Did Musharraf Engage in Financial Corruption?
By Riaz Haq
A story alleging corruption by former President Pervez Musharraf has appeared recently in Pakistan's Jang Media Group publications in the aftermath of the Panama Leaks that revealed the names of 220 rich and powerful Pakistanis owning offshore accounts.
The Panama Papers show that Mir Shakeel ur Rehman, the owner of Jang Media Group, owns offshore accounts, as do the family of the current Prime Minister Mr Nawaz Sharif and former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto who was assassinated in 2007. Other Pakistanis named in the Panama Papers include prominent businessmen, politicians, judges, bureaucrats, etc. allegedly involved in corruption . The names of former President Pervez Musharraf or his family members are not among the 220 names from Pakistan.
The Jang Media Group story titled "How Mr clean Musharraf became a billionaire" lists accounts held by Mr Musharraf in Dubai and London with balances adding up to millions of US dollars. Farrukh Durrani, the story writer, demands that the commission of inquiry looking into Panama Papers also investigate the sources of Mr Musharraf's wealth. Here's an excerpt from the story:
"Despite having such huge chunk of amount in his offshore accounts, neither did any investigative agency nor did the accountability bureau question him how he got billions of rupees in his foreign accounts. However, the commission of inquiry appointed by prime minister in the wake of Panama Leaks has a broader scope and powers which can question ex-dictator Pervez Musharraf from where he got billions of rupees which are kept in his offshore accounts."
Knowing what I know about how Western leaders like former US President Clinton and his wife Hillary became wealthy after leaving office, let me suggest to Mr Durrani to do his homework as follows:
1. Learn about the lucrative speaker series business which brings hundreds of thousands of dollars per speech to celebrity speakers in the West, particularly the United States. This is a well-established, well-organized business that promotes lecture series featuring prominent speakers where attendees pay hundreds of dollars per person to attend in large numbers.
2. Do research into how many such lectures President Musharraf delivered after retiring from presidency in 2008? How much did he get paid for each lecture? What does it all add up to? Does it add up to more than the reported account balances in Dubai and London?
Let me give a few pointers to Mr Durrani if he's honestly trying to understand the sources of Mr Musharraf's wealth:
1. A Newsweek story quoted David Wheeler, the President Embark LLC, just one of the international public-relations firms trying to land Musharraf as a highly paid keynote speaker, as saying, "The [speaking] fee for Musharraf would be in the $150,000-200,000 range for a day."
2. The Newsweek story further added that "Public-relations executives say the articulate and brash 44-year army veteran's earning power could approach that of former US President Bill Clinton".
3. Here's how an Oregon newspaper "The Oregonian" reported about Musharraf's planned appearance in Portland in 2010: "The folks who attract big international names to Portland each year have done it again, landing Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's former president, to speak here in March. The World Affairs Council of Oregon's 2010 speaker series will also feature Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz; Jane Lubchenco, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration chief administrator; and -- in a face-off --Howard Dean, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Karl Rove, strategist for President George W. Bush."
4. A brochure announcing the Peninsula Speaker Series in the San Francisco Bay Area that included Musharraf as a featured speaker, along with Condeleeza Rice, Laura Tyson and Paul Krugman, showed the ticket prices ranging from $294 to $403 per person.
After Mr Durrani has had a chance to do his homework, I believe he will realize, if he's honest, that he is being used by his employer to deflect attention of the world and of any investigative commission members from the sins of those who have either stolen Pakistan peoples' money and/or cheated on taxes they owe to the Pakistani treasury. Any investigative commission must not allow itself to be used to pursue vendettas to obscure the truth.