Greed without end characterises all our rulers’ obsession with foreign gifts
The quality that distinguishes our ruling elite, political, bureaucratic and, it must be fairly admitted, the military when in power, from the leaders of other countries is not the lack of transparency, although that figures high on their list of useful ‘attributes’. The most revealing trait was, is, and promises to remain, the unquenchable voraciousness for any gift and present that comes their way in their official capacity. Costly and valuable gifts are quietly pocketed legally at a fraction of their actual price, if declared at all, instead of being deposited with the Toshakhana for cataloguing and listing.
It was no surprise that information desired in the Senate by a PMN-N member, such as recipient’s name, gift value, amount paid if retained and its market value, for the past three years, was brusquely rejected on dubious grounds by the government. Divulging this ‘top secret’ and ‘eyes only’ information would create hype in the media, disrupt friendships, and be harmful for our diplomacy. No wonder people keep harping on the necessity of a new Freedom of Information Ordinance! It is obvious that behind this coyness, lie cogent reasons of a more blushing and scandalous nature, that if known publicly, can arouse mass anger and resentment.
Ex-President Pervez Musharraf’s shamelessly confesses to receiving millions of dollars from the Saudi King, Asif Ali Zardari has an unenviable label for his alleged kickbacks and commissions, the incumbent brothers practice a highly personalised version of Chinese, Qatari, Turkish and Saudi diplomacy. What deeds are done in reciprocity for thirty pieces of silver, no one knows. Domestic wealth and vast foreign holdings should have precluded the craving for further Manna, but this is a misconception not borne out by the facts. Reportedly, between 1999 and 2009, Musharraf paid Rs 5.1 million to retain gifts of Rs 33 million, Zardari Rs 9.3 million for gifts of Rs 62 million, Shaukat Aziz Rs 2.9 million for his 1126 retained gifts worth Rs 26 million. Is this friendship or fiend-ship?