks me I will return 100% of the money in installments. And I do not impose this condition on others but I will return the money as I am no more a poor man. Now I have resources and my income is very good.”
Haroon continued with the word, “Some privileged people like journalist are given concessions in traveling fares which is wrong and such concessions should not be given. Even judges are given some concessions, even generals and baboos got such benefits and concessions. We all have to bring an end to this drama. I too am a part of this.”
To refresh the readers’ memories, the Pakistani blogosphere had been left aghast in July 2009 at the specter of a venerable, pious, senior and respectable journalist like Haroon Rasheed jumping into the fray uninvited, and – throwing caution and dignity to the wind – coming to Rauf Klasra’s defense. Well, now the mystery has been solved: It had all along been an elaborate scheme to teach a lesson to the younger generation of Pakistani journalists, and Haroon did it through ‘leading by example’. Very cleverly, he let them have a long leash; he defended them through articles, on the channels and by launching his own website. It was all a very cleverly constructed ruse to get Rauf Klasra and other corrupt journalists to drop their guard (among other things) and start trusting Haroon Rasheed as one of their own.
When the aforementioned camouflage had been accomplished, Haroon Rasheed pulled the rug from under their feet by offering to reimburse the government for the amount of money which he gained from selling the plots. Haroon Rasheed has set a golden example by not only publicly acknowledging that he took nearly one (1) plot, Khuda ki kasam, and that the almost exactly two (2) plots were allotted to him by the government in a transparent process. And did he keep the approximately three (3) plots all to himself, without sharing? No. A thousand times NO. Haroon believes in sharing and is a fan of caring. So, he sold the exactly one (1) approximately three (3) plots and now offers to repay the government.
In case you are wondering what just happened, The Amazing Haroon Rasheed, the ancient and wise Gandalf of Pakistani Letters, pulled the most amazing trick so far out of his magic hat: He put one (1) plot in, at around minute 07:00, and took out three (3) plots at minute 27:00! What’s that you say? Is Haroon Rasheed the one whose coming is foretold in the prophecies? Is he the much-awaited Triple Shah? Has Haroon Rasheed been sent to succeed Double Shah? Maybe.
Oh alright! I know, I know. It was a slip of the tongue. Haroon didn’t mean it to come out like that. He only took the three plots, off the government’s back, to help it out with the bureaucratic red-tape. The government has hundreds of thousands of acres of useless land, just lying around like lazy bums, not doing any work, collecting dust all year long. Haroon was only trying to help, the only way he knew how. And, then again, he didn’t take the plots for his own benefit. There was never any conflict of interest anywhere. Honestly! Sacchi Mucchi! He never supported any military dictatorship in exchange for plot allotments. He never attacked this website that is trying to expose and stanch this tide of plot-zada corruption. He never wrote sickeningly sycophantic columns syndicated from the GHQ in adulation of the serving Chief of Army Staff. He does NOT have any links with notorious ex-Agency men who are not Major Amir and who have not become big landowners in their own right. No. Never. And how dare you think something like that? Haroon took over the plots to only sell them over to other buyers. You see! Just doing business, no crime there. Only commerce, which, as we all know, is a celebrated Sunnah of our Holy Prophet (s.a.w) And doesn’t flourishing of commerce and business help with a country’s economy? Yes, yes. It does.
And who is to say Haroon Rasheed’s three plot allotments, and their subsequent sale, and the resulting ballooning of Haroon Rasheed’s bank accounts were not, as a whole, beneficial to Pakistan because, a) he helped ease the government’s load and, b) he injected some much needed liquidity in the banking sector?
Exactly. Haroon’s message could not have been clearer if he spray painted on a chain-link fence.
So, a word to the wise. And also to the not so wise: Plot Laundering corrupts everything it touches. The cancer of corruption starts from the top and spreads in every direction polluting the state, its institutions and the society at large. Journalistic corruption is thus doubly evil because infected columnists and ‘plot-zada’ journalists then collude with corrupt generals, politicians and bureaucrats and aid them in their thievery in the hopes of a few crumbs falling their way. This plot-zada journalism has to stop.
And it has begun to. There are signs of change.
Last year two senior journalists returned their plots to the government. Another senior journalist signed his plot over to his driver. A journalist, Shaukat Javed Paracha who was offered a plot as a bribe last year, in violation of all policy, refused to accept the offer.
We know Haroon Rasheed does not suffer from the catastrophe of perfection. Who does? We all make mistakes. The right thing, and the Islamic thing to do, is to accept that one made mistakes, that one took plots in exchange for one’s soul, that one is sorry, and one will return all the money made from the sale of that nearly one (1) plot, to be honest two (2), who’s counting?, three (3) plots.