Former president Asif Ali Zardari, his children, Bilawal, Bakhtawar, and Aseefa, are in yet another meeting with their legal defense team comprising Farooq Naek, Sardar Latif Khosa, and Aitzaz Ahsan, following the directive issued by the three-member bench headed by chief justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar that they submit details of their assets from the past 10 years within two weeks. The document is sought in a petition related to the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) given to them by former president Gen. Pervez Musharraf in 2007.
Zardari, sitting slumped without his trademark smirk, has a mountain-high ashtray of cigarette butts; his bottle of Black Label Scotch whisky nearly empty. He is furious; “This is the third time in these past few weeks that you have failed me. Now you failed to stop this Saqib from applying Article 184(3) [of the constitution] against me! Why didn’t you correct him when he told you that public money is for the people’s welfare, and why you failed to tell him that it is fair compensation for public service? I being the first president to have served a full term own the right to all and any of it. Period.
“Pakistanis don’t read. This is not America where former presidents get millions of dollars for their memoirs. In Pakistan, we have to compensate ourselves for our service!
“You even failed to protect my innocent children… you let Saqib get away with his insistence that daughters are under guardianship till their marriage. This is utterly anti-feminist! I will let Dr. Nafisa Shah [daughter of former Sindh chief minister Qaim Ali Shah] to light up the national assembly with lectures on women’s rights. We need to really fire up the liberals… they already hate Imran.
“My children are grownup, and I shouldn’t be revealing their financial matters to the public. They have never asked how much and how what gets deposited to their accounts. Can’t a person put their assets in their children’s names?
“Aitzaz… Latif Khosa…Farooq what were you doing when Saqib added this new twist that I tell him what I inherited from Benazir. Even private matters between a husband and wife are not sacred! This is unfair!
“Do you realize that Benazir today and tomorrow they will be asking for assets of our ever-living great martyr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the funds he collected from several countries after the 1974 Hunza, Hazara and Swat earthquake… and why not the funds from Moammar Qaddafi for the nuclear program… and of course how much landed in the accounts of Benazir, Murtaza, Sanam and Shahnawaz?
“Should I engage more lawyers? Couldn’t you convince this cheap justice that I shred every paper… even my toilet paper… and delete everything from my computer and cellphone?
“Now Imran Khan is opening another front. He wont let Shahbaz Sharif head the assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC). This is bad news. Soon they will open more files and find excuses to call me to courts… call the poor Sharifs.
“Shahbaz, he says, lacks the moral justification to head PAC because he is facing serious corruption inquiries by the National Accountability Bureau. Yes, [Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz chairman] Raja Zafarul Haq met with our Khursheed Shah about this. But why will Imran allow this when the PAC can call federal government officials and ask them about the use of funds in their departments.
“NAB is hounding poor Khursheed on this ‘owning assets beyond means’ excuse… not just him but also his son and son-in-law. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has told them that his assets are worth Rs. 42.65 million when last year he had Rs. 21.85 million. It is irrational to charge someone only because he was once a meter reader with a 50cc motorcycle… but that was back in the ’70s… you know that I take good care of those who are loyal to me!
“Aitzaz, you know what is next. Imran’s people will start shouting about Khursheed’s assets.
“Saqib is simply persecuting poor [Omni Group chairman] Anwar Majeed… even deprived him of hospital care.”
Zardari pausing to quickly smoke two cigarettes and take a few swigs, murmurs, “Saqib and Imran are laying waste to Dubai too… it was so welcoming a place. See they got the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to arrest Dr. Murtaza Amjad [son-in-law of former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry] from there for this Eden Housing Society case. Tomorrow you will see they will get his father deported from Canada. Once again a minor matter of $20 million and a few hundred whining buyers coming out on the streets.
“It is a shame. In India, they have nominated their prime minister [Narendra Modi] for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, but in Pakistan, this former president… and a president who created so much goodwill by investing in many countries and nesting many offshore accounts… is being persecuted…yes this is simply persecution.