Former president and now a member of Pakistan’s lower house, Asif Zardari walks into the movie theater at his Karachi home, Bilawal House, and turns off the wide-screen TV, where his children Bilawal, himself a member of the lower house, Bakhtawar, and Aseefa were watching ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ being transmitted directly from the United States.
The youngest Aseefa protests, “Dad, you turned off our Kardashians! Do you know the Ks?”
“Yes, yes, and yes. I am not that out of touch. So what if Kim K channeled her one porn video into a multibillion family empire. Look at your father! After I married your mother, I have channeled one share in the then run down Bambino Cinema into a multibillion-dollar international real estate and financial empire. Who can beat that!
“But today, we are talking about our family history … about your forefathers. I will start with your mother’s paternal grandfather, Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto. The British bestowed upon him the titles of Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) and Companion to the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) followed by knighthood for his services to the crown.
“He was the man of the moment. When he needed someone, he would bend to honor. When he needed, he rounded up support from the pirs of Sindh, like the Pir of Pagara.
“However, the sixth Pir, the Hurs’ spiritual leader, Pir Mardan Shah’s father, Syed Sibghatullah Shah fought a long-running guerrilla campaign against the British Raj. The British hanged him in 1943 and passed a law criminalizing the Hurs. At this time, Sir Shah Nawaz, sensing the situation, stood with the British and played a key role in the Pir’s hanging. You know for Waderas (landholders), it was a matter of pride to be the agents of the British Collector… who are deputy commissioners now, and gain his favor.
“Pir Mardan, then only 15, and his brother were taken to the U.K., and only brought back after Pakistan’s creation, at the intervention of its prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan.
“Sir Shah Nawaz, through his brother-in-law Brigadier Muhammad Mustafa, was able to befriend Governor General (later president) Iskander Mirza. General Mirza was a regular guest at Sir Shah Nawaz’s annual hunt in Larkana, staying at the Bhutto family house, Al-Murtaza. In the winter of 1955 or 1956, Mirza brought along General Ayub Khan to Larkana for the hunt.
“When your grandpa Zulfikar Ali returned from the U.K. and started his law practice, a Sindhi wadera Pir Rashidi introduced him to Pir Pagara, who in turn directed him to President Mirza who then sent him as member of a delegation attending a UN session. After that, your grandpa made inroads to Ayub.
You know these pirs are weird. I am sure that the anti-PPP Grand Democratic Alliance favored Imran because his father, Mardan Shah, the seventh Pir Pagara, had played first-class cricket and later became a benefactor of the game in Pakistan.
Of all things, our friends Zulfiqar and Dr. Fehmida Mirza joined Pagara’s alliance, and now Imran gives her a ministry! What nonsense.
“I did so much for the Pir. I gave him the status he demanded. In fact, he spoke of Benazir as like a daughter, as she had been to the same school as his children.
“Lo and behold, he gets bitten by cricketer Imran’s call for ending corruption!
“You see you have great example in our nation’s greatest leader, your grandpa Mr. Bhutto. Although, your grandma, Mrs. Nusrat Bhutto was related to president Mirza’s wife, but after engineering a coup with president Mirza, the very next day, your grandpa sensed that power lay with Ayub. Pronto, your grandpa was on the road to great heights.
“Now look at me and your mother. We always worked in tandem. Being the prime minister, she avoided getting into limelight for attaining what is due for public service. So in 1993, she appointed me as federal investment minister and chairperson of Pakistan Environmental Protection Council. The important thing is the inflow of money and I made it flow.
“The present Rs. 35 billion money laundering case is not the only one. There is a section about me in the United State Senate subcommittee hearings on money laundering. You see what we own across America, and how the American leadership welcomes us.
“And you know your mother and I organized the pressure on Gen. Musharraf through lobbying to get George Bush to press him to withdraw all corruption charges against us.
“You have watched your father work wonders. These lessons will come handy when one day, you will be on your own, extracting your due for rendering public service. You have seen how we got Malik Riaz to gift us that beautiful Bilawal House in Lahore. Five years ago, the Guardian, U.K., valued it at 32 million pounds.
“Yes, we only have the government in Sindh, but opportunities abide for taking our due. I will start to let each of you do your money extraction projects. Of course, I am here to guide you.
“Politics is that art of the impossible. You see I made my due even when Nawaz was prime minister, and even then we had government only in Sindh. But I worked with all of them to keep sailing smooth.
“Just as it is said that birds of the feather hang together, it is important to remember that thieves of the feather steal together.