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BENAZIR, SHARIF

Cataloguing Corruption

Since 1988 Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif have been trading places and feeding stories of each other's corruption to the nation. To borrow an ancient proverb, they fell in ditches that they dug for each other.

In 1988-90, when Benazir was prime minister and Nawaz Sharif chief minister, Punjab, Benazir was accused for taking kickbacks in airbus deals, trying to sell Roosevelt Hotel in New York owned by Pakistan International Airlines at throwaway prices and allot plots in Islamabad abandoned by Bengalis to favorites. Sharif's press adviser Hussain Haqqani gave currency to the title of " Mr Ten Percent " to Asif Zardari who was accused of setting up sugar mills through front men and pressurizing banks to dish out loans to his nominees.

In retaliation, PPP came out with a list of 100 instances and cases of corruption by Mian Nawaz Sharif including allotment of 343 Kanals of prime and land in Murree to Zafar Iqbal of Abu Dhabi at throwaway prices, violating foreign exchange rules, over invoicing and under invoicing in business deals and use of funds beyond his discretionary powers.

These charges were peanuts when viewed in the background of charges of corruption flying agaist the rulers and former rulers today. A chronology of the charges of corruption agaist former and present prime minister gives a measure of progress that Pakistan has made between 1990-97, in respect of corruption and plunder.

First Benazir govt was dismissed on August 5, 1990, replaced by a caretaker govt headed by Ghulam Mustatfa Jatoi in which Kamal Azfar was Planning Minister and Zahid Sarfraz, Interior Minister. Like a ritual, the two ministers daily told tales of " royal couple's " corruption over television.

In the last chapter we have already discussed a press conference by the federal Interior Minister, Zahid Sarfraz, at which he distributed documents showing that Asif Zardari, Hakim Ali Zardari and three other members of the family had submitted forged documents to borrow Rs 40,000 from the Agricultural Development Bank. In less than a decade and half this borrower of Rs 8,000 from ADBP was to emerge as one the richest man in Pakistan.

Four references were filed against Benazir Bhutto, three against Asif Zardari and one against Hakim Ali Zardari. These included

    Illegal allotment of Lakeview Hotel to a front man of Asif Ali Zardari.

    Illegal and irregular allotment of LPG

    Undue pressure on Habib Bank to sanction a loan for duty free shops to Fauzi Kazim.

    Award of contract for export of cotton at reduced prices to Releigh Brothers.

Three references were filed against Asif Zardari for
    Use of pressure on Habib Bank Ltd to sanction Rs 70 crore ( 700 million) loan for Fine English Hotel and White and White Hotel

    Putting pressure on United Bank Ltd to sanction Rs 7 crore ( 70 million) loan to one Ghulam Mustafa Memon

    Putting pressure on Habib Bank for award of loan to Fauzi Ali Kazim who was reported to have stated in an affidavit that Zardari was holding 49% equity in the project.

A reference was filed against Hakim Ali Zardari alleging that he had received Rs 24 lakh from Pakistan State Oil (PSO) for renting out 1000 yards of land that did not belong to him.

In November 1990, Nawaz Sharif came into power and now, it was Benazir's turn to pay him in the same currency, accusing him of taking kickbacks in Lahore-Islamabad Motorways and Yellow Cab Scheme, selling family silver at throwaway prices, extracting huge loans from the nationalized banks to build the House of Ittefaq. Her harshest condemnation of government came in a well documented publication. The Plunder of Pakistan, which accused Nawaz Sharif of being responsible for the collapse of the cooperatives, manipulation of custom duties on iron scrap and several other irregularities. A "gang of four" comprising of the Nawaz Sharif family, Chaudris, Basharat Elahi (Brother-in-law of Zia ul Haq) and Saifullah was accused of milking the banks and financial institutions.

A sustained compaign by Benazir against corruption of Nawaz Sharif, supplemented by independent reports in the press, provided the ammunition to President Ghulam Ishaq Khan to fire Nawaz Sharif and install a caretaker govt headed by Balkh Sher Mazari. Zahid Sarfraz was again there as chairman of an accountability committee.

" Never in the political history of Pakistan and for that matter, in the history of entire world, a prime minister and his family has manipulated and devised policies to suit their personal business interests, as the deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did. Even a cursory probe into economic, fiscal and taxation policies of past govt reveals that its recurring single point agenda was to find ways and means to grab money and accumulate wealth", he declared at a press conference.

The charges against Nawaz Sharif as tax evader and loan shark continued during three years of second Benazir govt and Nawaz Sharif claimed that 150 cases of corruption and irregularities were instituted against him and his family members. None was proved.

It was alleged that Nawaz Sharif was evading taxes, caused a loss of Rs 2 billion in Lahore Development Authority (LDA) in allotment of plots, that he spent Rs 200 million from Baitulmal, Rs 845 million from Tameer-e-Watan program and the rural electrification program.

But why is it that no single politician and bureaucrat has been convicted despite so clear circumstantial evidence against them. Is it because of brotherhood among thieves or because you can not set a thief to catch a thief? A plausible answer was provided by Chief Ehtasab Commissioner Mujadad Mirza at a press conference on December 17, 1996, convened to discount the impression that his office was slow in processing cases of corruption.

Mirza said his office was reluctant to make public details of several cases of corruption because those involved in the cases might " destroy the evidence and win over the witnesses". This is exactly what has happened in most of corruption cases filed against previous rulers.

In the references about Lakeview Hotel and sanction of loan by Habib Bank to duty free shops against Benazir Bhutto, Shafi Sehwani, the member planning, CDA and Safdar Abbas Zaidi, President Habib Bank were the key witness. Their refusal to testify won them lucrative jobs in the next govt. Sehwani was rewarded with chairmanship of the Capital Development Authority and Safdar Abbas Zaidi was appointed head of Pakistan Investment Board when Bhutto came into power in 1993.

The reference of LPG against Benazir was not proved because the whole record about allotment of LPG had disappeared but the official incharge was rewarded with a promotion after the change of the govt.

The biggest charge against Nawaz Sharif during 1990-93 related to sanction of loans at inflated cost estimates for sugar mills manufactured by Ittefaq Foundary and bulk of these loans was made available by Bankers Equity Limited. After the dismissal of Nawaz govt, chairman BEL Saeed Sadiq was appointed office Secretary in Pakistan Muslim League secreteriat in Islamabad.

On November 5, 1996, Benazir Bhutto was dismissed for the second time and a series of corruption charges were framed against her, in the dismissal order and the statement filed by President Farooq Leghari, in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. These included charges that

    a 2.5 million Pound Sterling retreat was purchased as Surrey, for which household goods were sent in 21 cartons by PIA

    Hakim Ali Zardari purchased two Mansions located at Chemin Department 921, Mensil Liebray for 6 million Francs and at Mormanville Hameau, in 1990.

    Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources awarded US dollars 3,50,000 study to messers Improved Petroleum Recovery (IPR), represented by a company of Saif group of Petroleum Minister Anwar Saifullah.

    It was alleged that 12.5 acres of land was alloted for the construction of a hospital by brother of Anwar Saifullah, as a joint venture with CDA in which CDA was to take part by providing land worth Rs 300 million as its equity. Land was also alloted to nine institutions at highly reduced price for construction of educational institutions worth Rs 329 for merely Rs 40 million. Allottees included Sindh People Welfare Trust headed by none other but Benazir Bhutto, mother of Shahnaz Wazir Ali and sister of Nahid Khan, political secretary to Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

    Sixteen acres of land at Shakarparian in Islamabad was alloted to Messers Inter Pak Hotels in which Asif Zardari's brother in law had an interest, for construction of hotel, as a joint venture with CDA. The land was valued at Rs 310 million of which allottee was required to pay Rs 10 million while Rs 150 million was to be treated as CDA equity and balance Rs 150 million was to be paid in installments over ten years period.

    As in her previous stint, this time also Benazir Bhutto was accused of irregularities in award of quota for 190 tons of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) involving a daily profit of Rs 16,72,000 or Rs 582 million per annum to four favorites. According to an article in The Friday Times, Senator Gulzar who was given quota of 30 tons per annum in 1988-90 was awarded a quota of 50 tons yielding him of an income of Rs 4,40,000 per day or Rs 160 crore (1600 million) per annum. LPG which was to become available in September 1997 (350 tons) and September 1998 (35 tons) was allocated to him in anticipation.

    One single firm ARY Trading was given monopoly for import of gold. Hussain Lawai, President Muslim Commercial Bank who was allegedly involved in the deal had to tender his resignation from the Bank, was arrested by FIA, allowed to leave Pakistan and is now living with owner of ARY Trading in Dubai.

    Two Swiss firms were given the contract for pre-shipment inspection of imports for which they were paid Rs 5 billion per annum. It was because of the commission paid by these companies that Bhutto family accounts in Switzerland were seized.

Of all charges against Benazir, only one case relating to commission and cutbasks in award of gold monopoly to ARY Traders has been registered against Benazir Bhutto so far.
 
 

Epilogue

Table of Contents

Money and Politics

Robber Barons of Pakistan