There’s a class of journalists who take things at face value, trusting them to be true and therefore not worth checking. Olympian pronouncements on Pakistan’s kleptocrats appropriated long-drawn-out discussions on air and in print the past two decades. So much got said and written that it ended in the slush files where it lives on till today.
The tragedy: neither the courts nor the media can catch the kleptocrats because both lack a clear and conclusive proof to impeach.
Had the Obama administration appointed kleptocrats, described by Dictionary.com as a “government where officials are politically corrupt and financially self-interested”, the president and his kleptos would be facing criminal inquiry after getting kicked out of the White House.
But America is not Pakistan, a nation where a million curses reverberate every living moment against the confirmed kleptos raiding the country.
Nor is America like Pakistan when it comes to rent-a-crowd rallies.
“I want to take a look, one more time,” said America’s 44th president after being sworn in. “I’m not going to see this again.” As Obama left the inaugural site, he paused to turn back and see the million crowd chant ‘Ob-ba-ma.’ Best to write these lines in stone and display at the entrance of the official houses of the president and the prime minister in Islamabad. Power is transitory they must be reminded daily.
Obama knows, he will never see or hear such an epic crowd ever again. Four years down the road, he’ll be heading home to Chicago.
On the other side of the Atlantic, President Zardari readies for a second term in office. And if the going is good, who knows, he may change the Constitution to ‘serve’ Pakistan for a 3rd, 4th or even 5th term! Heavens forbid. Nawaz Sharif too primes for prime ministership for the third time. Never mind what the Constitution says. Rules and laws are malleable like putty in the hands of pygmies dominating the judiciary, executive and legislative organs. The biggest offender is the army that gives a ‘wink and a nod’ to allow uninterrupted rule by charlatans from every political party. Remember the NRO. As the ISI chief, General Kayani huddled with the powerhouses in Washington and struck an unholy deal with Benazir Bhutto. He was President Musharraf’s personal emissary. The suckers were of course the 170 million people of Pakistan. If only the general’s sleuths had pushed the freshly minted bestseller before the big boss, itemising how the first family (Benazir Bhutto) and Nawaz Sharif tapped the nation’s wealth to stash it abroad. Perhaps the chief spy would have declined to be Musharraf’s messenger. More of the bestseller later.
Different from our throngs, ordinary Americans came out on a cold January morning because they wanted to see Obama. Zardari or Nawaz Sharif or Altaf Hussain or Tahirul Qadri have to pay people to come hear, cheer and hail them as their heroes. It is a self-evident truth. Just as the fact that all our leaders, from the judiciary down to politics, are corrupt. In any civilised society, they would be barred from holding public office and shunned by the masses to lead political parties.
Not so in Pakistan. A Pakistani banker, writes Raymond Baker in his book Capitalism’s Achilles Heel: Dirty Money and How to Renew the Free-Market System, tells him, ‘We (Pakistanis) have lost the distinction between what is legal and what is illegal. No one hates people who get their money through illegal means. Society is not acting as a restraint”.
It was eight years ago, Baker, a graduate of Harvard Business School, exposed the alleged corruption of the first couple Benazir Bhutto and twice-elected prime minister Nawaz Sharif. As an internationally respected authority on corruption, money laundering, growth and foreign policy issues, Baker’s book received rave reviews.
The book is available on the Internet as a PDF document. It can be downloaded free for anyone to read. It is worth a close read since it charts a map on how “businesspeople, criminals, and kleptocrats perfect the same techniques to shift funds and how these tactics negatively affect individuals, institutions, and countries”.
When it came out, some independent columnists from Urdu and English newspapers quoted extensively from the book. They even challenged Bhutto and Sharif to go to court and sue Baker for defamation.
As expected, Baker’s allegations were left unchallenged by the two.
Baker, like many others, alleges that Benazir Bhutto in 1988 “reportedly appointed 26,000 party hacks to state jobs, including positions in state-owned banks. An orgy of lending without proper collateral followed. The first couple, as Baker writes, “ ‘gave instructions for billions of rupees of unsecured government loans to be given to 50 large projects. The loans were sanctioned in the names of ‘front men’ but went to the ‘Bhutto-Zardari combine’ ”. The author goes on to say that “Zardari suggested that such loans are ‘normal in the Third World to encourage industrialisation’.
The money, Rs421m (then about £10 million) according to Baker was used to acquire a major interest in three new sugar mills, all done through nominees. As for kickbacks, there’s a full page with facts and figures for readers to read. It’s not breaking news. We must have heard and read the details a thousand times.
What does it matter? The answer: zilch!
The most touted document by our rulers is the Constitution and the rule of law. Yet, they breach them daily. These godless men and women violate the vows they take in the name of Allah and the Holy Quran during their oath of office.
Nawaz Sharif according to Baker became a millionaire many times over between the 1980s and early 1990s. “Ittefaq Industries grew from its original single foundry into 30 businesses producing steel, sugar, paper and textiles, with combined revenues of $400 million, making it one of the biggest private conglomerates in the nation,” writes Baker. “As in many other countries, when you control the political realm, you can get anything you want in the economic realm, with Lahore, the capital of Punjab, serving as the seat of the family’s power”.
Baker alleges that under Sharif, “unpaid bank loans and massive tax evasion remained the favorite ways to get rich”. When Nawaz Sharif was sacked, the government published a list of 322 of the largest loan defaulters, representing almost “$3 billion out of $4 billion” owed to banks. Sharif and his family were tagged for $60 million.
He alleges “offshore companies have been linked to Sharif, three in the British Virgin Islands by the names of Nescoll, Nielson, and Shamrock 68 and another in the Channel Islands known as Chandron Jersey Pvt. Ltd. Some of these entities allegedly were used to facilitate purchase of four rather grand flats on Park Lane in London, at various times occupied by Sharif family members”.
A fresh scandal brews today. This time it involves a PPP senator Waqar Ahmad Khan versus Deutsche Bank. The case currently under way in London can expose many of our powerful douchebags involved in money laundering. According to press reports a Deutsche Bank employee Nasim Ahmad is said to handle accounts of Pakistani politicians including a couple of serving and former chief ministers, retired armed forces personnel, senior bureaucrats and top business families.
Many of us remember that in her second term Benazir Bhutto assigned FIA’s deputy director general Rehman Malik to probe Sharif’s corruption. In an interview, Malik added: “No other leader of Pakistan has taken that much money from the banks. There is no rule of law in Pakistan. It doesn’t exist”.
Does the ‘rule of law’ exist today, Mr Rehman Malik? And more importantly, where are the ‘investigative’ journalists? Should they not be ploughing for foolproof evidence to indict Malik, his boss and the Sharifs before elections?