Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sharif Emerges as Pakistan's Power Broker

Less than nine years ago, Mr. Nawaz Sharif, the two-time prime minister of Pakistan, was overthrown, jailed and then forced into exile by General Musharraf. Now, he is emerging as the ultimate come-back kid of Pakistani politics. Recent polls indicate he is the most popular politician in Pakistan. His party, the PML(N) has emerged as the second largest force in Pakistan's parliament in February elections held under President Musharraf. His brother rules Punjab, the largest province in Pakistan, and Sharif has forced Asif Zardari to join him in removing Musharraf, his personal nemesis, under the threat of impeachment.

Who is Nawaz Sharif? What is his past? What does he want? These questions are gaining great relevance with the rising popularity and increasing clout of Nawaz Sharif. A recent Wall Street Journal interview and story shed some light on Mr. Sharif.

Here are some excerpts from the Wall Street Journal report today:

Mr. Sharif hails from a family of industrialists. At his heavily guarded home on the outskirts of Lahore, his wealth and power are both on display. Peacocks stroll on neatly trimmed grass and statues of a doe and her fawn mark an entrance where security guards wearing black T-shirts and carrying automatic weapons await visitors. Just outside Mr. Sharif's cavernous dining room are two stuffed African lions that appear to be stalking prey. "From Botswana," Mr. Sharif said. "Male lions."

In an interview at his home Wednesday, Mr. Sharif said he is prepared to withdraw his Pakistan Muslim League (N) from the governing coalition, led by the Pakistan People's Party, if about 60 judges -- sacked during a six-week state of emergency declared in November -- aren't given their jobs back immediately. Mr. Sharif added, "Mr. Musharraf threw the judges out of office. He ridiculed the institution," he said. "If this institution is not restored, it will shake the foundations of this country."

In answer to a question on business, Mr. Sharif said, "The privatization program started from our government. We should open up further. I'd like to privatize everything. This is the key to success. The government shouldn't be in the business of running factories".

Answering another question, Mr. Sharif said, "The coalition of the PPP and our party came into being on the basis that democracy would be strengthened and judges restored. And of course, we would restore the constitution as it stood before Mr. Musharraf overthrew an elected government, my government. The reinstatement of the judges hasn't come through."

Is Mr. Sharif a really changed man? Has he learned from his past mistakes? Has he had a real epiphany? Let's see how one can square the new persona of Mr. Sharif with the following realities from his past two stints as prime minister:

In June 1994 when Nawaz Sharif was the prime minister, Pakistan faced its worst-ever constitutional crisis when a pro-Sharif mob stormed into the supreme court, forcing Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah to adjourn the contempt of court hearing against Sharif. Hundreds of Pakistan Muslim League supporters and members of its youth wing, the Muslim Students Front (MSF), broke the police barricade around the courthouse when defense attorney Mr. S.M. Zafar was arguing his case.

A journalist ran into the courtroom and warned the bench of an impending attack. Heeding the warning, the chief justice got up abruptly, thanked Zafar and adjourned the hearing. While judicial members left the courtroom soon after, the mob ran in shouting anti-Supreme Court slogans, and damaging furniture.

The angry mob, led by ruling party member from Punjab Sardar Naseem and Colonel (retired) Mushtaq Tahir Kheli, Sharif's political secretary, shouted slogans against the chief justice. The mob also beat up Pakistan Peoples Party senator Iqbal Haider. The police managed to restore normalcy after baton charging and teargassing the mob, both inside and outside the courthouse. The court which assembled at 9:45 a.m., could continue the proceedings for only about 45 minutes.

According to media reports in 1998, Nawaz Sharif, after taking over as prime minister for the second time, amended Pakistan's constitution twice to consolidate his power. He attempted to transform the constitution and system of government completely by attempting to get unlimited powers of Amir ul Momineen (the chief of the faithful) by means of the Sharia Bill, which he introduced.

In April 2001, Ayaz Amir, a popular newspaper columnist and now a PML(N) MNA, wrote as follows about the Sharif brothers: The Sharifs’ notions of government were intensely private: which is to say, have your own man at every key post. They began with commissioners and police DIGs, the dregs of both services pandering to their whims and enriching themselves in the process. Major Mushtaq of the Police Service who has finally been caught by NAB for becoming a real estate tycoon while in service was an outstanding example of this breed: doing as he was told and becoming an impressive man of property along the way. But when Nawaz Sharif became Prime Minister the second time round the family’s sights were set higher. They had whiz-kid younger brother running Punjab. They had their own man in the presidency. After Sajjad Ali Shah’s arranged departure from the Supreme Court, they thought they had the apex court lined up in their favor. In the person of Justice Qayyum at the Lahore High Court they had the closest thing they could get to a personal judge. Division of family assets, balancing of huge bank loans against dummy collateral, tightening the noose around Asif Zardari and Benazir: the only judge who could handle these sensitive matters was Justice Qayyum.

In 1999, when Nawaz Sharif was prime minister, Pakistani economy was in shambles. Pakistan’s total debt as percentage of GDP was the highest in South Asia – 99.3 percent of its GDP and 629 percent of its revenue receipts, compared to Sri Lanka (91.1% & 528.3% respectively in 1998) and India (47.2% & 384.9% respectively in 1998). Internal Debt of Pakistan in 1999 was 45.6 per cent of GDP and 289.1 per cent of its revenue receipts, as compared to Sri Lanka (45.7% & 264.8% respectively in 1998) and India (44.0% & 358.4% respectively in 1998). The Economist recently noted that the current macroeconomic disarray will be familiar to the coalition government led by the Pakistan People's Party of Asif Zardari, and to Nawaz Sharif, whose party provides it “outside support”. Before Mr Sharif was ousted in 1999, the two parties had presided over a decade of corruption and mismanagement. But since then, as the IMF remarked in a report in January, there has been a transformation. Pakistan attracted over $5 billion in foreign direct investment in the 2006-07 fiscal year, ten times the figure of 2000-01. The government's debt fell from 68% of GDP in 2003-04 to less than 55% in 2006-07, and its foreign-exchange reserves reached $16.4 billion as recently as in October."

Like his coalition partner Asif Zardari, Nawaz Sharif has also been the subject of corruption allegations. He is accused of abuse of power and amassing personal wealth at Pakistan's expense, and leaving the country bankrupt in 1999. There are lingering questions of where and how Mr. Sharif got the money to pay off the $450m judgment as rendered by a British court against him in 1998, in connection with Hudaibia Paper Mills Ltd.

Let me conclude with some questions and a sincere hope: Is the transformation of Nawaz Sharif genuine? Or, are we seeing just another two-faced politician vying for more power and popularity? Sometimes, people do change profoundly. I sincerely hope, for the sake of Pakistan's future, that the metamorphosis of Nawaz Sharif is positive and genuine. I also hope that Asif Zardari , the other major power broker in Pakistan, has gone through similar transformation to enable genuine democracy to take roots in Pakistan.


Anonymous said...

In Pakistani politics, now a day, everyone is trying to score points against each other. Zardari is walking on a tight rope and trying to keep the balance; delivering to foriegn stackholders will make him unpopular internally and Sharif wont miss a chance to score more points, whereas following Sharif he will international credibility among his foreign allyies.

Sharif seems not realizing the challenges currently faced by Pakistan and just keeping eyes on next elections; hence he misses no chance to score points.

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sweetberry_angel said...

I wonder you did not get to this power nexus. Why Sharif supported Justice Iftikhar and had spent millions on lawyers movement. Justice had stopped selling of Pakistan Steal Mills, from where Ittefaq foundries get raw iron, convert into steel and sell it. Musharraf has not just kicked them out of the country but also kicked now at their power, their rozi, roti. Sometimes investigate into story of Pakistan Steel Mills.

Riaz Haq said...

Here is a report in Dawn today about how the Sharif brothers, waiting the wing to grab power, engaged in "money laundering", according to Ishaq Dar, a close associate and PML leader:

NAB Court documents have recently emerged which show that Senator Dar made some interesting revelations in an accountability court in April 2000.

The court was hearing the famous Hudaibiya Paper Mills case against the Sharif brothers.

The 43-page confessional statement of Senator Ishaq Dar was recorded on April 25th 2000 before the District Magistrate Lahore. Dar was produced before the court by the then Assistant Director Basharrat M Shahzad, of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

Dar, in his statement had admitted that he had been handling the money matters of the Sharif family and he also alleged that Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mian Shahbaz Sharif were involved in money laundering worth at least $14.886 million.

The statement by Senator Ishaq Dar is irrevocable as it was recorded under section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

Senator Ishaq Dar is a high-profile PML-N leader and has always been considered close to the Sharif brothers as his son, Ali Dar, is married to Nawaz Sharif’s daughter, Asma.

But in April 2000 the top PML-N leadership had hit a rough patch by then and some of their loyal lieutenants were busy developing a new political system for General (retired) Pervez Musharraf after his October 1999 military coup.

In this context, Ishaq Dar accused Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif of money laundering in the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case.

Interestingly, Ishaq Dar also implicated himself by confessing in the court that he – along with his friends Kamal Qureshi and Naeem Mehmood – had opened fake foreign currency accounts in different international banks.

He said that the entire amount in these banks finally landed in the accounts of Hudaibiya Paper Mills Limited.

Senator Ishaq Dar was the main witness against Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif in the case.

The Hudaibiya Paper Mills case is still pending in the National Accountability Bureau.

Since the statement made by Dar was recorded under section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the statement has become a permanent part of the case against the top PML-N leaders.

If the case is opened again, the Sharif brothers may discover that the tightening noose around them was originally prepared by one of their own family members and trusted lieutenant Senator Ishaq Dar.—DawnNews

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times story on ISI money used t5o help Nawaz Sharif's party against Benazir Bhutto's PPP in 1990s elections:

A three-judge Supreme Court bench, led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, resumed hearings into accusations that the spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, paid $6.5 million to a right-wing opposition alliance to influence the outcome of the 1990 election.

The case is potentially explosive in a country where the ISI has a history of meddling in politics yet its officials have largely escaped judicial censure. But analysts are divided about its chance of success.

Wednesday’s hearing was cut short after the court heard that statements recorded in 1998 by three crucial witnesses, including a former ISI chief, Asad Durrani, could not be found. A lawyer for Mr. Durrani said he was out of the country.

Justice Chaudhry ordered court officials to find the documents and summoned Mr. Durrani to a hearing next Thursday.

The scrutiny began in 1996 when Asghar Khan, a retired air force officer and politician, asked the court to investigate allegations that the ISI had donated $6.5 million through Mehran Bank to the opposition in advance of the 1990 election.

The ISI, it was said, wanted to oust Benazir Bhutto, the prime minister, in favor of the Islami Jamhoori-Ittehad, a coalition of conservative and religious parties headed by Nawaz Sharif, who went on to win the election.

Early hearings in the case brought striking revelations that embarrassed the military. Mr. Durrani, the former ISI chief, told the Supreme Court that the money had been distributed on the instructions of Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg, an army chief and Mr. Durrani’s boss at the time.

General Beg, in turn, said he had done so on the orders of President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, who opposed Ms. Bhutto.

The hearings stopped in 1999 after a military coup brought Gen. Pervez Musharraf to power but were revived in January at the instigation of Justice Chaudhry, who is eager to disprove critics who accuse him of going soft on the powerful army.

The resurrection of the case has potentially stark implications for certain politicians. Among the recipients of the ISI money was Mr. Sharif, the current opposition leader, who allegedly got $1.6 million. Should the charges stand, he and other prominent politicians, like Syeda Abida Hussain, a former ambassador to Washington, could be barred from office.

But just how far the court is willing, or able, to go against the powerful ISI remains to be seen.

On Wednesday, the court heard that a confidential statement recorded by Mr. Durrani in 1998 had disappeared, as had separate statements by Naseerullah Babar, a former interior minister, and Younis Habib, a businessman and banker who helped distribute the illegal money.

Moreover, two central figures in the affair — Mr. Babar and Ghulam Ishaq Khan, the former president — are dead.

Many in Pakistan are skeptical that the case against ISI will succeed. An editorial on Wednesday in the English-language newspaper Dawn expressed doubts that the case could “become a transformative moment in the history civil-military relations.”

Riaz Haq said...

The confessional statement of Senator Ishaq Dar was recorded before a district magistrate in Lahore. He was brought to the court from a jail by Basharat Shahzad, who was then serving as assistant director in the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

According to legal experts, the senator's deposition was an 'irrevocable statement' as had been recorded under section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

Senator Ishaq Dar has always been regarded as one of the closest aides of the Sharif family, and is now also a relative as his son is married to Nawaz Sharif's younger daughter.

However, the NAB record clearly shows that back in 2000 he had agreed to give a written statement against the Sharifs about their alleged involvement in money laundering.

The top PML-N leaders had hit a rough patch by then as some of their lieutenants were busy developing a new political system for Gen Pervez Musharraf after his Oct 1999 military coup.

In the statement, Ishaq Dar accused Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif of money laundering in the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case. At one point in the 43-page statement, Mr Dar said that on the instructions of Mian Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif, “I opened two foreign currency accounts in the name of Sikandara Masood Qazi and Talat Masood Qazi with the foreign currency funds provided by the Sharif family in the Bank of America by signing as Sikandara Masood Qazi and Talat Masood Qazi”.

He said that all instructions to the bank in the name of these two persons were signed by him under the orders of “original depositors”, namely Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mian Shahbaz Sharif.

“The foreign currency accounts of Nuzhat Gohar and Kashif Masood Qazi were opened in Bank of America by Naeem Mehmood under my instructions (based on instructions of Sharifs) by signing the same as Nuzhat Gohar and Kashif Masood Qazi.”

The document shows Dar stated that besides these foreign currency accounts, a previously opened foreign currency account of Saeed Ahmed, a former director of First Hajvari Modaraba Co and close friend of Dar, and of Mussa Ghani, the nephew of Dar's wife, were also used to deposit huge foreign currency funds provided by “the Sharif family” to offer them as collateral to obtain different direct and indirect credit lines.

Senator Dar had disclosed that the Bank of America, Citibank, Atlas Investment Bank, Al Barka Bank and Al Towfeeq Investment Bank were used under the instructions of the Sharif family.

Interestingly enough, Ishaq Dar also implicated himself by confessing in court that he — along with his friends Kamal Qureshi and Naeem Mehmood — had opened fake foreign currency accounts in different international banks.

Mr Dar said an amount of $3.725 million in Emirates Bank, $ 8.539 million in Al Faysal Bank and $2.622 million were later transferred in the accounts of the accounts Hudaibya Paper Mills.

He said that the entire amount in these banks finally landed in the accounts of the paper mills.

The Hudaibiya Paper Mills case is still pending in the National Accountability Bureau.

If it is opened again, the Sharif brothers may be in for a rude shock a confidant is to blame for the albatross around their necks.