Talal, the elder son of politician-turned-terrorist Akbar Bugti accuses President Zardari, Interior Advisor Rehman Malik, and Balochistan governor Zulfiqar Magsi of demanding a 50% bribe as a condition to release one billion rupees of Sui Gas royalties?Have you noticed how the media is quiet? Do we hear any noise from the defenders of democracy and the ‘truth tellers’ in the media, i.e. Mr. Talat Hussain, Mr. Hamid Mir, Dr. Shahid Masood, Ms. Quatrina Hussain, etc.? What happened? Cat ate your tongue?
Do you know that a major Pakistani newspaper came out on Saturday with an amazing story: Talal, the elder son of politician-turned-terrorist Akbar Bugti accuses President Zardari, Interior Advisor Rehman Malik, and Balochistan governor Zulfiqar Magsi, all top PPP stalwarts, of demanding a 50% bribe on one billion rupees that the federal government apparently owes late Akbar Bugti in royalties for the gas in the feudal lord’s territories.
That’s roughly U.S. $ 1,250,000. Talal Bugti told The News that in October 2008, he met the President in Islamabad to ask him to release the one billion rupees. Interior Advisor Rehman Malik was present. Talal says he asked for an davance of Rs. 300 million out of the one billion. This 30% was “my children’s share” of his father’s booty, says Talal.
President Zardari agreed and ordered Malik to ensure the money is released. Talal went back home happy that he’ll finally be rich, especially that his father never shared this wealth not with his children nor with the people of the area or the people of the Balochistan province [so much for being a hero for people's rights, but I'll come to this shortly].
Several calls to the authorities led to nothing and then suddenly Talal was contacted by a mysterious gentleman by the name of Mr. Aasi. This guy was straight: Mr. Zardari, Pakistan’s President, Mr. Malik, Pakistan’s federal interior minister, and Mr. Magsi, the governor, all wanted half of the one billion rupees.
Talal could keep the rest. The middle man was all business. According to The News story, the middle man told Talal the 50% bribe could be deducted at source or the government could release the entire one billion rupees to Talal Bugti and then Talal could privately pay the middle man and his masters. Obviously, after months of getting nothing, Talal decided to go to the media and picked The News, the most influential Pakistani daily newspaper in the federal capital, to break the story.
The paper contacted the offices of the President, Interior Advisor and Baluchistan governor and all of them denied it. It turns out Mr. Aasi is a close aide to Interior Advisor. My favorite quote in the story is this one from Talal Bugti, “There is a chain from the President down to the Governor and Rehman Malik who want to distribute the amount among themselves.
Certainly they will eat up Rs. 500 million.” So here we have a first-rate scandal that would have brought down any government anywhere else. The Israeli president had the police knocking on his door to take his statement when a female employee accused him of groping her.
But do we see any uproar in Pakistan? Any protests or voices calling for an investigation from the democratic crusaders of PPP, and there are so many of them? Do we hear the defenders of democracy and the ‘truth tellers’ in the media. i.e. Mr. Talat Hussain, Mr. Hamid Mir, Dr. Shahid Masood, Ms. Quatrina Hussain, etc.? What happened? Cat ate your tongue? You were all tough on Musharraf because he tolerated dissent and but can’t open your mouths now because Zardari doesn’t exactly have the repo of being a nice guy? And even if one of them does discuss this issue on television, they wouldn’t question Mr. Talal Bugti’s right or even his late father’s right to swallow all this money year after year for the past 30 years or so when the entire Dera Bugti area looks like a famine zone. Why shouldn’t the money go to elected and accountable people from the area who are supposed to spend it on roads, clinics and schools? Dera Bugti has none of those because politician-turned-terrorist Akbar Bugti, a.k.a ‘Little Saddam’, spent the money on himself and on raising a small army and scores of secret prisons to torture his people and, toward the end of his life, spent the money to help the agenda of outside powers in Afghanistan break Balochistan away from Pakistan through terrorism and insurgency.
This is the type of ‘democrats’ who are supposed to ensure that Pakistani democracy succeeds over a long term, where we Pakistanis are supposed to sit back and let these ‘democratic thieves-crusaders’ waste the next 30 years experimenting until we wake up one day and find a successful democracy in the country! It’ll never happen as long as these crooks control our politics.
Another scandalous revelation came in the column of Mr. Haroon ul Rasheed in daily Jang where he lamented how Mr. Nawaz Sharif boldly opposes Obama’s policy in Afghanistan in public while privately he receives one call from Washington and runs like a rat to the U.S. embassy in Islamabad this week to obediently meet Obama’s point man on Afghanistan and take the latest diktat on the policy.
I gift the Talal Bugti bribe story and the Nawaz Sharif running to the U.S. embassy story to all the idealists in the Pakistani media and civil society who still believe this rotten system can be reformed from within without outside intervention. I’ve never been more convinced it cannot. Intervention is the natural end for this system. It’ll take everyone down.