Pakistan’s politics has seen widespread corruption and many major scandals. Its history is marked by political unrest and government overthrows masterminded by the intelligence agency ISI as well as the military. Almost every administration has been accused of money laundering and misuse of power. Even the elite few who wield power are in constant fear of rebellion and danger to life.
Navigation of the Top 5 Political Scandals in Pakistan
Operation Midnight Jackal was a major political scandal in 1989 when it was discovered that the country’s intelligence agency ISI had made secret plans to topple the Benazir Bhutto government. The two men involved in this plot were ISI official Major Amir Sultan Tara and Brigadier Imtiaz Billa. But the government became suspicious after an insider leaked information about a ‘night jackals’ meeting. A trap was set by the government and the conversations of the meeting were taped, following which it became a full blown political scandal. The Bhutto administration had hoped to implicate Nawaz Sharif, the then Chief Minister of Punjab, but he did not turn up at the meeting.
Investigations revealed that General Aslam Beg, the army chief during the time was opposed to Bhutto’s policies. After Bhutto was sworn in as Prime Minister, Beg and then president Ghulam Khan had devised strategies to replace her.
This scandal in the 1990s was masterminded by the army and intelligence officials to foil the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) bid for re-election. Also called ‘Mehrangate’, it was planned by Mirza Aslam Beg, who was the Chief of Army Staff at that time and the idea was to bribe senior Pakistani politicians. Bribe money running into millions was distributed by the ISI Chief Asad Durrani and other accomplices through Mehran Bank.
Money from the ISI was deposited in the failed bank in 1992 as a favor for its owners to help loan money to the ISI in 1990 to create an opposition alliance names Islami Jamhoori-Ittehad and finance the campaigns of PPP opponents. After the scandal was discovered, Mehran Bank failed to return the money and went bankrupt. During that year, the bank’s net loss amounted to almost Rs.1.26 billion. Investigations revealed that a huge amount of money had been bankrolled to thirty nine parties that existed only on paper.
Women fighting for greater autonomy for Balochistan are being kidnapped and held as sex slaves by state agencies in Pakistan, according to human rights activists. Pakistani military intelligence has been accused of detaining women in torture cells in Karachi. The incident first came to light in 2005, when a 23-year old school teacher from Balochistan was arrested and confined to an army torture cell. The plight of the woman was narrated by a fellow prisoner who, after his release, sought the help of Wollwich Court in London and the International Red Cross. The disturbing incident was reported to the international media by ‘Reporters Without Borders’.
Benazir Bhutto, two-time Prime Minister belonging to a famous Pakistani political dynasty was accused of money laundering and murder. Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari were embroiled in money laundering scandals across Switzerland, France and Poland. Through the 90’s, they had allegedly made deposits of £740 million into Swiss banks through a network of bank accounts. In another allegation, Bhutto and her husband were charged with taking $2 million in bribe from a Polish tractor company in return for a purchase contract of 8000 tractors.
Benazir was also accused by her niece Fatima Bhutto and others of an involvement in her brother Murtaza Bhutto’s killing by the police.
Zardari, the current President of Pakistan and husband of late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, has been arrested on several occasions in the past on charges of corruption. The nickname ‘Mr.10%’ was a reference to the kickback or bribe that he would negotiate in illegal money dealings. Between 1997 and 2004, Zardari has been accused of embezzling government funds to the tune of 1.5 billion dollars. He has denied all accusations claiming that they are all politically-motivated.
Pakistan has had a history of authoritarian rule and its citizens have not been given sufficient democratic powers to express their freedom of speech and opinion. The government has done precious little for the people, with those in power misusing their position for personal gain. Pakistan’s political turmoil and scandals have also added to its economic woes. With no progress in sight in the near future, the population can only pray for a change in the political scene.