Crucifying Axact Won’t Change Pakistan

All of Pakistan now wants a piece of the Axact pie. Altaf Hussain, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader, demands that company CEO Shoaib Shaikh be tried for treason, while Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Ch. Nisar Ali, rues another ding to the country’s “good image.” Popular opinion suggests that Shaikh be made an example of, but the question is to what end? “Scruples” and “morals” are worthy ideals, but in the poor third-world, money always trumps philosophy. A case in point is Pakistan’s 2007 National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). This legislation pardoned, albeit temporarily, a scarcely believable 8000-plus corrupt politicians and bureaucrats. You wonder if there is an honest soul left in the country.

In 2011, the International Cricket Council (ICC) banned three Pakistani cricketers for spot-fixing, in a clear message against corruption. Yet in 2013, two Indian cricketers were indicted and sentenced for the same crime; their lust for wealth obviously exceeding the fear of getting caught. Shoaib Shaikh may be a crook, but he is also a financial genius. If convicted, Pakistan should liquidate his assets, reimburse the victims, and give Shaikh the option to work for the government, or go to jail for a very long time. Casting him into the correctional system willy-nilly would be a gross waste of talent.

There are international precedents should Pakistan choose this route, most obviously in America. Frank Abagnale.Jr, a master forger and impostor, and subject of the Hollywood film Catch Me If You Can, eventually became a Federal Bureau Of Investigation (FBI) consultant. Similarly, the U.S Department of Defense has a long history of hiring hackers to combat their ilk. As recently as March 2015, the Pentagon sought “cyber-security personnel” with “unique skills”: a codename for white-hat hackers. Pakistan has an “informal” economy almost the size of the real one, so a repurposed Shoaib Shaikh adds value in chasing white-collar crime.

Regardless of Axact’s shady nature, you have to admire the singular game-plan. From scratch, Shoaib Shaikh built an empire awe-inspiring in its villainous scope, cloaked in multilayered secrecy, and highly litigious to face down interference. Whether you are peddling a pencil or an airplane, the sales methodology is the same. Creating a multimillion dollar bottom-line takes a lot more than two-bit hustling, it takes real business skills. Also, unlike Bernie Madoff, Shaikh did not have a looting list of rich potential targets to get started.

It is curious that, considering the scale of the allegations, Axact managed to stay off the radar for this long. Part of the answer lies in institutional failure. In a May 20 editorial, the whistle-blowing New York Times (NYT) accused the Pakistan government of willful ignorance. Local commentators were quick to point that the NYT is not God’s word, but it sure felt that way. Within a day of the original story, Pakistan’s red-taped Federal Investigation Agency (FIA)  had mobilized with unseen rapidity to shut down the company offices.

Theoretically, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has jurisdiction to tame corporate fraud, or at least will once it stops being a political tool to harass opponents. The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) have been similarly inept. Going by recent reports, both were aware of Axact’s financial misdeeds, but sat on the evidence until Declan Walsh shamed them into action. With the FBI focused on domestic terrorism, America is happy to let Pakistan do the legwork for now. Forgery and impersonation are both federal crimes, and Axact won’t get a free pass once the legal fog lifts.

The remaining answer lies with the company’s clients and employees. Axact’s use of legal muscularity to shut down criticism is well documented. However, it is inconceivable that a majority of the fake degree holders did not understand the business model. Whether for professional or personal reasons, these individuals willingly took an educational short-cut. Anyone half-serious about learning, and an internet connection, would have immediately spotted the discrepancies. More worrisome is the ignorance of the Axact-affiliated BOL Television staff. Journalistic stalwarts like Kamran Khan and Iftikhar Ahmed have made careers out of uncovering scams, yet they could not smell the con right under their noses?

Nothing screams diligence in an investigation like the FIA using rickshaws to haul away Axact assets. In a recent interview with ARY television, Shoaib Shaikh presented a compelling defense in between mock-hysterics. In short, Axact provided information technology support to the degree-mills, but had no knowledge of how such support featured in their sales practices. It all comes down to Declan Walsh, and fellow NYT reporter Griff Palmer, who made the original connection. If their material evidence is not ironclad, then Axact will chug along on stay orders like every other wrongful enterprise in Pakistan.

S. Mubashir Noor – The writer is a freelance journalist based in Pakistan, and a regular columnist for The Daily Times newspaper. His works have also appeared in The Huffington Post, Saudi Gazette, Truthout, South Asia magazine, Khaama Press (Afghanistan), Kashmir Monitor (India) The Frontier Post, The Friday Times, Pakistan Observer and Pakistan Today.

More articles by:
March 22, 2018
Rob Okun
Students: Time is Ripe to Add Gender to Gun Debate
Michael Barker
Tory Profiteering in Russia and Putin’s Debt of Gratitude
March 21, 2018
Paul Street
Time is Running Out: Who Will Protect Our Wrecked Democracy from the American Oligarchy?
Mel Goodman
The Great Myth of the So-Called “Adults in the Room”
Chris Floyd
Stumbling Blocks: Tim Kaine and the Bipartisan Abettors of Atrocity
Eric Draitser
The Political Repression of the Radical Left in Crimea
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan Threatens Wider War Against the Kurds
John Steppling
It is Us
Thomas Knapp
Death Penalty for Drug Dealers? Be Careful What You Wish for, President Trump
Manuel García, Jr.
Why I Am a Leftist (Vietnam War)
Isaac Christiansen
A Left Critique of Russiagate
Howard Gregory
The Unemployment Rate is an Inadequate Reporter of U.S. Economic Health
Ramzy Baroud
Who Wants to Kill Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah?
Roy Morrison
Trouble Ahead: The Trump Administration at Home and Abroad
Roger Hayden
Too Many Dead Grizzlies
George Wuerthner
The Lessons of the Battle to Save the Ancient Forests of French Pete
Binoy Kampmark
Fictional Free Trade and Permanent Protectionism: Donald Trump’s Economic Orthodoxy
Rivera Sun
Think Outside the Protest Box
March 20, 2018
Jonathan Cook
US Smooths Israel’s Path to Annexing West Bank
Jeffrey St. Clair
How They Sold the Iraq War
Chris Busby
Cancer, George Monbiot and Nuclear Weapons Test Fallout
Nick Alexandrov
Washington’s Invasion of Iraq at Fifteen
David Mattson
Wyoming Plans to Slaughter Grizzly Bears
Paul Edwards
My Lai and the Bad Apples Scam
Julian Vigo
The Privatization of Water and the Impoverishment of the Global South
Mir Alikhan
Trump and Pompeo on Three Issues: Paris, Iran and North Korea
Seiji Yamada
Preparing For Nuclear War is Useless
Gary Leupp
Brennan, Venality and Turpitude
Martha Rosenberg
Why There’s a Boycott of Ben & Jerry’s on World Water Day, March 22
John Pilger
Skripal Case: a Carefully-Constructed Drama?
March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us
Nomi Prins 
Jared Kushner, RIP: a Political Obituary for the President’s Son-in-Law
Georgina Downs
The Double Standards and Hypocrisy of the UK Government Over the ‘Nerve Agent’ Spy Poisoning
Dean Baker
Trump and the Federal Reserve
Colin Todhunter
The Strategy of Tension Towards Russia and the Push to Nuclear War
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
US Empire on Decline
Ralph Nader
Ahoy America, Give Trump a Taste of His Own Medicine Starting on Trump Imitation Day
Robert Dodge
Eliminate Nuclear Weapons by Divesting from Them
Laura Finley
Shame on You, Katy Perry
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks