As Pakistan heads towards another election year, the politics within the nation is taking a sharp turn. All of a sudden, issues like corruption have taken centre stage. And, no two political parties are as engrossed into this debate than the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). In the most recent round, PML-N’s Khwaja Asif delivered new blows at the leadership of PTI by chucking dirt on Imran Khan’s charitable organisation, namely the Shaukat Khanum Memoral Cancer Hospital.
Had these allegations not been so desperate and far-flung, Khan would have just ignored the matter. But, since the allegations included Shaukat Khanum, a charitable organisation that is perhaps one of the most transparent in the country, Imran retaliated with even stronger comebacks.
Khan’s Questions to the PML-N Leadership
Khan championed his claims by putting forth several questions to the PML-N leadership, and muscled on with various references from books and television documentaries that had tried to unveil corrupt practices by the Sharif family and others in the PML-N leadership.
Khan talked of a chapter on Nawaz Sharif in the book Capitalism’s Achilles Heel: Dirty Money and How to Renew the Free-Market System by Raymond Baker. What Khan failed to mention however (since, this was unnecessary) was that the chapter also talked of corruption by Benazir Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari, and also the Pakistan armed forces. Nevertheless, the book did cite quite a few instances of news reports from reputed sources pointing towards corruption by the Sharifs.
Khan also talked about a BBC Correspondent Special documentary entitled From Pakistan to Park Lane (via Ilford) – an investigation into how the Sharif family laundered their money and legitimised illegal funds, amounting to millions of dollars. What’s interesting is the fact that the documentary came out in 1999 and this is the first time it is publicly being discussed here in Pakistan.
Khan asked several questions of and only of Nawaz Sharif (yet Nawaz doesn’t seem to bother enough to entertain this offer). These include references to funds used to purchase in Pakistan and the United Kingdom. The questions largely focused and reflected on the following points.
Sharif’s Raiwind Residence
Quite a few questions seemed to ask of the Sharif family to provide proof for the acquisition of funds for the development of their Raiwind residence. Before the residence was completed, Raiwind was an isolated estate lying at the edge of the city of Lahore. Since the residence has been developed, the area has instantly become a potential goldmine for property and estate development.
The once isolated land now has an infrastructure rival to none in Pakistan, complete with man-made canals and road networks that link to major motorways in the country. Khan asked Sharif how the family managed to develop such an intricate infrastructure including all the amenities without the use of government funds. The Sharif estate is now worth billions of rupees.
Mayfair Estate and Properties in the United Kingdom
Khan also mentioned several properties that the Sharifs have in the United Kingdom, particularly the apartments in Mayfair with an estimated worth of around Rs 4.5 billion. Problem isn’t as much that the family owns these properties and estates but that their tax returns do not include incomes from these properties. Thus, it becomes largely a matter of tax fraud. Nor are there any evidences of how the Sharif family acquired funds to purchase properties worth billions in and around posh areas in the United Kingdom.
Steel Mills in Jeddah
Not only did Khan ask Nawaz to clearly explain the corruption cases mounted against him (in courts since the ’90s) but also explain how he managed to launch several steel mills in Jeddah while in apparent exile. While in exile, the foreign bank accounts for the family were frozen until further notice and yet somehow, the family managed to reel in money to facilitate and fund the launch of magnanimous and extravagant projects such as the Jeddah Steel Mills.
Ping Pong ’90s
The nineties in Pakistan has seen the two parties – Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the PML-N – come into power, one after the other. The party in power would generally exercised dramatic shows of strength by opening up court cases against the other contender. Thus, this decade saw PPP open countless cases against PML-N (then PML), and the PML did the same. The British broadcaster BBC would often lead stories that represented case studies of how the two parties were constantly rivalling each other, even in the scales of corruption amass.
The BBC Correspondent Special title From Pakistan to Park Lane (via Ilford) demonstrated how the Sharif empire went from rags to riches with unlawful aid from laundered money and funds. However, an even earlier 1997 BBC documentary titled The Princess and the Playboy shed questionable insight into how Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari stole money from Pakistani public funds. The documentary exposed a plunder worth billions of pounds and levelled allegations against Zardari accusing him in conspiring to murder his own brother-in-law.