Speaking of corruption, as you know, the recently dead Benazir Bhutto, in effect, willed Pakistan to her 19 year old son, or at least she designated him as the leader of her political party, The Pakistan People’s Party. The boy’s name is Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. A corrupt Pakistani businessman, Asif Ali Zardari, is his father. I’m surprised he hasn’t yet dropped the Zardari name in favor of Bhutto. Give the boy time.
Bilawal held a news conference in London last week. He is a college student there. He defended his mother’s handing her political party to a teenager who hasn’t been in Pakistan since he was a little boy.
He said, in a moment of deep candor “I admit my experience to date is limited!” Well, Jeez, who would have known?
The death of Benzir Bhutto brought back a strong memory for me. I was in Pakistan a few weeks after the al-Qaeda attacks of 9/11. The U.S. retaliatory ground war against the Taliban - the search for Osama Laden and his running dogs, and then the bombings of the Taliban from the air, began on October 10, 2001. One night I had dinner at the home of a wealthy Pakistani couple, both of whom had held very high posts in their government, in his case one of the very highest, in the foreign ministry. I had known them both for years. The wife was a smart and likeable woman who was a close friend of Benazir Bhutto and had played an important official role in Benazir's Pakistani administration. We talked that night about, among other things, the subjugated role of women in Muslim countries like Pakistan, where religious extremism and politics are intertwined and Muslim fanaticism runs very deep. Our hostess was an outspoken feminist like her friend Benazir Bhutto.
In that context, I said, I had heard a reliable report that Benazir's husband Asif frequently beat Benazir, punching and kicking her. Do you know about this, I asked, is it true? And if it is true how can Benazir, an icon to US liberals and feminists, reconcile her husbands behavior and her acceptance of it with her public postures. The diplomat's wife looked pained.
She said the stories of the beatings were true. She had seen the evidence herself (a bruised face and a black eye) and asked Benazir about it. Her pathetic response was, she said, "He is my husband, I love him, what can I do?” Some feminist, it was all academic with her. Benazir was then the Prime Minister of Pakistan. One imagines that with her power she probably could have done quite a few things. Like throw him in irons into a Pakistani dungeon for one of them.
In the western media-orgy over the death of Benazir Bhutto some very inconvenient facts have been omitted in the recounting of her life. I love inconvenient facts. In Benazir’s case there are so many. I want to tell you a few of them that are almost never mentioned in the US media.
Bhutto and her husband were charged a couple of times with corruption by the Pakistani government. Her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, spent 8 years in a Pakistani jail over this. Benazir and her legion of admirers in the Western media proclaimed her innocence, any charges were just politics as usual, and they stopped reporting on it.
But you probably don’t know that the Polish, the Spanish, the French and the Swiss governments all had accused the Benazir and Asif of corruption and massive money laundering.
When they mention it, which is seldom, the press usually lays it all off on the husband, like Benazir had nothing to do with it. Not quite right.
The facts are that Benazir and Asif funneled graft money into Swiss bank accounts and to a Swiss company they controlled.
Pakistan bought French made fighters for their air force and 5% of the hundreds of millions of dollars went into one of their Swiss accounts.
In 1998, the Swiss government said Zadari and Benazir had an account in a Swiss bank containing 740 million pounds, at today’s rate close to $1.5 billion. They filed criminal charges against Benazir over this. They said she was running “a criminal enterprise”.
Among other things, they said that “laundered funds” had been made available to the progressive, feminist democrat Benazir so she could buy a $175,000 diamond necklace for herself.
Benazir lived in exile in Dubai in 1990 with her three children and her senile mother.
Documents show that $10 million in payments went to a Citibank account in Dubai in the husband’s name from a company that had been given an exclusive license to bring gold into Pakistan for their jewelry industry -$500 million dollars worth. Benazir and Asif said those were lies.
I’ve seen the house the Bhuttos bought for themselves in the British country side in Surrey, worth about $8 million US. Quite a pad.
There is another manor house they bought, now lived in by Zadari’s parents, Benizir’s in-laws, people of very modest means. It is in Normandy. It is worth about $3 million US.
The couple was convicted in court in Switzerland of money laundering four and 1/2 years ago. They were fined $50,000 each and ordered to repay $11 million to the Pakistani government
I couldn’t find out whether they actually paid it. Somehow I doubt it but what do I know.
And then there was Poland. Funny, all these countries making false accusations against Benazir and Zardari, all about the same thing: Money.
The Polish government says that Benazir and the husband “skimmed” $2 million off a government contract to buy 8,000 tractors from them.
Benazir said they were lying.
Last item, and I’ve touched on this before: When Benazir was killed I repeatedly saw on cable TV outlets like CNN a list of tragedies she had experienced. One was the death of her brother Murtaza who was killed by Pakistani police back in the mid-90’s.
But never any mention that Murtaza’s wife and her mother have both said for years that Benazir and her husband had arranged the killing for political reasons.
Well, how can you know the truth of these things?
She did lead quite a life.