Another View on Panama Papers Case- By: Munir M Hasan, PhD

The hearing of Panama Papers case at last is over. The decision of the Court will follow soon. It was basically a case of possessing enormous amount of money in the form of real estate held by the Prime Ministerís sons in London without apparent means of their income. It was argued that this money could not be earned by the sons of the Prime Minister in their young age and it was alleged that this money was generated by the Prime Minister illegally in Pakistan using his good offices and transferred it from Pakistan to his sons living abroad. There were many clear evidences in this allegation and it was a fit case to be investigated and decided by the court. During investigation some other ugly and horrible aspects have been discovered. However, these will be wisely taken care of by the honourable Court.

The thing which is bothering me is another aspect of this corruption. In the above-mentioned case, all the allegations of the appellants have been made in terms of money laundering and asking the Prime Minister and his family members of the money trail for the purchase of foreign property. My assessment is that this aspect of corruption is only a small portion of the total corruption of the Prime Minister. In fact, all the ruling parties in Pakistan have been using different methods of earning illegal money. And the method adopted by the incumbent Prime Minister is different from others.

The technical expertise available in Pakistan, especially in the field of construction and also in power sector has been prominent in the past. In construction business Pakistani firms have been working in the Middle Eastern and some other countries with success and earning a lot of foreign exchange for Pakistan. Even in Power sector, until late 1980s, the mega power projects have been handled by WAPDA and KESC successfully and there was no power shortage in Pakistan. This trend changed during the civil democratic governments in early 1990s who started awarding the projects to the private sectors and to the foreign firms, thus damaging rather ruining the local expertise. The first government of the present Prime Minister awarded the first motorway project (M2) to a foreign firm, M/s Daewoo Corporation of Korea in 1991. This project was considered the most expensive motorway in Asia. Taking into consideration the labour and other costs in Asia, in Europe and in USA, this project can be considered as the most expensive project in the whole world. Although the technical expertise was available in Pakistan, the awarding of this project to a foreign firm was to ensure safe means of getting kickback, to deposit this money into the companies abroad established by his sons for this purpose, and to purchase the properties in London and elsewhere. In this method there was no risk of detection of his illegal money.

This was just a start. The kickback earned in M2 motorway project was so attractive that it became the policy of the Prime Minister in his subsequent tenures. Since then he has been planning and awarding all mega projects, some of them even unnecessary, to the foreign firms just to ensure kickbacks in a safe way.

It is surprising to note that during the whole process of accountability of the Prime Minister in the Court, nobody pointed out his major source of income - the kickbacks. This investigation would have been much easy by auditing the projects, comparing the cost with similar other world projects, and recording the statements of the persons involved in these projects. Lately, it has been stated by a former chief minister of Punjab that the chief of Daewoo told him that he gave a handsome amount of money to the Prime Minister as kickback for awarding M2 project, and that this money was used for the purchase of London flats.

The question is, why this major mode of corruption by the Prime Minister was not taken up in the Court by any political party or by Joint Investigation Team (JIT)?

Posted on Jul 27, 17 | 12:23 pm