Asif Zardari: A Corrupt Master Manipulator?

The recent shock defeat of  Dr. Hafeez Shaikh, Prime Minister Imran Khan's nominee for the Senate, has former President Asif Ali Zardari's fingerprints on it. The former president and current co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party orchestrated the buying of votes and arranged the hundreds of millions of rupees used for the purpose to ensure former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani's surprise victory in the recent Senate Elections. Zardari has been widely known to be "in his elements" when it comes to "money transactions". 

L to R: Khurshid Shah, Asif Ali Zaradri, Yusuf Raza Gilani


What Mr. Zardari pulled off is a reminder of what he did for Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, his late wife who faced almost certain defeat in a no-confidence motion against her in November, 1989. In his recent book entitled "The Bhutto Dynasty", veteran British journalist Owen Bennet Jones offers several specific instances of how the Bhuttos used money for political gain. One such instance was when Benazir Bhutto's husband Asif Ali Zardari helped her defeat a no-confidence motion in 1989 that appeared to be all but certain to remove her from power. Here are the relevant excerpts of the book:

"Having seen politics close up when her father was in power, Benazir had long been aware that money played a part in Pakistani politics. But now it could not have been clearer: if one of her National Assembly members was being offered a bribe to switch to the opposition, she needed to be able to match it............As another of her political advisers later recalled, ‘Asif’s role became more prominent when she beat back the motion of no confidence. There was some wheeler dealing in that. Some buying of votes. The moment money transactions came into play, Asif was in his element.’ Asif Zardari has consistently denied any financial malpractice. During her second government, Benazir told an aide that you needed to have $200–300 million to go into an election so that you could fund your candidates and secure their loyalty. While many of her advisers gave her plenty of interesting suggestions about what to do, Zardari actually did things, proving himself to be a man she could rely on" 

Forms of Corruption and Impact. Source: Dr. Yuen Yuen Ang


Owen Bennet Jones has described in some detail how Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his daughter Benazir Bhutto saw the role of money in Pakistani politics. Here's an excerpt of Benazir's candid admission that "kickbacks must be taken":

"In a surprisingly unguarded interview with the American Academy of Achievement in 2000 she (Benazir Bhutto) said, while denying personal involvement, that she wished she had done more to tackle corruption: ‘We all knew kickbacks must be taken . . . these things happen.’Politicians everywhere, she argued, made money. The difference was that while Western politicians did so after they left office, their counterparts in the developing world did not have that option".

Owen Bennet Jones has reported another instance in which Zulfikar Ali Bhutto gave away bundles of cash to a religious leader who was the last hold-out against the adoption of the 1973 constitution. Here is the excerpt:

"It was, by any standards, extraordinary that Zulfikar managed to push it through with no one in the National Assembly voting against it. Mubashir Hassan described how the final hold-out – a cleric – was persuaded to vote in favour with a payoff: ‘The amount was settled and Bhutto described the scene to me how when the fellow came to President’s House to collect the money, Bhutto threw a packet of notes on the floor and ordered him to pick it up. There the man was, moving over the carpet on all fours, picking a bundle from here and a bundle from there. Bhutto was mightily amused. By using all his political skills – bribery included – Zulfikar had made a significant contribution to Pakistan’s national story." 

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Political Patronage in Pakistan

Zardari Corruption

Panama Papers

US Aid to Pakistan

1971 Debacle in East Pakistan

Is it 1971 Moment in Pakistan's History?

Mission RAW by RK Yadav: India in East Pakistan

Benazir Bhutto Gave Birth to Taliban

What if Musharraf Had Said No to US After 911?

Riaz Haq Youtube Channel

VPOS Youtube Channel

Comments

Riaz Haq said…
HOUSE OF GRAFT: Tracing the Bhutto Millions -- A special report.; Bhutto Clan Leaves Trail of Corruption

https://www.nytimes.com/1998/01/09/world/house-graft-tracing-bhutto-millions-special-report-bhutto-clan-leaves-trail.html

Officials leading the inquiry in Pakistan say that the $100 million they have identified so far is only a small part of a windfall from corrupt activities. They maintain that an inquiry begun in Islamabad just after Ms. Bhutto's dismissal in 1996 found evidence that her family and associates generated more than $1.5 billion in illicit profits through kickbacks in virtually every sphere of government activity -- from rice deals, to the sell-off of state land, even rake-offs from state welfare schemes.

The Pakistani officials say their key break came last summer, when an informer offered to sell documents that appeared to have been taken from the Geneva office of Jens Schlegelmilch, whom Ms. Bhutto described as the family's attorney in Europe for more than 20 years, and as a close personal friend. Pakistani investigators have confirmed that the original asking price for the documents was $10 million. Eventually the seller traveled to London and concluded the deal for $1 million in cash.

The identity of the seller remains a mystery. Mr. Schlegelmilch, 55, developed his relationship with the Bhutto family through links between his Iranian-born wife and Ms. Bhutto's mother, who was also born in Iran. In a series of telephone interviews, he declined to say anything about Mr. Zardari and Ms. Bhutto, other than that he had not sold the documents. ''It wouldn't be worth selling out for $1 million,'' he said.

The documents included: statements for several accounts in Switzerland, including the Citibank accounts in Dubai and Geneva; letters from executives promising payoffs, with details of the percentage payments to be made; memorandums detailing meetings at which these ''commissions'' and ''remunerations'' were agreed on, and certificates incorporating the offshore companies used as fronts in the deals, many registered in the British Virgin Islands.

The documents also revealed the crucial role played by Western institutions. Apart from the companies that made payoffs, and the network of banks that handled the money -- which included Barclay's Bank and Union Bank of Switzerland as well as Citibank -- the arrangements made by the Bhutto family for their wealth relied on Western property companies, Western lawyers and a network of Western friends.

As striking as some of the payoff deals was the clinical way in which top Western executives concluded them. The documents showed painstaking negotiations over the payoffs, followed by secret contracts. In one case, involving Dassault, the contract specified elaborate arrangements intended to hide the proposed payoff for the fighter plane deal, and to prevent it from triggering French corruption laws.


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