Zardari, Nawaz spent Rs3.26bn on 'lavish foreign trips' as president, PM: Shafqat Mehmood

Published July 9, 2019
PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari shaking hands. —AP/File
PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari shaking hands. —AP/File

Former president Asif Ali Zardari and ousted premier Nawaz Sharif spent a total Rs3.26 billion on foreign visits over the course of nine years, the federal cabinet was informed on Tuesday.

Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood revealed during a post-cabinet meeting press conference that Zardari had spent Rs1.42bn on his 134 foreign tours over five years (2008-2013), while Nawaz Sharif had spent Rs1.84bn during his four-year tenure as prime minister (2013-17).

Mehmood said the government had "already informed the people about the corruption done by the opposition while in power during the past ten years".

"Over Rs24,000 billion in loans were taken from foreign countries, which speaks volumes about their opulence," the education minister said.

The minister said it was also revealed during the cabinet meeting that Zardari had spent a total 257 days abroad while on trips, and in this time was accompanied by some 3,227 persons.

Mehmood further alleged that Zardari had wasted around Rs20m on the pretext of tips and Rs45m on gifts.

"On the one hand you [the country] are buried under the weight of so much debt that you are borrowing even more [to meet liabilities], and on the other hand you are giving gifts worth Rs45m to people," he remarked.

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The minister further alleged that Zardari had visited Dubai a total of 51 times as president, out of which 48 trips were 'private' in nature, that incurred costs of Rs100m. On 17 visits to the United Kingdom, Rs320m was spent by the Zardari regime, he added.

Moving on to Sharif, Mehmood said that the former premier had spent 262 days abroad during his four-year stint as prime minister. Sharif 'wasted' Rs30m on tips and Rs60m on gifts, Mehmood said.

"He [Sharif] undertook 24 visits to London, out of which 20 were of a private nature, and spent Rs230m from the national exchequer on these," Mehmood disclosed.

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The minister pointed out that this was not the totally of expenditures incurred, as Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) had also suffered losses of Rs300-Rs400m, according to preliminary estimates, on account of the chartering of its aircraft.

Mehmood alleged that other prime ministers who served during the tenures of both parties, including Shahid Khaqan Abbasi of the PML-N and Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf of the PPP, had also plundered the nation's wealth on their foreign trips.

The minister sought to highlight that, contrary to past rulers, Prime Minister Imran Khan, during his upcoming visit to the United States, would stay at the residence of the Pakistani ambassador to save costs and only a select few persons, including Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, would be accompanying him.

"The personal staff of the prime minister will stay in a three-star hotel in the US," he said.

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