Saturday June 03, 2023

Political business

March 28, 2023

LAHORE: Money and politics go hand-in-hand in Pakistan. Politicians need money to run campaigns. The rich have ideological beliefs just like other citizens of Pakistan. But their fortunes afford them an oversized influence in the political process.

Businessmen indulge in politics the world over indirectly. Pakistan is perhaps one of the few countries where business leaders have gained entry into the corridors of power. We have had businessman Prime Minister Nawaz Shariff, who enjoyed three stints as chief executive of the country. We had businessman President in the person of Asif Ali Zardari, who is currently serving as member parliament.

Corporate Pakistan finances the country’s elections, substantially if not wholly, but it is unable to determine election outcomes. Money matters, but it is not always electorally decisive. Businessmen the world over do get involved in politics. They invest in political campaigns as if they are investing in stocks.

It is a general perception in Pakistan that many people join politics to fatten their bank accounts. It would be interesting to note that the majority of sugar mills in Pakistan belong to political families. Many of the politicians become businessmen later through special licenses, permissions and concessions. Businessmen are attracted to politics because this provides them the tool to influence government policies.

In developed economies, the businessmen usually influence the policies from the backdoor. In the United States of America, businessmen donate openly. Political donations are not allowed legally in Pakistan. Leading businessmen appealed to the government to allow donations to the political parties by the corporate sector after approval of their boards.

Most business donations in developing countries are made informally. Maintaining confidentiality of donations helps avoid reprisals by political parties that might want to penalise the donors for favouring their opponents; this is generally regarded as more important than any tax benefits.

In developing countries as well as in Pakistan, many businessmen are directly involved in politics. Asif Ali Zardari is considered to be the second richest man in Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif, the main opposition leader of the country, has assets that make his family one of the richest in the country.

Chaudhry’s of Gujrat owned a number of industries which were disposed of in the last years of Musharaf rule. Humayun Akhtar Khan was a successful businessman first before serving as a federal minister under Nawaz Shariff and Shaukat Aziz.

Jehangir Tarin one of the most successful entrepreneurs. He was aligned with PML-N in 1997-99, later joined PML-Q and later emerged as largest financier of the PTI before he was ousted from the party.

Other businessmen that joined the government as federal or provincial ministers include Saifullah brothers and Bilour families from NWFP, Ghulam Ahmad Bilour was the former president of FPCCI, Razak Dawood the head of Descon Group joined the cabinet under General Musharaf.

Altaf Saleem belongs to Crescent Group; he was also a member of Musharaf cabinet. General Alik Quli Khan (retd) of General Tyres joined PTI, Rana Tausif is a textile entrepreneur and a former federal minister. Waqar Ahmad Khan of Wak Gas is a senator, who served as federal minister of PPP government. Zaka Ashraf is a prominent member of PPP and former chairman of Pakistan Sugar Mills Association.

Saleem Motiwala is a businessman and was chairman Board of Investment during the last PPP tenure. Mian Azhar the former governor of Punjab is a prominent player in steel manufacturing. His son Hammad Azhar was federal minister in the PTI government. Mian Mujtaba Shuja ur Rehman is a well-known name in the pharmaceutical industry. He was a minister during the past two tenures of the PML-N. Mian Misbahur Rehman is a well-known businessman of Lahore who headed PPP Lahore for a long time. The list is long and endless.