Laundering in Pakistan
By Humayun Gauhar
the good news: The ‘deal’ is not as
bad as one feared, but very unfortunate nevertheless.
It will damage Mrs. Benazir Bhutto-Zardari more
than General Pervez Musharraf, though she gets what
she really wanted – our money that she had
allegedly stolen – some $1.5 billion of it
according to her former President Farooq Leghari.
But I have to take my hat off to her. She turned
gamekeeper into poacher and got her loot laundered.
It can’t get neater than that. This has to
be the supreme money laundering case in history.
It needs saying, though: while Benazir is a disastrous
prime minister, she makes a matchless opposition
leader. Well done, Madam!
Benazir got back her loot but Musharraf hasn’t
given in to any of her political demands, especially
doing away with the third-term bar on prime ministers
and Article 58(2) B. No mention of any electoral
alliance or power sharing, though it might come
after the general elections, depending on how the
cards fall. And he has torn the opposition as under,
ragged and in tatters. They are more at each other’s
throats now than his. So well done too, Sir!
I can’t say that Musharraf got what he wanted
because I still don’t understand what it is
that he wanted. He was very keen that the People’s
Party doesn’t resign from the assemblies before
the presidential election. So what if it had? Musharraf
had the votes, though, peculiarly, we won’t
know what the Supreme Court finally decides on his
eligibility, which is fraught with dangers. The
case may be very important and Musharraf’s
opponents are raising all kinds of objections, but
constituting three different benches on the same
day is somewhat unusual. If the judgment goes against
Musharraf, can you imagine the turmoil that would
ensue? But I digress.
I forgot optics and credibility of the election
process. Musharraf will soon realize that the post-deal
optics are much worse and more credibility has been
lost than had the PPP resigned. US pressure? I feel
really embarrassed saying this, but I think that
was a big, if not the biggest, factor. If Musharraf
had told the US to go to hell, his credibility would
have shot up to the stratosphere. But then I am
that anathema of power players – an incorrigible
I hope some of the parliamentarians are embarrassed.
They had to be tarred by the same brush so as not
to make the deal look Benazir-specific.
By camouflaging it thus the deal looks even more
obviously Benazir-specific. The PPP might be a reality,
but a bad reality. Embrace them and you contract
their disease. Embrace God and the people; they
are the biggest realities.
What is so national about this “National Reconciliation
Ordinance, 2007” as it is grandly called?
Musharraf hates the word ‘deal’ for
it smacks of something underhand. It is only between
Musharraf and Benazir with the rest of the parliamentarians
roped in. The nation has nothing to do with it.
And why grant amnesty between January 1, 1986 and
October 12, 2007? Weren’t there any cases
against Benazir before January 1, 1986? And why
till October 12, 2007? To give parliamentarians
one more week to plunder without compunction? Where
are the people? What reconciliation? Between looters
and power players?
The people are not reconciled; they are angrier.
To name the deal ‘National Reconciliation’
is a misnomer. If they really wanted to make it
national, why not include everyone, especially businessmen
who have defaulted because of senseless and ever-changing
government policies in the past, the corruption
and inefficiency of bankers with a State Bank governor
presiding over the disappearance of $11 billion
of private money that he held in trust?
Why remove cooperatives and financial companies
from the amnesty? Why not under-trial prisoners
languishing in jails whose cases have “dragged
on” for decades? Because they are not parliamentarians?
The ordinance will definitely be challenged in the
courts as iniquitous and possibly ultra vires
of the constitution, which also grandly states
that all citizens are equal before the law.
We know that they are not, never have been and never
will be, but that was de facto now it has been made
de jure. What say you that after he gets
what he wants, Musharraf himself won’t encourage
someone to challenge it and be rid of a deal that
he knows is embarrassingly immoral?
A newly legitimised class called ‘Lootocracy’
has come into being, comprising only of sitting
parliamentarians. To be sure the Lootocracy was
always there, hiding in the woods from which it
would regularly emerge to raid and plunder the people.
But it could theoretically be taken to court. Now
it is next to impossible. It is a privilege that
not even the Almighty grants to anyone. Granting
amnesty for grand larceny to an exalted few and
making it difficult for them to be prosecuted in
the future means that there is one law for the people
and another for parliamentarians. (By the way, are
the amnesty and future leniency applicable to parliamentary
rapists and murderers too, or is it only for financial
This by a people whose first caliph stopped his
business because continuing it would have impacted
adversely on his competitors and whose second caliph
was asked why the length of his apparel was more
than that of others. We have wilfully removed adl
(egalitarianism, societal balance and justice) from
our Islamic lives. In the spirit of Islam, law-breaking
lawmakers should be brought to book faster than
ordinary citizens, and punished more severely, for
they are a terminal cancer in society.
The fact that a case has “dragged on”
for whatever length of time is no excuse for legalizing
parliamentary criminality. It is satanic. The truth
is that in virtually every case it is the government
that has dragged its feet in order to keep a certain
politician alive and make him – especially
her! – its pawn on the power struggle chessboard.
A Muslim head of state does not have the power to
commute a sentence or grant amnesties, except to
the conquered. Forgiveness lies only with God, the
victim or his family. We have taken away the right
to grant amnesty from some 160 million victims.
We have no right to do so. We slavishly follow the
British parliamentary system, but forget that they
have no perfidious laws to grant amnesties to their
MPs and protect them against criminality. British
MPs and ministers have had to resign for adultery,
sodomy, lying to parliament, making secretaries
pregnant, taking a holiday with a girlfriend on
a businessman’s expense and making loans to
another MP without reporting it, things that are
regarded as mere perks by our parliamentarians.
I received an SMS from a friend on the day: “Let’s
plunder Pakistan together.” Quite. But “together”
we cannot, because the deal is only parliamentarian-specific.
So here’s a thought. Let’s float a public
limited company called ‘Loot Inc.’ and
all become millionaires. Not to forget an open-end
mutual fund called ‘Plunder’. All we
have to do is co-opt a couple of parliamentarians
on our boards and the world will be our oyster.
Better still, become a parliamentarian oneself.
I bet there will be a huge rush for Senate seats
as businessmen look to purchase parliamentary insurance
The electoral colleges will be enriched beyond measure.
Then look at the tidal wave of investment that comes
in. We can drown ourselves in money.
Certainly national reconciliation is the need of
the hour. But bereft of original thought, we have
plagiarised Nelson Mandela’s ‘Truth
and Reconciliation Commission’ without understanding.
Reconciliation has to be within an entire nation,
not just some power groups. The Commission has to
comprise people of universally recognized unimpeachable
integrity, a tall order indeed. Every accused has
to appear before the Commission, witnesses called,
due process followed and those found guilty must
unconditionally apologize to the entire nation and
promise never to do such things again.
Only then should they be granted amnesty. If they
don’t, off to jail they go or remain in exile
as outcasts and pariahs. After the process is over,
every single adult Pakistani, from the heads of
state and government down to the least privileged,
should participate in a collective national prayer
of repentance and forgiveness – Namaz-e-Taubah
– so as to cleanse the national soul.
We the people too are guilty, for we regularly elect
corrupt rulers. Taubah is not just a break with
the past; it is also a covenant with the future.
(Humayun Gauhar is an Islamabad-based columnist
who helped President Musharraf write his memoirs