Ultimate Money Laundering in Pakistan
By Humayun Gauhar
Islamabad, Pakistan

First 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 idealist.
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 corruption?).
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 from corruption.
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 in 2006)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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