The Rise of Asif Ali Zardar: From ten percent to a hundred percent

by Mohammed Nazir Tabbasum

Asif Ali Zardari, nicknamed Mr Ten Percent by the Western Media during his spouse’s first tenure in power as Pakistan’s First ever Woman Prime Minister, proudly claims to have been incarcerated for no less than 11 years; he ads to this accolade that no other Pakistani leader has spent that much time behind the bars. But he never elaborates why he was incarcerated. Was this incarceration due to political reasons or due to white collars crimes? “The term Mr Ten Percent” clearly indicates that he has been taking advantage of her spouse being PM of Pakistan and thus openly accepted grafts on every contract awarded unfairly.

Mr Tariq Ali, the well-known progressive intellectual of Pakistan origin, who has been together with Benazir Bhutto in the University of Oxford, states that when he asked BB whether Asif is accepting grafts to her absolute ignorance, she said: “Look Tariq! Politics is now quite different from that of the bygone days. You need a lot of money to get close to the corridors of power”.

Zardari was born in Karachi on July 26, 1955. His father Hakim Ali Zardari was a businessman, politician and landlord of Sindh. His lady luck shone on him when he was married to Benazir Bhutto, the illustrious daughter of martyred Z A Bhutto, the founder of Pakistan People’s Party and President and PM of Pakistan from 1972 until General Zia ul Haq dethroned him and imposed the worst Martial Law of its kind in Pakistan.

The arranged marriage took place on December 18, 1987 in a relatively simple ceremony and the couple had two daughters, Bakhtawar and Assefa and a son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. Benazir was elected PM in 1989 but her tenure was cut short by alleged corruption scandals. Zardari was elected as Member of the National Assembly during 1990-93 and arrested on corruption charges, he used to be released from prison to attend the proceedings of the Parliament. He was released in 1993 when BB once again formed the government in Pakistan and inducted him in her cabinet member as minister for environment and investment. But corruption allegations against him were multiple and it was then that he became notoriously known as Mr Ten Percent.

Zardari was implicated in the murder of Murtaza Bhutto, brother of Benazir Bhutto. When BB’s government was dissolved second time in November 1996, Zardari was arrested on charges that included corruption, money laundering and murder. He remained in jail from 1997 to 2004 without conviction. During this period, he was elected Senator from his prison cell. After his release he went to United States for treatment and returned when BB was assassinated in a terrorist attack in 2007.

After BB’s death, he produced a will of BB and by dint of it appointed his son Bilawal as Chairman and himself as Co-Chairman of PPP. It’s alleged that this will was fake. However, he gave the slogan that “Democracy is the best revenge”, and under the guise of this slogan he completely ignored investigation of BB’s murder. However, he got himself elected as President of Pakistan when his PPP won 2008 general elections and formed government in Islamabad. The PPP during this time gave clean chit to PML-N who were in power in Punjab, the biggest province, and thus they too served as friendly opposition and both ignored each other’s corrupt practices. As a result, Mr Ten Percent moved up and became Mr Hundred Percent.

Zardari in now indicted in a case of fake bank accounts. In this case Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur, Azra Afzal Pechuho, Zardari’s aide Khawaja Anwar Majeed and his sons Khawaja Niymar Majeed, Khawaja Mustafa Majeed, Abdul Ghani Majeed, and Ali Kamal Majeed are accused of money laundering through 29 fake accounts registered in Summit Bank, Sindh Bank and United Bank Limited under people’s names who themselves are not aware of these accounts. Others being investigated are Sara Tareen Majeed, Khawaja Kamal Majeed, Khawaja Mustafa Zulqarnain Majeed, and Saima Ali Majeed. Khawaja Anwar Majeed and Abdul Ghani Majeed are under arrest since 15 August 2018. They were arrested from inside the building of Supreme Court of Pakistan after they appeared to defend themselves in a Rs 35 billion fake accounts case.

The case was initially opened against Hussain Lawai in 2015 who is a former chairman of Pakistan Stock Exchange and a close associate of Zardari. During the court proceedings on 6 September 2018, two more companies M/S Landmarks and National Gases (Pvt) Limited (M/S NGS) were revealed in addition to already identified companies which were used to launder billions of rupees. M/S Landmark is owned by Zardari, Talpur, Pechuho in a partnership. Both companies were discovered from the hard disks which were recovered when Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) raided Khoski Sugar Mills owned by Omni Group, a franchise headed by Majeed.

Asif Ali Zardar, former President of Pakistan, was being given pre-arrest bail hearing after hearing in fake bank accounts. At the end, on June 10, Islamabad High Court rejected his application for the extension of bail and permitted his and his sister’s arrest. Thus, a team of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and police along with other security agencies arrested Asif Ali Zardari from Bilawal House in Islamabad. His sister is put under house arrest.

NAB is also investigating a case involving a company owned by Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur who received Rs 30 million of Rs 4.4 billion in suspicious transactions carried out through fake accounts.

On June 19, Speaker of the National Assembly, Assad Qaiser issued production orders of Zardari and Muslim Leagued- Nawaz MNA Khawaja Saad Rafiq after protest by the opposition party members on June 19. Speaking at the floor of NA, Zardari said.” The government and opposition could sit together to discuss issues affecting the economy. Let’s give the economic policy ownership, so that it remains for ever”. He said that there was a sense of fear among traders, business community and the salaried class about the budget, and that industries were placing ads in newspapers appealing the government to save them.

“If the budget is good and so expected and if we are getting money from IMF, why are people crying, why is industry crying?” he said. Zardari also called for an end to accountability and arrests of the opposition parties’ leaders. “Arresting me doesn’t make any difference. PPP is further strengthened”, he said.

The nature of cases against Zardari and the amount of money taken out of the country by using his innovative evil mind, and at the same time, keeping in view the determination of the anti-grafting body (The NAB), the political future of Zardari and his PPP seems bleak. Already they have been restricted to Sindh only where other parties are seen making inroads successfully, there are little chances of the revival of PPP politics anymore. The blame lies over the head of Zardari in leading the party to this situation.

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