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Opinion

August 25, 2010

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Wanted: WikiLeaks

Wanted: WikiLeaks
Yes, yes, I know that the founder of WikiLeaks website Julian Assange is in deep water with Pentagon and his own home government Sweden. The former want to stop him from posting another 15,000 additional secret documents that could be even “more explosive” for the US administration; the Swedish prosecutors first charged him on two rape cases but later dropped the allegations. No government, be it from the ‘First World’ or the ‘Third World’ likes outsiders exposing its wicked ways. But imagine if we didn’t have guys like Assange in the world, we’d never really discover the truth of how contemptible rulers can be.
Take Pakistan.
Is there anyone with his/her calculator out counting up the dollars coming from abroad? Where is the money going? Okay, even if it’s safely lodged in the State Bank or whichever bank our rulers have decided to garage it in, who is pocketing the interest? More importantly, who is in charge of minding the store making sure that the money is not being pilfered by the President’s House, the PM Sect, the federal and provincial ministers, chief ministers, governors and their toadies?
You know, during a national crisis such as this, there are so many ‘takers’ who suddenly show up to clean up the kitty before you can say ‘Jack Robinson.’ And why should I leave the defenders of our homeland out of this list? They are no angels either. Just to give you one small example of our former army chief cum president, our very own Gen Musharraf, the man Bush gave $10 billion to fight the Taliban after 9/11. You all know the former dictator now lives in royal style, jet setting between London and Boston. One’s told he has recently acquired a farm in Boston. A farm? Why would he want a farm unless he wants to up his status in society and considered a blue-blooded Boston Brahmin?
In Pakistan, we are badly in need of whistleblowers and website founders like Assange who can invite anonymous posts from people in the know…for example, who is stealing the money meant for the flood victims. We need reporters in the shape of sniffers equipped with long schnozzles to smell a scandal and hopefully catch the thief with his/her hand in the till. Why not catch the billionaires and millionaires who poach the state resources shamelessly? Needed then are more investigative reporters to follow the money trail and not just report on the plight of victims left in the lurch by our government. That story has run its course a hundred times over. We now need forensic accountants – the more the better – as independent auditors looking at how the funds are being spent and by whom. This will be a lengthy, massive process.
“Why would I contribute to the Bilawal and Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari relief fund being operated by their dad?” says a Pakistani investment banker in New York. “How do I know that the money I send from here will not be re-routed back to a bank account in the US owned by the president?” The Pakistani-American who has lived in Manhattan and earned his millions through sheer hard work and sacrifice knows well the swashbuckling days of our president when he lived in ‘self-exile’ in the swanky Trump Towers.
“By the way what became of the penthouse in Belair Apartments, a 42-storey building with panoramic views of the East River in Manhattan purchased a year before Benazir’s tragic death?” another Pakistani sitting silently so far chips in. “If the sale proceeds of that “jinxed penthouse” were donated by the heirs of BB for the flood victims in Sindh, just imagine the love and respect the family would earn in an instant.”
How true!
“What about the Sharifs’ millions?” asks another. “We know that the brothers have for donkey’s years evaded paying the income tax that they owe to the government when they first got rich and later powerful thanks to their godfather Gen Ziaul Haq. But before they achieved ‘greatness’, according to an eye-witness report, the two brothers along with senior Sharif would regularly turn up at the income tax office in Lahore with a hamperful of freshly-squeezed orange juice or whichever fruit was in season in a giant flask along with mouthwatering goodies, and sit patiently outside in the verandah until the orderly told them that the ‘sahib’ would see them now.”
We are being made to pay for the sins of our rulers today. Nobody in the world, and I really mean nobody trusts the president, the prime minister and the political biggies. Their gestures and their talk make them appear like empty vessels lost at sea. Irrelevant references to auctioning off designer suits worn by Zardari and Gilani will not do. The two gentlemen are showing off their wardrobe to the poor starving Pakistanis -- still our intelligentsia should cold-bloodedly be sizing up the government propaganda. This is no time to joke but to demand answers from the rulers.
“Pakistan will appear as a stronger nation from the flood tragedy that has triggered a massive humanitarian crisis,” wrote Zardari’s spokeslady Farahnaz Ispahani on these pages in a column titled An activist president. “The devastation is heavy, but our spirit and courage are superior. With high hopes and visionary strategies, one hopes the nation will soon start its return to normalcy.” Pious thoughts but it would have been better had the MNA spelt out what measures her government is taking in making every dollar transparent that it receives from abroad. Merely to say, “In times of challenges like this the coming together of our people is more important than any debate or argument politicians or intellectuals can frame” is sheer government gobbledygook -- hypothetical and inconsequential.
The New York Times in its recent editorial exposed the so-called ‘Friends of Pakistan’ as ‘fair weather friends’ without using this term when it provided a breakdown of pledges made by them towards helping Pakistan. The wealthy Saudis plan to give us $ 110 million, “mostly in donated goods”, the Kuwaitis will give a meager $10 million, the UAE has “promised $ 5 million” while “China, Pakistan’s longtime ally and the world’s second-largest economy has pledged about $9 million in supplies and cash” and Indians say they will give us $ 5 million.
What a shocker! Just to give you an idea what the worth of a million dollar is – well, the CEO of Goldman Sachs recently sold his apartment in Manhattan for $ 12 million. This is no great shakes. Senator John Kerry of the ‘Kerry-Lugar Bill’ recently bought a luxury multimillion-dollar yacht. The rich here buy and sell property numbering millions. And yet just look at the niggardly amounts rich countries, supposedly our best buddies, have pledged to Pakistan, especially the UAE and China, the former being Zardari’s second home and the latter a business partner frequented by him religiously.
Why is there such a trust deficit? Who is to blame? We know the answer or don’t we?

Email: [email protected]
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