Monday, November 12, 2007

Benazir Bhuttos Husband now faces the Trail of corruption and kickback charges

Benazir Bhuttos Husband now faces the Trail of corruption and kickback charges !

David PallisterMonday November 12, 2007
Hopes for a third term for Benazir Bhutto, twice kicked out of government for corruption and incompetence, have been thrown into turmoil by the emergency rule. But her ambitions ultimately were transferred over to her Husband Asif Ali Zardari after her assasination.

But how will Zardari deal with this ? It still depends on whether the amnesty on their corruption charges, granted to them last month by the national reconciliation ordinance, will be upheld in the new supreme court.

Bhutto and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari - nicknamed Mr 10% over alleged extortion - faced eight counts of taking tens of millions of dollars in illegal kickbacks. But whatever decision the court arrives at, the couple also have to contend with money laundering proceedings in Switzerland and Spain, and a civil case in London involving an expensive Surrey mansion.

As the president's ordinance only deals with offences up to 1999, investigations in Pakistan could continue into allegations that the pair paid about $2m in illegal kickbacks to Saddam Hussein under the oil-for-food programme.
The controversy surrounding Bhutto's financial affairs has been compounded by reports showing she and her family have worldwide assets worth about 90bn Pakistan rupees ($1.5bn). Despite voluminous evidence, some from the British government, the Bhuttos deny all the charges.
The charges
Among the charges in Pakistan are allegations that the Bhuttos skimmed $2m in commissions from a 1990s deal to buy thousands of duty-free Ursus tractors from Poland. The money went into a Swiss bank account. Christine Junod, a Geneva magistrate, says documentary evidence "establishes beyond doubt that these commissions, under the cover of alleged consultancy fees, were meant to remunerate the illicit advantages obtained by Ursus from the Pakistani administration, thanks to the interventions of Asif Zardari".
A second case involves a Dubai-based Pakistani gold bullion dealer who allegedly paid $10m to a Bhutto company in the British Virgin Islands for the exclusive right to import gold, again losing the country millions of dollar in duties. Zardari, who has served six years on corruption charges, is also accused of evading duties on the import of a £55,000 armoured BMW.
A fourth case, involving Swiss banks, is moving towards a trial in Geneva. In this the couple are accused of taking kickbacks for the award of contracts to two Swiss firms employed to stop customs fraud. In 2003 a Swiss magistrate found the couple guilty, sentenced them to six months in prison and ordered them to pay $12m back to the Pakistan government.
The paper trail connecting Benazir Bhutto to the case started with a moment of extravagance. Five years before, she had bought a £117,000 diamond necklace in London; part of that was paid for by one of the Swiss firms identified in the investigation. Lawyers for the Bhuttos challenged the judgment, a move that required the case be reopened. Last month the Swiss authorities said they would go ahead.
Oil-for-food scandal
The authoritative Volker report into the oil-for-food scandal identified the company Petroline FZC as having received oil contracts worth £145m in return for paying illicit surcharges to Iraq of $2m. Pakistan's national accountability bureau has produced documents which show that Bhutto was the company chairwoman. Some of the profits went to firms in Spain, where another criminal investigation into money laundering is still active.
Rockwood House
The Surrey mansion, Rockwood House, was bought in 1995, apparently owned through a chain of firms and trusts, involving addresses in the Isle of Man, Jersey and Liechtenstein. Zardari denied, for eight years, that he was the owner despite instructing a builder with plans for a helipad, nine-hole golf course and polo pony paddock. Crates of valuable artefacts were shipped from Karachi. In 2004, when creditors forced the property into a liquidation sale, the Pakistani government claimed the proceeds. Lawyers for Zardari then appeared, claiming he was the beneficial owner.
The money from the sale is still in the liquidators' bank account, though a high court judge said the Pakistani government had a reasonable case, stating the money came via corruption. The case continues through the courts with Zardari repeatedly claiming to be too ill to mount a rebuttal.

Its Business as usual -Pakistani Forces gets $300 million from US in 2007

US stays firm on Pakistan FMF despite Emergency
06 November 2007

The United States is set to continue to provide Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to Pakistan, whose president Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency on 3 November.
Pakistan received USD300 million in 2007 from the US' FMF scheme, which stipulates that the funds must be spent on US equipment under the US Foreign Military Sales programme. The same amount has been allocated for 2008.
The procurement funds, which are linked to the US' endorsement of Pakistan's role in the 'war on terror', represent nearly one half of total funding under a five-year financial package worth USD3 billion agreed in 2005.
Speaking on the day of the declaration, a spokesman for the US Department of Defense (DoD) said that the state of emergency would not affect the military funding.
"At this point, the declaration does not impact on our military support for Pakistan's efforts in the 'war on terror'... Obviously, the stakes are high there. Pakistan is a very important ally in the 'war on terror'."

Air Blue places $700 million orders for 14 Boeing A320-200s

KARACHI (November 12 2007): Pakistan's fastest growing private sector carrier, Air Blue, has placed orders worth $700 million for purchase of 14 new A320-200 aircraft. This is the second largest order for outright purchase of brand new aircraft after national carrier PIA's $1.2 billion order placed in 2005 for purchase of eight Boeing aircraft--three 777-ER-200, three 777-ER-300 and two 777-LR-200.There is, however, a marked difference in the purchase of aircraft by Air Blue and PIA, as the government had to provide sovereign guarantee to the Eximp Bank for the purchase of aircraft by PIA, and the private sector carrier Air Blue provided only Company's guarantee.Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Air Blue Chief Executive Officer, told Business Recorder here on Saturday that a formal agreement for the purchase of 14 new A-320-200 would be signed between Airbus Industrie and Air Blue in Dubai on November 13 during the five-day air show, which started on November 11. The Airbus Chairman Industrie would sign the agreement on behalf of the aircraft manufacturer and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi would sign on behalf of Air Blue .Abbasi left for Dubai late on Saturday afternoon to attend the air show and to sign the agreement.He said that the first A320-200 aircraft would be delivered in July, 2009, and thereafter one aircraft would be delivered after every three months thus completing the delivery of 14 aircraft by the end of 2012. Following induction of the new aircraft, the Air Blue fleet at present comprising three A-320s and three A-321s, which are on lease, would be returned to the lessor companies.About the financial health of Air Blue, Abbasi said that from the word 'go', three years back "we have not, for once looked back". Despite the fact that Pakistani carriers, to cover up their failures, have been crying hoarse about the galloping increase in fuel prices, Air Blue, he said, had posted profits year after year in the face of high fuel costs and other expansion expenses.The annual accounts, which are now being audited, would be announced by the end of next month, Abbasi said, adding that the airline would end up with a profit of around Rs 150 million and a 20 percent return on equity.He said that Islamabad to Manchester Air Blue flights have proved a roaring success. The seat occupancy, both ways, has been hundred percent, although high season has not yet started, he added.Similarly, he said, Dubai flights were also doing good business. About future expansion plans, he said that once the new aircraft are inducted into the airline, "we would expand towards West as well as East ie, Europe, Middle East, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Thailand would be our future destinations."

$5 billion Khalifa Coastal Refinery at Gwadar finalized amid Political Crisis

ISLAMABAD (November 12 2007): Pakistan and Abu Dhabi's International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) management are going to sign an Implementation Agreement (IA) on November 13, for setting-up a $5 billion Khalifa Coastal Refinery (KCR) at Gwadar.As per IA, IPIC and its partner, PARCO will complete KCR by 2012. The refinery will help Pakistan meet its local demand and export the rest of refined petroleum products.Earlier, KCR was supposed to be granted the right to export 100 percent refined petroleum products. However, at the last stage of the negotiations the government managed to persuade IPIC and PARCO for amending the basic principle. The amended agreement provides that KCR will meet Pakistan's demand of petroleum products and export only surplus production.An official told Business Recorder that IPIC and PARCO have agreed to provide Pakistan as much refined petroleum product as it needs from KCR and export only surplus production. They term it as a good development since the new arrangements will help Pakistan meet its growing petroleum products needed in the future. KCR is a joint venture of IPIC and PARCO with 74 and 26 percent shares respectively.An IPIC delegation headed by managing director Khadem Al Qubashi is scheduled to reach Islamabad on Monday to sign KCR IP. Petroleum secretary Furrukh Qayyum will sign KCR IP on behalf of government of Pakistan. The ceremony is being arranged in a local hotel for the purpose. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz will witness the signing.This is very important development as a strong group like IPIC is coming to Pakistan with multibillion dollar investment. Pakistani authorities hope that International Petroleum Company's coming into Pakistan with huge investment will woo many other bigger investors to Pakistan for investment.The Economic Coordination Committee ECC of the Federal Cabinet had approved a special package of concession in taxes and duties in its meeting held on October 10. The package promises tax exemption for KCR for 20 years. This was followed by a two member official delegation visit comprising Petroleum Secretary, Farrukh Qayyum and Director General Oil, G.A. Sabri visit to Ahu Dhabi from October 27 to 29. The delegation finalised modalities for IA signing. The official delegation presented the details of IA and outcome of its negotiations with IPIC management to the federal cabinet in its last meeting for endorsement.''

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Why Pakistan will defeat terrorism again ? (Reply to the Newsweek Article)

Why Pakistan will defeat Terrorism again !

I saw this weeks Newsweek with Pakistan on the cover story and my knee jerk reaction was to cancel my 5 year subscription of Newsweek which I did. (October 29, Newsweek published a cover story that was titled, "The Most Dangerous Nation in the World Isn't Iraq - Its Pakistan). I am not paying for such Nazi style propaganda against Pakistan. I am surprised at the ignorance of these journalists who are trying to blow these terrorism stories way out of proportion. Not only this cover story will encourage the suicide bombers and terrorists it will demoralize some moderate Pakistanis.

We know everything is not right in Pakistan. There are problems and a militant movement is terrorizing and trying to create anarchy in the country. We know what their motives are and this nothing new for us. Similar militant movements exist in other countries. To name a few there are terror groups in Spain (Basque), Israel, UK (IRA) , India, Russia, Sri Lanka , Turkey, etc. What has happened to those countries ? Even though all countries are not the same but terrorism causes similar effects on the economies and its people.

But how have these countries responded to terrorism ? Have they disintegrated ? Have their economies collapsed ? Has terrorism thrived in these countries ? NO. Totally the opposite has happened. Their economies have become resilient and immune with time to sustain terror attacks. Even their stock markets have withstood terror shocks better with little or no change. All these countries have grown stronger while militancy grew in these countries. And now to Pakistan. This new wave of terrorism will not weaken Pakistan either. It will not swallow the social fabric either. It has withstood these terror attacks and most people are living normal lives. Even with a biased media, propaganda and bad predictions Pakistan has grown at 7% per year throughout this new spate of terrorism. In Asia Pakistan is only behind China and India in growth and FDI has been around $7 billion per year. Pakistani stock market (KSE) has grown at an astounding 26% per annum in the past few years.

I DO NOT think that this militant movement or terrorism will take over Pakistan. It will not succeed because Pakistan has had its share of militancy since the 70's and none have collapsed the country . Almost all the major minority groups have tried to break away from Pakistan with notable militancy movements from fringe elements from the Baloch's, Pakhtoon's, Mohajir's and the Sindhi's. What happened to those militant movements ? With no or little public support for the militant movements have died down .Some of these fringe elements and organizations have joined the political system in one way or another.

All these militant movements had to fight out the Pakistan Army which went ahead to brutally crush them at first and then had negotiations with them. And yes Pakistan Army has had casualties in suppressing these militants. The system has always worked in Pakistan and they have not only quelled the militancy completely but has destroyed their network. So none of this new to Pakistan but what is new to Pakistan is this unprecedented Western focus on from everything from Benazir Bhutto’s return to every suicide bombing to every Al Qaeda (AQ) arrest.

Now to the question why does it seem more ferocious and unending this time. There are a few obvious reasons for that. This time these are suicide bombings and not car bombings or sniper fire. Whatever happens here can effect the West and now terrorism from AQ is a global phenomenon. Also this time the press in Pakistan is free to report each and every bombing. There is little or no censorship thanks to President Musharraf. With an open media policy Pakistan has 38 television channels who report whatever they want to report. Its difficult to censor bombings, causalities and terror tactics with hundreds of local journalist trying to get the scoop.

Newsweek once pointed out that religious Army personal in the Pakistan Army will join the militancy against the Pakistan Army. Religious army officers sympathetic to the religious fundamentalists who will turn against the army to help the AQ's militancy. This has not happened. Even in previous ethnic conflicts all ethnic groups in the Pakistani Army helped destroy the militant movements together. There were people within the army who were sympathetic to the ethnic militancy but it was never an issue and there have been no mass court martials either.

There have been predictions of a dooms day scenario for Pakistan since the 1940's. There is always something and this or that will finish Pakistan - Bankruptcy, India, Soviet Union, US, too poor, too many people, too many divisions, too many ethnic groups, secretarian strife, corruption, army, Martial Law and now its the religious fanatics. Almost every time these gurus and some journalists give Pakistan 6 months. Someone even once emailed me saying "this March will be the end" .That was 2004. March came and went and I emailed him back saying "its April now".

This article is an eye opener for me and other Pakistanis. It shows how naive these journalists really are and have no idea what Pakistan is really about. They are eager to trump up a negative story about Pakistan for whatever motive they have?

Pakistan is the 6th largest country in the world and we are not going anywhere. We are united and we forget our differences when it really comes to it. Pakistanis demonstrated it during the earthquake what Pakistanis can do to help themselves. We will prevail and will destroy this fanatic militancy again ! Thanks Newsweek for the article but no thanks.

Moid Ansari

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