IS there any objective non-party person in Pakistan who will deny that both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, their cohorts, their governments were corrupt to the core and collectively responsible for the robbery and plunder of this country and its people?
I will say nothing about the judiciary as I stand accused of having committed contempt of court. I have asked Chief Justice of Pakistan Irshad Hassan Khan to hear my case before I or my lawyers die and am anxiously awaiting a summons to Islamabad.
When Benazir was dismissed for the first time in 1990 President Ghulam Ishaq Khan filed six references against her alleging corruption and misconduct. None of these were decided during Nawaz's first tenure (1990-93). So, when Benazir came back for her second round she naturally had herself acquitted on all charges. The country lost; the people lost.
In her second round, Benazir and her husband discovered a new source of income - inspection companies. Six cover companies were named and used: Capricorn Trading, Dargal Associated, Mariston Securities, Mariston Business, Nassam Incorporated, Bomer Finance. On September 8, 1997, the Swiss Federal Office for Police Matters, Berne, informed our government that sufficient evidence had been found to justify their writing to four banks informing them to block the accounts of "accused persons Bhutto Benazir, ex-prime minister, Zardari Asif Ali, husband of Madame Bhutto, Bhutto Nusat Begum."
When Benazir was thrown out in 1996 for the second time, charged with corruption and malpractices, and Nawaz came in for his second bout with the nation one thing he did do was to manage in 1999 to have a high court convict both Benazir and Asif. Asif is in prison whilst Benazir has embarked on a world lecture tour, posing to be as pure as the proverbial driven snow. Both have appealed to the Supreme Court against their conviction and this appeal is to be heard at the end of this month.
Now, at this moment in time, a 'spook' emerges. As is the wont of his profession, a deputy director of the Intelligence Bureau writes to the President of Pakistan on January 29 and sends him a bunch of tapes of bugged conversations. The spook writes on IB-Lahore letterhead, so one should presume he wrote from Lahore. The letter and the transcripts of the tapes are leaked to and printed by The Sunday Times, London, on Feb 4. But the spook is in London. How did he get there? Who pays for his keep? Would it be reasonable to suspect that the entire episode has a high fishy smell?
I hold no brief for Spook Rahim or his associates or his felons-in-arms. I write for my old friend, barrister and senior counsel, Khalid Anwer. Our friendship managed to survive the period he spent as law minister in the second Nawaz Sharif government, for when he accepted the position I knew that it would not be too long before he once again landed with his feet back on terra firma. For Khalid's knowledge, intelligence and ethics, I have nothing but respect. He will not admit to having misjudged Nawaz and made a mistake in joining him, though he surely now realizes what a monumental blunder it was. At that point in time, he had nothing to gain but all to lose. And now, he stands collectively responsible and guilty, together with the other members of Nawaz's cabinet, for the crimes and wrongdoings perpetrated by the government between the years 1997 to 1999.
But it must be remembered that as a law minister he had every right to speak to the country's judges and advise them to adhere to the prevailing laws when hearing cases of public importance. To attack him on that score is ridiculous, particularly when the attack is based upon bugged recordings made unlawfully, recordings that so easily could have been doctored to suit the circumstances. If the Ehtesab Act provides that cases be heard on a day-to-day basis and decided within 60 days, and if a judge procrastinates when dealing with a government case, it is the law minister's duty to advise him to get going.
In this world of information technology the crimes of Benazir and her husband are widely known. For those interested in the topic, I suggest they switch on their computers, get on to the Internet, click on and open www.levin.senate.gov/issues/psireport2.htm, retrieve and read a US Senate document headed "Minority Staff Report for Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Hearing on Private Banking and Money Laundering: A Case Study of Opportunities and Vulnerabilities" dated November 9, 1999. I particularly recommend that our judges, our NAB men, and our official prosecutors download and study this document.
The 50-page Report details the grimy monetary dealings of seven notorious wheeler-dealers. The Republic of Pakistan has the proud privilege of having one of their own on this august list. The list: Raoul Salinas, former Mexican government official, brother of former president of Mexico; Asif Ali Zardari, former Pakistani government official and legislator, husband of former prime minister of Pakistan; El Hadj Omar Bongo, president of Gabon; Abacha Sons: Mohammad, Ibrahim and Abba Abbacha, sons of General Sani Abacha, former military leader of Nigeria.
Under the sub-title "The Facts", it is written of Asif Zardari: "The second case history involves Asif Ali Zardari, the husband of Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister of Pakistan. Ms Bhutto was elected prime minister in 1988, dismissed by the President of Pakistan in August 1990 for alleged corruption and inability to maintain law and order, elected prime minister once again in October 1993, and dismissed by the President again in November 1996. At various times, Mr Zardari served as senator, environment minister and minister for investments in the Bhutto government. In between the two Bhutto administrations, he was incarcerated in 1990 and 1991 on charges of corruption; the charges were eventually dropped. During Ms Bhutto's second term there were increasing allegations of corruption in her government and a major target of those allegations was Mr Zardari. It has been reported that the government of Pakistan claims that Ms Bhutto and Mr Zardari stole over $ 1 billion from the country."
Listed are details of Zardari's relationship with Citibank which began in October 1994 "through the services of Kamran Amouzegar, a private banker at Citibank private bank in Switzerland, and Jens Schlegelmilch, a Swiss lawyer who was the Bhutto family's attorney in Europe and close personal friend for more than twenty years." Schlegelmilch was invited and came to Karachi for Benazir and Asif's wedding in 1987 and has paid several visits since then.
The relationships between the account holders, banks, depositors, kickbackers and cover cocerns is highly complicated and can only be sorted out by a careful reading of the Report. Hereunder a few excerpts:
"The staff invited Ms. Bhutto to provide additional information on the M.S. Capricorn Trading accounts, but she has not yet done so."
"During the period 1994 to 1997, Citibank opened and maintained three private bank accounts in Switzerland and a consumer account in Dubai for three corporations under Mr. Zardari's control. There are allegations that some of these accounts were used to disguise $10 million in kickbacks for a gold importing contract to Pakistan ......."
"Citibank told the Subcommittee staff that, once opened, only three deposits were made into the M.S. Capricorn Trading account in Dubai. Two deposits, totaling $10 million were made into the account almost immediately after it was opened. Citibank records show that one $5 million deposit was made on October 5, 1994, and another was made on October 6, 1994. The source of both deposits was A.R.Y. International Exchange, a company owned by Abdul Razzak Yaqub, a Pakistani gold bullion trader living in Dubai ......."
"The Zardari case history raises issues involving due diligence, secrecy and public figure accounts. The Zardari case history begins with the Citibank Dubai branch's failure to identify the true beneficial owner of the M.S. Capricorn Trading account. As a result, the account officer in Dubai performed due diligence on an individual who had no relationship to the account being opened. In Switzerland, Citibank officials opened three private bank accounts despite evidence of impropriety on the part of Mr. Zardari. In an interview with Subcommittee staff, Citigroup Co- Chair John Reed informed the Subcommittee staff that he had been advised by Citibank officials in preparation for a trip to Pakistan in February 1994, that there were troubling accusations concerning corruption surrounding Mr. Zardari, that he should stay away from him, and that he was not a man with whom the bank wanted to be associated. Yet one year later, the private bank opened three accounts for Mr. Zardari in Switzerland. Mr. Reed told the Subcommittee staff that when he learned of the Zardari accounts he thought the account officer must have been 'an idiot'."
If this government does not do whatever needs to be done, however correctly or obliquely, to disqualify and debar every man and woman who held elected office from 1988 to 1999 - all collectively responsible for the present state of the nation - from henceforth holding any elected office ever again, history will hold it responsible for the accelerated disintegration of what is left of this country.