It is Thursday evening in Islamabad, and Fikr Fikri comes on air 8 p.m. with his Think Tank, a segment focused on politics and political developments in the country. His guests today are Khan Chauhdry Sardar, political correspondent at DhumDhumma TV, and Hissas Mufakir of Khair, a popular daily newspaper.
As usual Khan Chauhdry Sardar is meticulously dressed in a suit. He had acquired the suit habit after he managed to be included in the media party that accompanied the now late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s July 1989 visit to London – of course at taxpayer expense. Irrespective of the color of his shirt or tie, Sardar is never without the blazing Mao Tse-tung red handkerchief – or as some now call it a pocket square. This, he would insist implied his being a “liberal.” And when appropriate a “dedicated” progressive or socialist. Of course, no one could ask about his cushioned lifestyle accruing out of sweetheart deals arranged during the various stints of Pakistan Peoples Party. There was no guessing about his affiliation.
On the other extreme was Hissas Mufakir, younger but true to the profession of journalism. He was there because he believed his job was to inform. He was always thankful of what he had, although close friends knew how he braved the challenges. No one even dared to talk him into any favorable coverage.
Fikr Fikri introduces his guests and takes up the raging topic of the day that an accountability court has exonerated former President Asif Ali Zardari of all corruption charges declaring there were inadequate evidences. The court noted that even the National Accountability Bureau — the country top anti-corruption organization — did not hold the original documents of these two references.
Fikri, takes a deep exasperated breath, and nearly blasts, “No evidences! Really! How? Only in Pakistan?”
Before Fikri could cool down, Khan Chauhdry Sardar interjects: “Mr. Fikri, this case is closed. I am really surprised that a senior journalist like you would be discussing this.”
“But my dear Khan Chauhdry Sardar,” Fikri, his fingers tapping his forehead, “There are not only evidences, I should add ‘solid proofs’ about your beloved Mr. Asif.”
“Pardon me Sir. Mr. Fikri, show some respect. He is former President of Pakistan, Mr. Asif Ali Zardari. The only, I mean repeat, the only elected Pakistani politician who has completed a full term in office.”
Here Hissas Mufakir can no longer hold himself back: “Khan Chauhdry Sardar, we are not here to discuss complete or incomplete terms. We are here to discuss that the funds belonging to the people of Pakistan, and the very agencies being paid to check such corruption had no documents. This is utterly shameful.”
Fikri lifts a document and drops it in front of him: “My friend Khan Chauhdry Sardar. I am not talking of November 2015; I am talking of November 9, 1999, when the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the United States Senate held a hearing on the issue of private banking and money laundering.
“And what was the second Case History presented there? None else but your dear former President of Pakistan, Mr. Asif Ali Zardari!
“Let me make it clear that Senate work was on the activities of an American bank, the Citibank and its indulgence in money laundering. The client happened to the hero of our Khan Chauhdry Sardar. Sir, here is copy of the report for your own perusal, and I am giving a copy to Hissas.
As he presents the copies, the screen is filled with Senate report’s link http://hsgac.senate.gov/110999_report.htm and flashes there for a while.
“I will just read from a section of this report to give you an idea: ‘Citibank told the Subcommittee staff that, once opened, only three deposits were made into the M.S. Capricorn Trading account in Dubai. Two deposits, totaling $10 million were made into the account almost immediately after it was opened. Citibank records show that one $5 million deposit was made on October 5,1994, and another was made on October 6, 1994.’
“This is $15 million in three deposits.
“At another spot in the report, it is noted that Mr. Zardari’s relationship with Citibank began in October 1994, through the services of Kamran Amouzegar, a private banker at Citibank private bank in Switzerland, and Jens Schlegelmilch, a Swiss lawyer who was the Bhutto family’s attorney in Europe and close personal friend for more than 20 years.
“The report notes, ‘In March or April, 1996, Mr. Amouzegar asked that the overall limit on the Zardari accounts be increased from $40 million to $60 million, apparently because the accounts had reached the previously imposed limit of $40 million.
“Khan Chauhdry Sardar, you have a copy of this report right in your hand.
“Sir, the report notes the source of both deposits was A.R.Y. International Exchange, a company owned by Abdul Razzak Yaqub, a Pakistani gold bullion trader living in Dubai. Yes, the ARY TV and media empire. It notes that according to the New York Times, in December 1994, the Bhutto government awarded Mr. Razzak an exclusive gold import license. In an interview with the New York Times, Mr. Razzak acknowledged that he had used the exclusive license to import more than $500 million worth of gold into Pakistan.
“And dear Khan Chauhdry Sardar, but our accountability court in Pakistan can’t find the evidence!”
Khan Chauhdry Sardar almost jumping out of seat declares, “How does American evidence apply in a Pakistan court. The case was not being tried in the Supreme Court of the United States but an accountability court in Pakistan!”
The quite person, Hissas finally gets his word in, “I mean the United States never tires on reminding that it never talks to terrorists. Isn’t such looting even more awful than terrorism?
“I will keep asking that when they knew so much in 1999, why the Americans never prosecuted him via prosecuting the Citibank? After all Abdi’s BCCI was shutdown on money laundering charges. But here Shaukat Aziz, a Citibank alum became the Prime Minister of Pakistan under our Commando!”
“And Hissas, the greed,” adds Fikri continuing, “The Senate report cites Citicorp’s Chairman John Reed’s letter of December 11, 1997 to his Board of Directors, which also admits, ‘In Switzerland, Citibank officials opened three private bank accounts despite evidence of impropriety on the part of Mr. Zardari.’
“And Zardari visited the United States so many times, even before becoming President. But nary a note by their government when a money launderer was visiting and later being officially welcomed!
“And not just that even after Zardari was out of office, on June 27, 2014, the Vice President of the United States Joseph Biden accompanied by a governor and a bunch Senators and Congress members and senior government officials dined with him in Northern Virginia. And Bilawal was there too.
“And of course, Benazir and Zardari and the gang of thieves, better to be called the Plunder Pakistan Party was painted innocent by our Commando through his National Reconciliation Ordinance. You know during the Pervez Musharraf era, only two people claimed to be Mandela: one, our dear friend Mushahid Husain Syed, and then our Commando trying to be Mandela by cleaning the slates of criminals.
“Perhaps the Americans would say that they were dealing with a sanitized criminal.”
“Fikri what do you read from such socialization?”
Singing off, Fikri remarks, “They know that every arrow, even a tainted one, has to be in their quiver!