Saturday, December 26, 2020

Bhutto Dynasty: How the Bhuttos Used Money For Political and Personal Gain

The role of money in elections and politics is generally known and understood around the world. Pakistan is no exception. In a recent book entitled "The Bhutto Dynasty" written by veteran British journalist Owen Bennet Jones, the author describes how former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto saw "kickbacks" as an essential part of politics. Jones says that  the "amnesty she (Benazir Bhutto) secured from General Musharraf scuppered a Swiss trial in which there was a very high chance she would have been convicted of, among other things, using money from bribes to buy a necklace worth $175,000". 

The Bhutto Dynasty:

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".

Asif Zardari-Benazir Bhutto Wedding Picture

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 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" 

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." 

The Panama Leaks: 

Pakistani politicians and their supporters use allegations of corruption in Pakistani military to distract attention from their own well-documented corruption. Just a quick look at the names in leaked Panama Papers shows that politicians, not generals, dominate these lists. Pakistani names included in Panama Papers are those of several politicians and business people, but no generals, according to media reports.

 Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is linked to 9 companies connected to his family name. Those involved are:  Hassan Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz, Maryam Nawaz, Relatives of Punjab Chief Minister and brother of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif are linked to 7 companies. They are: Samina Durrani and Ilyas Meraj.

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was linked to one company. Her relatives and associates are linked to others: Nephew Hassan Ali Jaffery Javed Pasha, Close friend of Asif Ali Zardari (4 companies), PPP Senator Rehman Malik (1 company), PPP Senator Osman Saifullah’s family (34 companies), Anwar Saifullah, Salim Saifullah, Humayun Saifullah, Iqbal Saifullah, Javed Saifullah, Jehangir Saifullah. The Chaudharies of Gujrat have not been linked personally but other relatives have including: Waseem Gulzar Zain Sukhera (co-accused with former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani’s son in the Hajj scandal).

Pakistani Businessmen in Panama Leaks: Real Estate tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain’s son (Bahria Town) Ahmad Ali Riaz (1 company), Chairman ABM Group of Companies Azam Sultan (5 companies), Pizza Hut owner Aqeel Hussain and family (1 company), Brother Tanwir Hassan Chairman Soorty Enterprise Abdul Rashid Soorty and family, Sultan Ali Allana, Chairman of Habib Bank Limited (1 company), Khawaja Iqbal Hassan, former NIB bank President (1 company), Bashir Ahmed and Javed Shakoor of Buxly Paints (1 company), Mehmood Ahmed of Berger Paints (1 company), Hotel tycoon Sadruddin Hashwani and family (3 companies), Murtaza Haswani Owner of Hilton Pharma, Shehbaz Yasin Malik and family (1 company), The Hussain Dawood family (2 companies), Shahzada Dawood Abdul Samad Dawood Partner Saad Raja, The Abdullah family of Sapphire Textiles (5 companies), Yousuf Abdullah and his wife, Muhammad Abdullah and his wife, Shahid Abdullah and his family, Nadeem Abdullah and family, Amer Abdullah and family, Gul Muhammad Tabba of Lucky Textiles, Shahid Nazir, CEO of Masood Textile Mills (1 company), Partner Naziya Nazir Zulfiqar Ali Lakhani, from Lakson Group and owner of Colgate-Palmolive, Tetley Clover and Clover Pakistan (1 company) and Zulfiqar Paracha and family of Universal Corporation (1 company).

Pakistani Judges in Panama Leaks: Serving Lahore High Court Judge Justice Farrukh Irfan, Retired Judge Malik Qayyum, Pakistani Media personnel in Panama Leaks: Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman of GEO-Jang Media Group (1 company).
Politicians Dominate Panama Leaks

Political Patronage:

Pakistani civilian rule has been characterized by a system of political patronage that doles out money and jobs to political party supporters at the expense of the rest of the population. Public sector jobs, including those in education and health care sectors, are part of this patronage system that was described by Pakistani economist Dr. Mahbub ul Haq, the man credited with the development of United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) as follows:

"...every time a new political government comes in they have to distribute huge amounts of state money and jobs as rewards to politicians who have supported them, and short term populist measures to try to convince the people that their election promises meant something, which leaves nothing for long-term development. As far as development is concerned, our system has all the worst features of oligarchy and democracy put together." 


Recently released book "The Bhutto Dynasty" details specific instances and Benazir Bhutto's candid admission of how the Bhutto dynasty has used money for political and personal gain in Pakistan. Other sources, such as leaked Panama Papers, reinforce how Pakistani political dynasties, including Bhuttos and Sharifs, have enriched themselves at the expanse of Pakistan's poor. 

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


Riaz Haq said...

Zulfikar described himself as having had two very different influences: his feudal background in Sindh and his Western education. Benazir was in a similar situation. As the Pakistani leftist Tariq Ali put it, the author of Daughter of the East was really a ‘daughter of the West’. The historian Ian Buruma wrote that Benazir had a double life: the Larkana Bhutto and the Radcliffe Bhutto. The Larkana Bhutto used to sit in the family home in Sindh listening to her father telling stories about the family history. The Radcliffe Bhutto had got to know about apple cider and Joan Baez, gone on peace marches in Boston and owned a sports car in Oxford.1 Buruma’s analysis irked Benazir’s loyalists, who saw it as overly simplistic and not without a hint of orientalism. Her national security adviser, Iqbal Akhund, wrote: ‘In one respect Benazir defied orientalist stereotypes: she was no willowy, veiled seductress skilled in the ways of fascinating men. Rather she was a powerful woman who dominated those around her . . . she was imperious: when she spoke, she expected people to listen whether they be voters in a village, colleagues at the cabinet table or the rulers of foreign states.’2 Buruma argued that Daughter of the East had been written to ‘enchant Western readers’. In it she described her life in a way which played to Western perceptions of the East and resonated with Western mythic traditions: hers was the story of a vulnerable young woman overcoming archaic tradition and deep prejudice, surviving years of hardship and exile to avenge her father’s death at the hands of a wicked, all-powerful man. But while Westerners saw a heroine, many Pakistanis, wearily familiar with their feudal masters, saw something else. By her own admission, Benazir was ‘moody, impetuous, given to irritation’. In 1999 she said she had tried for twenty years to control her emotions but ‘I still fly off the handle’.3 When Westerners admired a highly educated modern champion of democracy, many Pakistani voters responded to an aristocrat tapping into ancient, ingrained patterns of authority.

Bennett-Jones, Owen. The Bhutto Dynasty (pp. 237-238). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

Riaz Haq said...

Benazir Bhutto's interview with Alice Winkler in year 2000 (at 22:52):

"Now I say that when there were these demands, why didn't I have the — I did say make an information act but didn't follow it through, so I wish I had given more freedom of information. I wish I had tackled the so-called corruption issues more deeply. It was a precedent, you know. We all knew
kickbacks must be taken. Not personally, but on the level that, "Well, these things happen." And it wasn't like, "Well, we're here to change it." It was like, "This is how business is done.""

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan court orders #Sindh govt to provide details of #corrupt officials’ plea bargain with #NAB. Many have been reappointed and some even promoted by #PPP govt after entering into a plea bargain and voluntary return of #corruption money. #Pakistan

The Sindh High Court on Thursday directed the provincial chief secretary to file complete details of the cases of government servants who entered into a plea bargain and voluntary return scheme with the National Accountability Bureau in graft cases by Dec 21.

The two-judge bench headed by Justice Nadeem Akhtar also issued notices to the NAB chairman, Sindh chief secretary and other respondents as well as the top federal and provincial law officers on a petition of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan against reappointments and promotions of officials in different departments of Sindh after entering into a plea bargain and voluntary return scheme with NAB.

MQM-P deputy convener Kanwar Naveed Jameel moved the SHC and contended that the provincial government had allowed promotions and postings of more than 500 officials after plea bargain in corruption cases.

The lawyer for the petitioner argued that it was a gross violation of law as such officials came within the ambit of misconduct and needed to be departmentally proceeded against since they admitted to having acquired assets through corruption.

MQM-P contends that over 500 beneficiaries in graft cases reappointed, promoted in violation of law

He further maintained that such officials could not hold any public office either in the federal or provincial government or in any state-owned organisation.

The counsel also questioned Section 25(a) of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 for authorising the NAB chairman to accept such offers and asked the SHC to examine vires of this provision since he contended that it was in conflict with the provisions of the Constitution where such powers can only be exercised by a judicial forum.

Riaz Haq said...

Crisis of #Pakistani #democracy. Most of these dynastic political groups have actively collaborated with successive #military regimes in order to protect their vested interests and receive state patronage. #PPP #PMLN #PDM #Bhutto #Zardari #NawazSharif

A number of political parties that form the PDM have been in power in the past and some of them still have strong stakes in the current engineered system. Each one has played the establishment’s game in the past to protect its own interests and may be willing to do so again.

While refusing to talk to the PTI government, some of the alliance leaders appear ready to negotiate with the security agencies. Back-room contacts never cease. It is not surprising that the PDM is divided on the issue of resigning from parliament. One can also understand the PPP’s refusal to give up the Sindh government as such a move could sound the death knell for the party whose political clout is restricted to the province.

For over 70 years, the country has alternated between authoritarian military regimes and ineffective elected civilian rule. But there have been no fundamental changes to Pakistan’s political power structure. A small power elite has dominated the country’s political scene under civilian as well as military rule.

The extractive nature of the state’s institutions has prevented the country from embarking on a path of economic and political progress. Despite the economic and social changes that have occurred over the past seven decades, the stranglehold of family-oriented politics remains. A limited number of influential families continue to control Pakistani legislatures.

A sense of dynastic entitlement dominates the country’s political culture impeding the development of institutional democracy. With few exceptions, political parties are an extension of powerful families with hereditary leaders. There is no concept of intra-party democracy. The only change is the transfer of leadership from one generation to the next.

Over the years, families from urban, religious and military backgrounds have also emerged on the political scene, but this has not changed Pakistan’s personalised and dynastic political culture. Studies show that a few hundred families have monopolised the political scene in Pakistan. Interestingly, hereditary politics have been stren­gthened under successive military governments.

Dynastic control has dire implications for our political and economic institutions. It reduces the legitimacy of a government, impacts the quality of government policies, promotes patronage and corruption and has negative consequences through the selection effect.

Most of these dynastic political groups have actively collaborated with successive military regimes in order to protect their vested interests and receive state patronage. The control of a narrow oligarchic elite and the patriarchal political system have impeded critical structural reforms that are needed for sustainable economic development and to strengthen democratic and economic institutions.

Riaz Haq said...

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto: Pakistan's most divisive political leader
Harris Khalique

His PPP won a majority of National Assembly seats in West Pakistan in the general elections of 1970 but he had no support in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) where Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Awami League swept the polls, winning all but two National Assembly seats there.

This is where we see another major contradiction in his politics — he did not side with the democratic principle of majority rule and opposed the transfer of power to Sheikh Mujeeb. It will be, however, unfair to single him out because there was a consensus among the elites of West Pakistan – military, bureaucracy, politicians and business – not to accept Mujeeb’s mandate and allow him to rule a united Pakistan. It was also the military that was in power then, not Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Still, he cannot be absolved of his support for a military action in East Pakistan that culminated in its secession from West Pakistan.


....his policy of nationalising nascent and growing industry, banks and lending institutions as well as private and charitable trust schools and colleges had far reaching consequences on the growth and output of these sectors. Even more socially and politically consequential was a constitutional amendment under him that declared Ahmadis as non-Muslims.

His half-baked socialist model applied in haste began to crack immediately, particularly because landlords subverted his land reforms and the usual bureaucratic inefficiencies crept into the administration of nationalised businesses. He never got time to fix the problems and was removed within six years of coming into power.

Since no single leader could replace him and no single party could challenge his PPP, the state establishment forged an alliance of his political adversaries of all ideological hues and colours before the 1977 parliamentary elections which he was accused of rigging. The allegation led to a violent opposition movement that his government unsuccessfully tried to suppress. It was eventually followed by a military takeover.

The last and crucial phase of his political career started in July 1977 – after his government was overthrown – and ended in April 1979 when he was convicted for murder in a highly controversial trial and hanged by Ziaul Haq. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto faced those tough times with courage and conviction. He never budged under pressure from an oppressive military ruler. The last two years of his life are entirely opposite to his first eight years in politics when he was working with non-elected rulers. This split in his career is mirrored in the way he is seen — evoking extreme like and dislike.

For his supporters, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto symbolises the best elements in politics: struggle against poverty and inequality as well as sacrifices for democracy and civilian supremacy. For his detractors, he remains the man who played a major role in the division of the country and introduced policies that upset the economic and social equilibrium.

Riaz Haq said...

Foreigners are buying single-family #homes in #American suburbs, bidding up prices. They are partnering with U.S. #housing companies to buy or build #rental homes, following in the footsteps of big #US #investment firms & pension funds. #realestate

Big foreign investment firms that buy office buildings, hotels and shopping centers around the world have a new favorite real-estate play: single-family homes in American suburbs.

These institutions are partnering with U.S. housing companies to buy or build rental homes by the thousands. In suburban neighborhoods near cities such as Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix, blocks of families are sending monthly rent checks to ventures backed by Canadian pension funds, European insurers, and Asian or Middle Eastern government-run funds.

The overseas investors are following in the footsteps of many big U.S. investment firms and pension funds, which started buying single-family homes on a large scale in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

Foreign investors barely registered in these markets a few years ago. Now, they account for nearly a third of institutional investment in single-family rental homes, said Alex Foshay, head of international capital markets at real-estate services firm Newmark.

“There’s been very limited overseas investment into the single-family rental space prior to Covid, but nothing on this scale,” he said.

Riaz Haq said...

Access money is dominant form of corruption in both China and U.S. - Axios

Access money — funneling cash to government officials in return for favors — is the dominant form of corruption in both China and the U.S., according to groundbreaking research by University of Michigan political scientist Yuen Yuen Ang.

Why it matters: Until now, international corruption comparisons were largely confined to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, which views corruption as a third-world problem through Western eyes.

For her new book — "China's Gilded Age," published in July — Ang measured corruption in four categories:

Petty theft (shaking down people for small bribes) ... grand theft (shaking down businesses for large bribes) ... speed money (paying money to get necessary government approvals) ... and access money (paying money to be able to influence politicians).
In both China and the U.S., access money was the dominant mode of corruption.
China scores 7.6 out of a maximum 10 on the prevalence of access money; the U.S. scores 6.9 out of 10. By comparison, Singapore scores 3.7 and Ghana scores 5.8.
Go deeper: To see "access money" in action, check out this weekend's N.Y. Times investigation (subscription), which found hundreds of examples of businesses attempting to curry favor with President Trump — often with remarkable success — by spending money at his properties.

Riaz Haq said...

From Thugs and Thieves to Influence Peddlers​ ​ My comparative-historical exercise prompts a rethinking of Huntington’s “life cycle” theory of corruption,16 which argues that corruption rises steeply during stages of modernization and then decreases as countries grow richer and acquire state capabilities. This evolutionary pattern appears to manifest itself in eighteenth-century Britain, in the nineteenth-century
United States, and, according to Ramirez, in China in the 2000s as well.17 Yet this argument considers only the decline of illegal corruption, such as bribery, as captured by media reports in Figure 7.1. Crucially, it overlooks the qualitative evolution of corruption toward legalized exchanges – access money – as countries grow richer and more sophisticated. Although present-day first-world economies are not overrun by thugs and thieves, they do have corruption. As Whyte observes in the context of the United Kingdom, “We are not Afghanistan or Russia,” but “it is the pursuit of institutional interests that characterizes British corruption.”18 Similarly, the historian White underscores continuities in the money politics of the nineteenth-century Gilded Age and the 2008 financial crisis: “As in the nineteenth century, highly leveraged corporations, marketing dubious securities that were more inventive than comprehensible even to their creators, precipitated massive losses, receivership, government rescues, and severe economic downturns. The present seems so nineteenth century.”19 One striking difference, however, is that whereas influence peddling entailed bribes during the Gilded Age, no bribes were exchanged and few individuals were indictable in the present day. How did access money in the United States become institutionalized and legal? The Progressive Era laid a foundation for this process by clearly demarcating certain forms of corruption – including bribery and embezzlement – as illegal and morally unacceptable. Progressives dismantled the spoils system and gradually instituted a professional and adequately paid civil service that no longer relied upon petty bribes and fees for income.20 They also passed laws that broke up powerful monopolies, banned corporate contributions to political campaigns, and required the disclosure of campaign finance. Rules-based budgeting and accounting, meanwhile, replaced arbitrary collection and spending of public monies.

Ang, Yuen Yuen. China's Gilded Age (pp. 190-191). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.

Riaz Haq said...

Yet this did not spell the end of corruption. To circumvent campaign finance restrictions, lobbyists and interest groups formed political action committees. As the twentieth century went on, campaign contributions soared. Lobbyists found creative ways to purchase influence without cash bribes. As Jack Abramoff, an infamous K-street lobbyist, reveals, these strategies include plying politicians with plush vacations and tickets to expensive sports games, free flow of food and alcohol at designated restaurants, and, most effective of all, enticing staffers with lucrative positions in the private sector. In an interview on 60 Minutes, Abramoff baldly stated, “We owned them [members of Congress]. What does that mean? Every request of our client, everything that we want, they are going to do. Not only
that, they’re going to think of things we can’t think of to do.”21 Over time, the expanding menu of legal access money rendered bribery unnecessary and indeed undesirable. Moving into the twenty-first century, money politics metastasized in an increasingly complex financial system, obfuscated by technicalities and contorted leveraging schemes that few can decipher. Meanwhile, financial institutions aggressively lobby for lax regulations that enable their risk-taking behavior. According to the United States Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, “From 1999 to 2008, the financial sector expended $2.7 billion in reported federal lobbying expenses; individuals and political action committees in the sector made more than $1 billion in campaign contributions.”22 Regulatory capture in a supersized black box led up indirectly but eventually to the 2008 financial crisis.23 Indeed, lenders who lobbied engaged in more risk-taking, faced higher delinquency rates, and were more likely to be bailed out, as one study finds.24 Comparing China’s trajectory with the West, the two appear similar in their evolution of corruption toward access money. Yet China’s style of access money still remains crude and personal, whereas it became sophisticated and institutionalized in Western politics (see Chapter 2). In addition, to curb crony capitalism, Xi deploys a top-down disciplinary apparatus to hunt down individual corrupt politicians and capitalists, while rejecting democratic checks.25 The American Progressive Era, on the other hand, successfully mitigated illegal forms of corruption through democratic means: investigative journalism, electoral competition, secret ballots, and transparency policies.

Ang, Yuen Yuen. China's Gilded Age (pp. 191-193). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.

Riaz Haq said...

Unbundling Corruption: Corruption is conventionally defined as the abuse of public office for private gain. This broad definition encompasses many varieties of corruption, but global indices, including the CPI and the World Bank’s Control of Corruption Index, present bundled scores – one number for every country. This approach obscures the fact that not all corruption is equally damaging. Indeed, I contend that certain kinds of corruption may stimulate growth in the short term yet produce serious risks and distortions. To revisit the relationship between corruption and capitalism, we must first unbundle corruption into qualitatively distinct types. Any useful typology must strike a balance between nuance and parsimony, that is, neither too few nor too many categories. Keeping this in mind, I propose a typology along two dimensions: (i) corruption with exchanges vs. theft, and (ii) corruption involving elites vs. non-elites. Two Dimensions​ ​ First, I distinguish between corruption involving two-way exchanges between officials and social actors29 – including but not limited to bribery – and corruption involving theft, such as embezzlement or extortion. Classic models of corruption focus on bribery.30 To give two examples from a long list, Shleifer and Vishny’s seminal article on corruption considers only bribery,31 and Fisman and Golden’s primer on corruption opens with the problem of “whether to pay a bribe to receive a government benefit or service.”32 But this omits an important form of corruption: state actors who steal from public coffers, or who extort without providing any benefit in return.33 Second, I highlight the difference between corruption involving elite political actors, such as politicians and leaders, and non-elites: regular civil servants, police officers, inspectors, customs officers, and front-line providers of public services. This dimension captures corruption that occurs among high- and low-level actors, which some term “grand” and “petty” corruption, respectively.34 Political elites can grant special deals, block access, or control public coffers. This kind of corruption, therefore, involves high monetary stakes and the allocation of valuable resources such as land and legislations. Conversely, rank-and-file bureaucrats exercise discretion only within their limited job scope, for example, processing permits or assigning school enrollment slots.

Ang, Yuen Yuen. China's Gilded Age (pp. 7-9). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.

Riaz Haq said...

Yuen Yuen Ang
thank you for mentioning my 📙

However, your summary "access money fueled growth" is misleading, so allow me to clarify

My book clearly maintains that all corruption, like drugs, are harmful. Access money generates growth with distortions, risks, and inequality.

Riaz Haq said...

Pandora Papers and the economic impact of high-level corruption by Javed Hasan

While owning offshore companies or bank accounts per se does not automatically imply culpability, it is incumbent on all the named, especially those holding senior governmental positions, to provide evidence of transparent money trails and of the declaration of such assets with the tax authorities in Pakistan.


Welcoming the release of the Pandora Papers, Prime Minister Imran Khan stated that it once again exposed “the ill-gotten wealth of elites, accumulated through tax evasion & corruption & laundered out to financial ‘havens’… ”. He also highlighted that the UN Secretary General’s panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity (FACTI) estimates that as much as $7 trillion of stolen assets are parked in largely offshore tax havens. The Papers include names of politicians in high office as well as retired military officials, businessmen and media owners.

.... In a move that lives up to his crusade against corruption, Prime Minister Imran Khan set up a high-level cell under the Inspection Commission to investigate the matter with the objective of holding “everyone involved in the Pandora leaks accountable” and promised to make the investigation public. It would also be consistent with the PM’s earlier stance that those implicated in the leaks should not be in positions that can in any manner influence the investigation while it is being carried out.


...It is also argued that Pakistan’s anti-corruption campaign is ineffective and used more as an instrument of political victimization than toward improving overall governance. While there is some validity in questioning the effectiveness and motives of the anti-corruption efforts, the ‘greasing the wheels’ reasoning, in toto, does not stand up to scrutiny.
In China it has been argued that corruption — euphemistically also called access money — has helped speed up economic growth. However, the renowned political scientist, Yuen Yuen Ang, who has extensively examined the matter, states in a recent article that corruption “spurred government officials to promote construction and investment aggressively, regardless of whether it was sustainable. Luxury properties that enriched colluding state and business elites have mushroomed across the country, while affordable housing remains in short supply…”. More ominously she points out that “Corruption, inequality and financial meltdowns can trigger social unrest and erode the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party...”.

Corruption has distorted incentives and market forces, and acted as a tax on business that has raised production costs and reduced the profitability of investments. Even more perversely it has dissuaded international investors from considering Pakistan as an investment destination, thereby suppressing the inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country. On the basis of a survey of 390 senior executives in 14 countries, a PricewaterhouseCoopers study reported that 45 percent of respondents refused to enter markets where corruption risks were perceived to be high.
Corruption’s corrosive influence on the overall governance and business environment as well as the extraction of resources into offshore accounts such as those disclosed in Pandora Papers has undermined Pakistan’s growth prospects and poverty alleviation efforts. It has denuded already scarce resources available for investment in health and education, thereby limiting human capital development and enhancement of its productive capabilities. It is therefore indisputable that all forms of corrupt practices, both direct and indirect, must be eliminated. While some of that will require structural change and take time, in the near-term international enforcement mechanisms must be mobilized to shut down avenues that facilitate illicit financial flows.

Riaz Haq said...

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

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.