Panama Leaks in Pakistan; US Defense Secretary in India; ZarbeAzb in Punjab; MQM in Karachi By-elections

What do leaked Panama Papers reveal about Pakistani politicians, judges, businessmen and media owners? Where did PM Nawaz Sharif’s sons get the funds to start shell companies and open offshore accounts when they were just teenagers? How should PM Nawaz Sharif respond to the leaks? Should he accept responsibility and resign as demanded by PTI chief Imran Khan? Or should he come clean, pay back taxes and apologize to the nation?

Has Pakistan Army’s Operation Zarb e Azb finally started in Punjab province? Will the Army succeed in rooting out sectarian terror by Punjab-based LeJ and similar other outfits operating under different names? Is PMLN a reluctant participant? Does the operation have the kind of legal cover available to it in Sindh province? If not why not?

Why is the US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter visiting India? Why did he say US-India relationship broad and global while US-Pakistan ties are narrowly focused on Afghanistan and terrorism? What does India expect to get from it? Defense hardware? US Predator drones? Will India agree to join US Navy patrols to challenge Chinese Navy in disputed waters in South China Sea?

Why was there such an extremely low turn-out in Karachi by-elections? Was it because the PTI candidate withdrew in favor of the MQM candidate? Or was it due to lack of enthusiasm for MQM since the return of Mustafa Kamal?

Viewpoint from Overseas host Faraz Darvesh discusses these questions with panelists Ali H. Cemendtaur and Riaz Haq (

Panama Leaks in Pakistan; US Defense Secretary... by ViewpointFromOverseas

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Comment by Riaz Haq on April 13, 2016 at 8:21am

At age 13, (Husain Nawaz son of Nawaz Sharif) created 4 offshore companies worth 30 million dollars and acquired 4 flats in Mayfair, London. The seed fund for these companies came from the ‘Tooth Fairy’ who was buying his teeth at meagre million dollars a pop. I am safely assuming this as his whole family paid an average tax of 70 dollars per year in the 3 decades before (and one decade after) he founded these companies. His family was more poor than 90% of Pakistani tax payers.

At age 17, he was already a self made billionaire. But then, all their assets were frozen by a military dictator. He went to KSA. Took a loan, built a steel factory, and in just four years, he earned so much money that he completely repaid the loan and bought many businesses all over the world. At age 21, he was a multi billionaire. His father, the Prime MInister of Pakistan, is lucky to have a son like him. The PM does not own anything. He is under debt of millions of dollars that he has to repay to his sons while Hussain is however a multi billionaire. It is just a co incidence that his father is a politician.

I am thinking what did Nawaz Sharif do with all this money. How the hell is he under so much debt. Maybe while his sons were working so hard, he was busy gambling and partying in Montecarlo? Destroying the hard earned fortune?

PS: At age 13, I did not know how to fill a bank form and I did not know what an offshore company was? But then I am not as bright as Hussain. However I am richer than his father so surely I am brighter than his father. 

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 14, 2016 at 3:45pm

In a 1999 BBC interview, Nawaz Sharif's son Hasan Nawaz denied ownership of London Flat now confirmed as property of 2 British Virgin Island companies Nescol Limited (incorporated in 1993) and Nielson Holdings Limited (incorporated in 1994) named in Panama Leaks as owned by Mariam Safdar, Nawaz Sharif's daughter. He claimed at the time that he was merely renting the flat and the rent money came from his family in Pakistan

Nescol Limited and Nielson Holdings Limited were incorporated in BVI in 1993 and 1994, respectively, and were held by one bearer share each. In February 2006, Mariam Safdar signed a resolution of Nescol Limited as the “sole (bearer) shareholder”. MF was appointed as the registered agent through Minerva Trust which described Mariam Safdar as the beneficial owner of both companies.

In August 2008, BVI law firm Farara Kerins issued two legal opinions. As Nescol’s property, it identified “leasehold properties known as 17… and 17A Avenfield House, 117 to 128 Park Lane, London, W1K 7AH and car parking space 9 and box room 6… registered… with Title Numbers NGL342976 and NGL342977 respectively”. As Nielson’s property, it identified two titles of 16 and 16A Avenfield House.

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 14, 2016 at 4:22pm

#Pakistan’s Premier #NawazSharif Leaves the Country Amid #Panama Papers Scandal. #ImranKhan #PTI #PMLN #PanamaLeaks

Speculation about the political fate of Pakistan’s embattled prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, was swirling on Thursday after he left the country in the middle of an unfolding scandal over his family’s offshore wealth.

Opposition politicians have pressed Mr. Sharif to resign after the so-called Panama Papers document leak revealed that three of his children controlled shell companies through which they owned expensive residential properties in London. Demands have picked up for a judicial commission under the country’s chief justice to investigate any potential wrongdoing by the prime minister and his family.

Mr. Sharif has rejected any allegations of money laundering, claiming that his children have legitimate business abroad, and he has signaled his willingness to establish an inquiry commission.

But as the political turmoil increased, Mr. Sharif flew to London on Wednesday for cardiac medical treatment that he described as a checkup. The timing of the visit immediately prompted rumors that Mr. Sharif might not return to Pakistan until investigations were completed.

In his absence, the finance minister, Ishaq Dar, is leading important cabinet meetings this week. However, government officials said that Mr. Sharif will return on Sunday, and will face the crisis.

Mr. Sharif, 66, an affluent businessman whose family has made its money through businesses primarily dealing in steel, returned to power in 2013 after his party won a majority in the general elections. He had been prime minister in the 1990s and was ousted in a military coup in 1999.

Mr. Sharif has tried to assert civilian control over the government but has run into difficulties with the powerful military, which has again become ascendant in both foreign and domestic affairs in recent months and commands a deep well of public support.

On Thursday, Imran Khan, the most trenchant political opponent of Mr. Sharif, also arrived in London. Mr. Khan said he was looking to hire financial investigation agencies that could look into the Sharif family’s dealings. Mr. Khan has threatened to lead street protests if an investigation is not initiated by the government.

Some political analysts here say that the major opposition political parties do not want the crisis to reach the point at which the military might step in.

But the Panama Papers leak has lent momentum to Mr. Khan at a time when he had seemed politically weakened. He led thousands of his supporters and staged a sit-in outside the Parliament in 2014, accusing Mr. Sharif of rigging the last general elections. That effort to bring down Mr. Sharif fizzled, but Mr. Khan is taking this as a second chance.

“This is a godsend opportunity for us,” Mr. Khan said last week, urging Pakistanis to rise against Mr. Sharif.

Another mainstream political power, the Pakistan Peoples Party, has so far seemed to be weighing its options, and there has been no major joining of forces with Mr. Khan. Analysts say the party may be looking to cut a deal with Mr. Sharif.

“They are trying to find some kind of political agreement to deal with the current crisis,” said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a prominent political analyst based in Lahore.

“He is not threatened to that extent,” Mr. Rizvi added. “However, if all political parties join hands, then Nawaz is in real trouble.”

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 17, 2016 at 10:16am

Is #America cozying up to #India to counter #China’s aggressive expansion policy?

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Barack Obama watch India's Republic Day parade from behind rain-streaked bulletproof glass in New Delhi on January 26, 2015. The author writes that as long as the U.S. maintains its close links with Pakistan, Indian leaders will view with skepticism U.S. professions of loyalty to India’s vital interests.

The just-completed visit of Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to India has generated considerable speculation.

That is especially true in China, where opinion leaders noted not only was this Carter’s second trip to India during his relatively short tenure as Pentagon chief, but that he canceled a previously scheduled trip to Beijing so that he could make this latest journey. 

That move, they feared, suggested a rather unsubtle tilt against China in favor of one of its potential geostrategic competitors.

The agreement that came from Carter’s visit will do nothing to reassure the Chinese. Carter and his Indian counterpart, Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar, pledged to increase logistical cooperation in the military arena, especially maritime cooperation. 

Although that agreement is still a considerable distance away from constituting a full-fledged military alliance between the two nations, it continues a trend that has emerged over the past decade of ever-deepening strategic ties. And mutual concerns about China’s ambitions appear to be the driving force in the bilateral relationship.

At a minimum, the United States appears to be trying to put in place the building blocks of a containment policy directed against China, if U.S. leaders later decide that such a full-blown policy has become necessary. On this same trip, Carter made a stop in the Philippines to reassure that country of strong U.S. backing in its South China Sea territorial dispute with China.

Apparently, previous statements by the secretary of state and President Obama himself, combined with a buildup of U.S. troops in the island nation, were not sufficient evidence of resolve.

And Carter’s sojourn in India must be seen in the larger context of Washington’s efforts to strengthen its long-standing alliances with South Korea and Japan and to forge cooperative military ties with such former adversaries as Vietnam. Along with Japan, though, India would be the biggest prize as a strategic ally.

Despite the wishes of some Sinophobes in Washington, we are likely to see a more measured response from India. Delhi has much to lose and little to gain by becoming a cat’s-paw ally of the United States against China. 

That is especially true if Washington is not willing to sever its close ties with India’s archenemy, Pakistan. Yet as long as U.S. leaders insist on waging a “war on terror” with a major Central Asia/South Asia component, centered in Afghanistan, they will not cut Washington’s supposed Pakistani ally loose. 

And as long as that is the case, Indian leaders and the Indian public will view professions of U.S. loyalty to their country’s vital interests with justifiable skepticism.

Moreover, shrewd Indian policymakers may conclude that the best position for their country is one of constructive neutrality in the growing tensions between the United States and China. Whatever side India would take, it would anger one of those great powers, lose potential benefits and increase its risk level. Only if China truly adopted a policy of rogue expansionism is that sober calculation likely to change. In the meantime, Ash Carter and other American suitors may press their courtship of India, but they are likely to come away disappointed.

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 18, 2016 at 7:49am

A Tale of Corruption in #Pakistan & #NawazSharif's Spin Machine: From Nandipur to #Panama. #PanamaLeaks #PMLN #PTI
Nandipur went from $329 million to $847 million. Imagine: a wholesome $518 million evaporated into thin air. Neelum-Jhelum has gone from Rs15 billion to Rs414 billion. Imagine; a massive Rs399 billion over and above the original cost estimate and the project is still not ready. The New Islamabad Airport has gone from Rs37 billion to Rs81 billion. Imagine: Rs44 billion overspent and the project is still not ready.

Nandipur’s expose amounted to nothing. Neelum-Jhelum’s expose amounted to nothing. The airport’s expose amounted to nothing – and the credit goes to the A-Team’s superb ‘media management’ and its outstanding political gymnastics.

Panama is a different ballgame altogether. This is cyber warfare at its best. The attacker picks the target and the timing of the attack. The A-Team has fought and won many a battles before but the A-Team has absolutely no experience in this kind of war fare. The A-Team has no control over foreign investigative agencies. The A-Team has no control over foreign media. The A-Team has no control over other prime ministers resigning (and the domino affect). And the A-Team is up against a global war against offshore tax havens.

Cyber warfare in tandem with exposing the truth as a weapon is a deadly cocktail. Imagine: Russian President Vladimir Putin had to admit the accuracy of the Panama Papers (the Papers revealed that Putin’s associates “secretly shuffled as much as $2 billion through banks and shadow companies”). Putin now claims that the “funds had been spent on musical instruments”.

The first wave of bombing has knocked out the First Daughter and infected the prime minister with Panama Fever. Will there be another wave of bombing to knock out other members of the A-Tem? Will there be another wave of bombing to knock out PML-N’s B-Team as well?

The domestic political minefield is now divided between the leaders who own offshore companies and those who do not. From within the PPP, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan stands out while the rest of the PPP stands united with the PML-N. From within the PTI, one or two members of the top leadership probably own offshore companies but Imran Khan and the rest of the party is clean (and thus cannot be targeted). Lesson: If you are clean you cannot be targeted. For the time being, the PML-N and the PPP are united versus the PTI plus JI.

The PML-N’s goose is being cooked – and the PML-N doesn’t even know who the cook is. What is the cook’s intention – toe the line or else? What does the cook want – chaos or destruction? Is the cook after strategic or tactical resources? If the cook is of American origin, and resides in Fort Meade, then he will have both political and economic objectives.

To be certain, the New Silk Road is a target. Eurasian integration is a target. And the ultimate goal of this warfare is to protect a US-controlled ‘One World’. On the economic front, offshore wealth is estimated at $32 trillion; compare that to the total American debt of $16 trillion. Remember, offshore wealth is untaxed and taxes are the ‘lifeblood’ of Western governments.

Make no mistake; cyber warfare is war by other means. What that means is that Pakistan is at war – at war with the cooks. There is no doubt that what is coming out is the whole truth but there are cooks trying to create chaos in Pakistan. And Pakistan is actually moving towards chaos. And chaos is not in Pakistan’s interest. And serious steps must, therefore, be taken to avoid chaos.

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 18, 2016 at 8:52am

An #Indian analyst unhappy about #China-#Pakistan alliance gaining momentum | The Japan Times #CPEC #India

The recently expanded Gwadar deepwater port in Pakistan that is part of the so-called China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is nearing completion.

According to Zhang Baozhong, chairman and CEO of China Overseas Ports Holding Company Ltd, “The port cranes are almost ready, and we are thinking that the port will be (at) full operation by the end of this year.” The port will process about 1 million tons of cargo next year, most of which will be incoming construction materials to be used in projects related to CPEC. The port city Gwadar, in southwestern Baluchistan province, is central to the CPEC.

Pakistan’s army chief has accused regional rival India of attempting to undermine the $46 billion project with China. Speaking at a development conference on the impact of CPEC, Pakistan’s chief of army staff, Gen. Raheel Sharif, stated: “I must highlight that India, our immediate neighbor, has openly challenged this development initiative. … I would like to make a special reference to Indian intelligence agency RAW, which is blatantly involved in destabilizing Pakistan. Let me make it clear that we will not allow anyone to create impediments and turbulence in any part of Pakistan.”

Chinese-Pakistani collusion against India has taken new turns recently. Despite Modi government’s attempts to improve ties with Pakistan and China, both have responded negatively so far. The writing is very clear on the wall and has been for quite some time. The Pakistani military-intelligence complex has no interest in a rapprochement with India and they made it a point to scuttle the growing Sharif-Modi bonhomie. Last month, Pakistani authorities announced they captured a suspected Indian spy in Baluchistan, identified as Kulbhushan Jadhav. The military also aired video footage of Jadhav saying he was working out of his base in Chabahar in neighboring Iran.

The Pakistani investigation team that visited Pathankot ended up suggesting that the Pathankot attack at the end of December was in fact staged by Indian agencies. This was followed by the Pakistani high commissioner announcing the suspension of Indo-Pakistani peace talks. China then turned the screws tighter and made it a point to scuttle the nascent counterterror cooperation between Delhi and Beijing. By insisting that designation of any individual as terrorist by U.N. is a “serious issue,” China blocked the U.N. from banning Jaish-e-Mohammad chief and Pathankot strike mastermind Masood Azhar by the global body. The Jan. 2 attack at Pathankot was followed by a raid on an Indian consulate in Afghanistan that has also been linked to Jaish-e-Mohammad, or the Army of Mohammad. Jaish-e-Mohammad militants were also behind the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament.

The Chinese-Pakistani relationship has now moved beyond the “higher than Himalayas and sweeter than honey” phase. Chinese strategists are openly talking of Pakistan as their nation’s only real ally. China’s submarine operations in the Indian Ocean and the Chinese-Pakistani naval cooperation are challenging naval supremacy and have the potential to change the regional naval power balance. China is also busy redefining the territorial status quo in the region. By deciding to construct major civil, energy and military infrastructure projects in the CPEC, which runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and the areas of Gilgit and Baltistan, China has accorded de facto “legitimacy” to Pakistan’s illegal occupation of these areas.

Comment by Riaz Haq on April 21, 2016 at 4:02pm

BBC News - #PTI #PakistanArmy put huge pressure on #Pakistan PM #NawazSharif #PMLN to come clean after #PanamaLeaks

There is no doubt the leaks have left him on shaky moral ground.
The allegations of corruption have chased Mr Sharif since the 1980s. And much of what the Panama Papers have revealed now was the subject of a federal inquiry in the mid-1990s.
Mr Sharif ordered that inquiry closed when he came into power in 1997, terming it "politically motivated".
But this time he and his family have had to admit they used offshore companies to acquire foreign assets.
Also, the allegations have come at a time when his government is battling to keep some semblance of civilian control over domestic security and foreign policy issues that have been slipping into the military's control.
On Tuesday, a statement by army chief Gen Raheel Sharif, that terrorism cannot be effectively curbed unless "the menace of corruption" is uprooted, has got the tongues wagging.
While many suggest the statement may be just a general remark to express solidarity with the popular sentiment, some ex-military analysts have said it may well be a statement of intent.

In a recent article, independent political and defence analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi has outlined a number of possible scenarios.
One of these could be street agitation, which he says could accelerate Pakistan's internal conflict.
It could either degenerate into a stalemated confrontation between the government and the opposition, or it could lead to an in-house change, or even the setting up of a fixed-term military-backed civilian dispensation to "clean up the stables".
A more likely scenario is that of Mr Sharif continuing in office as a weaker leader, giving even greater initiative to the military.

In a society where family and tribal links determine the distribution of jobs and official patronage, political corruption has not taken long to spread.
Politicians complain they have remained the only target of campaigns against corruption while the military and the judiciary remain outside the purview.
The military and the judiciary insist they have their own separate systems of internal accountability and do not need governmental controls.
Both have colluded in the past to oust politicians from power, but have abstained from calling each other's actions into question.
There have been instances where retired military officers accused of embezzlement in civilian sphere have been co-opted back into the military to prevent them from being tried under the mainstream laws.
More recently, a sitting chief justice was accused of receiving perks from a real estate tycoon, and at least two judges, one of them now retired, have been named in Panama Papers as owning offshore companies.
In these circumstances, as Pakistan stumbles from one phase of confusion into another, democracy, rule of law and real accountability have become cliches with a negative connotation.

Comment by Riaz Haq on May 19, 2016 at 9:01pm

Journalist Kevin Hall talking with NPR Fresh Air host Dave Davies about his research on Panama Leaks:

Well, there are several forms of front companies. In the most basic sense, it's a company that is created to hide assets or to give the appearance of having a functional business. They're also - you can have a foundation, which is a version of that that's a little more secretive. The key to a lot of these companies is the ability to hide true ownership, that you have directors, who aren't the real owners of the company, named. I think that's really the big thing that distinguishes them.


Well, some of the legitimate reasons would run the gamut from real estate transfers - if you're purchasing property, say, in Panama - because it was easier to transfer that property to another. And then there are transfer taxes that you don't have to pay. So there's a financial gain in doing it this way, but it's also ease in property transfer. That would be one aspect. Another might be estate planning. Maybe you don't like the estate tax in the United States. And you keep certain assets overseas, and you try to find ways to pass on inheritance without going through the U.S. tax system. That would be another.


There is a gray area. And as we found in the documents, people go right up to the end as close as they can. And of course, U.S. tax law has been modified so much since the Reagan era that all of these loopholes have been written into it specifically to kind of get around some of these laws.


Well, I think the key thing is the money is still the important part. The law firm isn't necessarily involved in any way with the money. And that's what's been so frustrating because you're looking at what are called company formation documents. This company sets up a shell company in the Seychelles or British Anguilla, places like that. You don't actually, in most cases, see the money. You don't know where that money is. You presume the money is in Liechtenstein or Luxembourg or Switzerland. And with the U.S. crackdown on UBS and HSBC and the Swiss banks, it's driven I think more people into this offshore world if they're looking to camouflage that money they have back in Switzerland.


What's so interesting about this company Mossack Fonseca is the kind of menu of options they provide. They can just simply create a company for you. They can create what's called a private enterprise foundation. They can help you get a Panamanian visa if you either purchase property or invest in Panama. It gets as complex as going into derivatives trading. We've found some evidence that they actually help customers, place them into derivatives trading in real complex securities.

They have an asset management arm. They have a mail forwarding service. They also provide - if you want to have the appearance of being a legitimate brick-and-mortar company, they'll provide you a website, a phone number, an office suite, everything to make it look like you're a legitimate brick-and-mortar company.

Right, those are called shelf companies, as opposed to shell companies. And a shelf company is ready to roll. They're offered in the United States too. And sometimes, a legitimate use of one of these might be you're purchasing - one American company is buying another American company. And they need to do it quick. And they're going to incorporate in Nevada or Wyoming or, you know, pick your state. That would be a legitimate use. It's already ready to go. You don't have to wait seven days. You complete the transaction, and you're ready to roll.

Comment by Riaz Haq on January 7, 2017 at 10:24am
Justice Khosa "onus of proof of the money trail of London flats lies on shoulders of #Sharif family" #Panamagate The court on Friday cautioned Prime Minister Sharif and his family that if they were unable to establish the ownership of flats in London, the court would have to "imagine" that the petitioners claim was true. The top court made the remarks during the hearing of the case for the third consecutive day. In the Panama papers leak case hearing, the Pakistan Supreme Court on Friday asked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his siblings to come out clean on the ownership details of the London flats which are not shown in their wealth statement.
Last year in April, the leak of 11 million documents held by the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca revealed nexus between several corrupt politicians and businesses around the world. Among them was the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's family too.
The Panama leaks revealed that Sharif's children owned offshore companies and assets not mentioned in his family's wealth statement. The companies, according to the leaked papers, were used to launder illegal wealth and to acquire foreign assets, including some apartments in London's Mayfair area.


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