The elephant in PPP’s room

Updated December 30, 2018

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LEGALLY under siege, Asif Zardari is politically on the attack.

According to the political narrative that the PPP boss and his supporters are attempting to craft, Mr Zardari’s political and alleged financial empire are under attack because elements within the state are threatened by the party’s policies and politics.

But while there may be some truth to the PPP’s allegations, there is now firmly lodged in the party’s living room a rather large elephant: the JIT report that was ordered by the Supreme Court and which has become the basis for Mr Zardari and numerous of his political and alleged financial partners being placed on the Exit Control List.

The JIT report may not be the same as facts proved in a court of law, but the report has certainly created a problem of political standing and perhaps even legitimacy for Mr Zardari and the PPP that he unquestionably dominates. Mr Zardari and the PPP leadership must address the specific allegations against them in the JIT report.

The JIT report covers a vast number of alleged corrupt business practices and ostensibly confirms what has been politically apparent for a number of years.

From mills to factories and land deals to bank loans, the JIT report has tied Mr Zardari to an empire of financial corruption on a staggering scale.

If Mr Zardari denies, for example, that his family has ties to the Bahria property empire, then surely the wildly lucrative projects that Bahria has won in Sindh can be audited by an independent third party.

After all, if the JIT report is not to be trusted because of the implicit political bias of its authors, the deals it has flagged can surely be audited by credible financial investigators.

Similarly, if certain banks have not been used to lend enormous sums of money to entities and individuals who did produce adequate collateral according to the prevailing rules, then the loans ought to be proved to have been properly made and adequately secured.

The many rackets and several figures identified in the JIT have long been speculated about in the political arena.

It is Mr Zardari’s right to fight the allegations against him in the judicial arena and he must be given the same due process and rights that the law and Constitution guarantee to all citizens.

But in the court of public opinion and the political arena, Mr Zardari will need to do more than just dismiss the allegations against him as wild conspiracy. Indeed, from a democratic perspective, the foundations of the elected order in the country could be weakened further if serious allegations of financial fraud and corruption are simply shrugged off politically.

The public has a right to choose its leaders, but the leaders have a duty to the public to be transparent about their financial affairs. Mr Zardari must do more.

Published in Dawn, December 30th, 2018