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Wednesday Oct 03 2018

My children are not my own

When the Panama papers were first published, many famous names made headlines. In Pakistan, those embroiled in the scandal included then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and three of his four children. The Supreme Court took up the case and after a seven-month trial, Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law were imprisoned. Today, they are out on bail, although two other cases against them continue to be heard in an accountability court.

Separately, legal troubles have also ensnared former President Asif Ali Zardari. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) is probing a multi-billion-rupees money laundering and fake bank accounts case. Just like the Avenfield apartment proceedings, letters and documents have been presented by the defendants — Zardari and his sister — but no real money trail has yet been established.

There is another similarity. During the Avenfield hearings, Sharif said that his children — one daughter and two sons — were not dependent on him financially. Zardari has made a similar claim. After the Supreme Court sought details of his and his relatives’ assets from 2007 to date, Zardari’s lawyer said that the Bhutto-Zardari children were independent and thus their personal wealth should not be dragged into the foray.

While studying, Maryam, Hussain and Hassan Sharif were supported by their grandfather. Bilawal, Aseefa and Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari were dependent on their mother, the former prime minister of Pakistan, according to the PPP leader’s counsel. The Zardari children are in their 20s and 30s today. In 2007, Bilawal was 19, Aseefa was 14 and Bakhtawar was 17. It is important to ask when they became independent? How long were they reliant on their mother for financial needs? And what is their source of income now?

I am a father of two children. My son, an engineer, was dependent on me while he was studying in the UK. It wasn’t till after he secured a job and got married that he did not need my assistance. But even today, I know how much he earns and how much he spends. That is just the way things are, I guess, with Pakistani parents. We are involved even when we are not. Were Sharif and Zardari really clueless about their children’s’ money matters? One wonders if this is really a case of ‘my children are not my children?’

In either case, the courts were not convinced by the arguments. The supreme court has given Zardari 15 days to present the asset details of his own and his family. If the two political leaders want to serious bury suspicions about their financial dealings, they will need to back up their claims with evidence.

Ansari is the bureau chief of Geo News in Lahore 

Note: The views expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geo News or the Jang Group.