Nawaz Sharif is now a billionaire and expects people to not question the source of his money inflow – if only, dear PM

Published: June 20, 2017
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According to the current report, the value of his assets has climbed to Rs1.84 billion. PHOTO: REUTERS

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif retained his status as a billionaire in the latest information regarding politicians’ net worth released by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). This data has been derived from the information the candidates file with the ECP when running for public office. This list is published every year, though there is no actual need. It just reaffirms what the nation already knows – in a country where a large chunk of people are living below the poverty line, the politicians seem to be getting richer and richer.

For example, in 2011, the assets owned by Nawaz and Kulsoom Nawaz totalled to Rs166 million. According to the current report, the value has climbed up to Rs1.84 billion. About a quarter of a billion of these assets has come through remittances by Nawaz’s son, Hussain Nawaz, who is apparently running the British offshoot of the family business empire, in addition to holding properties in London.

In this case, it is erroneous of Nawaz to claim that Hussain sends remittances on which his parents live by. Their business is a family empire, not a personal bank account. Nawaz maintains that he owns no property or accounts abroad. By this measure, if Nawaz were to provide an investment fund, it would be the quickest way to increase your wealth by 10 times in just five years. Most of the ministers in Nawaz’s cabinet have also clocked in a fair amount of growth over the past five years. They have shares in multiple industries in Pakistan, in addition to, understandably, being close to the ruling party.

Imran Khan also shows up in the billionaire column. Imran’s assets are fairly uncomplicated with various investment schemes funding his adventures while his 300-acre residence in Bani Gala is declared as a gift. If his residence is to be sold today, the property would fetch somewhere around Rs750 million. The value of his family property in Zaman Park is about Rs30 million. So essentially, the value of Imran’s properties gives him the billionaire status. Interestingly, there is no mention of his London flat but even if there was, the total would still make sense and not have a massive differential between assets and earnings as that of Nawaz’s.

Asif Ali Zardari is not listed because he doesn’t hold any office currently. By some accounts, he is a dollar billionaire and has properties dotting the globe. Yes, he is a scion of a wealthy family, but then should he not also have the capacity of singlehandedly fixing the mess that is Sindh? Sindh keeps muddling along with Karachi, firing on all cylinders despite the chaos it represents. Perhaps if Zardari was more of a businessman rather than the rich, polo playing corrupt politician that he is, he would have put the province in a better position while he was in power.

Rich politicians are not a unique phenomenon. Russians oligarchs have their hands in all sorts of public and private industries. The President of Russia, Vladmir Putin is a dollar billionaire despite starting his career as an officer with the Committee for State Security (KGB). Putin’s best friend, Sergei Roldugin, was featured in the Panama Papers in a big way. It goes without saying that Roldugin had to have some diplomatic cover as he distributed his wealth around the world through shady law firms and Russian business interests. Did Putin know? It’s hard to imagine that he didn’t.

Chinese politicians have also made a killing by providing patronage to large businesses. There are 209 billionaire parliamentarians in the Chinese parliament compared to nil in the US Congress. China is still opaque when it comes to democracy and provides fertile ground for the intermingling between politicians and big business.

With the advent of Donald Trump, there is a billionaire businessman at the helm of US politics. Despite the bombastic comments that Trump continues to make and the insinuations that his businesses are benefitting, it is not so easy. The US political machine has a wide variety of checks and balances to ensure that their public servants do not abuse the system against the public. Other rich politicians in the US come from old money, corporate leadership or entrepreneurship. The difference is that of accountability.

On paper, Nawaz is a mix of old money, corporate leadership and entrepreneurship. The issue is his lack of transparency. When compared to other politicians, the discrepancy in his wealth isn’t that much to begin with. It is a combination of hubris and poor media savvy that make him appear as a corrupt cheater defrauding the nation. Imran is transparent and forthcoming about his assets, say what you may about his politics. Nawaz, on the other hand, expects people to take his assets at face value and not question their source.

Alternatively, he could try following the simplicity mantra as that of Narendra Modi. Modi has no major assets to speak of and whatever he has can be easily tracked. He dresses modestly, appeals to the masses, and appears to be comfortable with technology.

Media perception is half the battle, if the Sharif leadership can understand that, perhaps they wouldn’t worry so much about the political parties nipping at their every move or the army questioning their decisions.

Muhammad Yamin

Muhammad Yamin

The author is a management consultant based in Toronto. He has a keen interest in international business, social enterprise development and application technology trends. He tweets @myamin325 (twitter.com/myamin325)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Humza

    Nawaz Sharif and his family made their money long before politics we all know. His family were middle class and working class workers collecting metal on the streets of Lahore before they assumed any financial prominence. Pakistanis have a strong class affiliation which is why self made people are always held to higher scrutiny. No one cares about the fact that Imran Khan’s family had money and that he married an English heiress for more money who just “gifted” him property in Bani Gala. That’s why Imran Khan gets a pass on his London property, his ex wives, his overseas account and anything else but Nawaz Sharif since he comes from poor middle class roots is excoriated and declared a cheat. I don’t care about President Trump’s billions or former Canadian PM Paul Martin’s overseas riches or the money saved by French Presidents not to mention the billions allegedly held by the Turkish PM, or Chinese and Russian politicians. I do care about the fact that everyone in Pakistan should be held to same standard, whether it is a common citizen cheating on taxes, Imran Khan, Nawaz, Zardari or a general with land deals. The fact is that Pakistanis can see through this double standard. That’s why Pakistanis don’t care about unsubstantiated allegations against Nawaz when everyone else’s hands are even dirtier.Recommend

  • Tughral

    Behind every great wealth, there is a great crime.Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    Hmmm, all can go to Wikipedia and search for “List of Pakistanis by Net Worth”!
    Compare the net worth (in $US) to pittance in Pakistani taxes paid!Recommend

  • MJ

    The amount of Taxes that Nawaz pays should be the source for determining his wealth. They should add up all those taxes, reverse engineer the number or amount of money that would have resulted by those taxes, leave that amount and confiscate the rest of his assets and wealth.Recommend

  • Sane

    Pakistan is not left with much time to prosecute looters and plunderers. They have done terrorism with this country since years making economy and infrastructure weaker. If these looters and plunderers irrespective to political parties, including bureaucrats if prosecuted and their looted wealth comes in treasury, Pakistan will repay all its loan and shall be on the road of prosperity. But, they have made a system that all departments including bureaucrats support corruption and do all efforts to ‘prove’ each other ‘innocent’. This system needs to break.Recommend

  • Sane

    What was the wealth of Sharifs before assuming any public office or coming into politics. And what was the wealth of Imran Khan before coming into politics. He never had any public office. If Imran Khan has done any corruption then why not PML(N) probe into and get him booked? Just shouting and rhetoric do not work. Imran Khan has made Sharifs to be in courts for investigation. Why could not Sharifs do same, if there is any substance. Shouting, cursing does not pay.Recommend

  • No Doubt

    Speak for yourself Humza. Most Pakistanis DO care about allegations against Nawaz Sharif. Only the blind PML(N) supporters who think victory for their party is more important than the prosperity of Pakastan think Nawaz is “innocent.” In truth, Nawaz and his “Sharif” family are corrupt and the Panama Papers are proof positive of that. There is nothing unsubstantiated about this.Recommend

  • HUM

    Please Mr spin doctor hold your horses. Investigation in Nawaz Sharif’s assets have nothing to do with his initial class whatsoever. It has to do with the fact that a career politician who has been running businesses along side holding powerful public offices in 80s, 90s and now has amassed large amounts of money. Rest assured all his family has probably become millionaires and billionaires and no one should question him? We wouldn’t have known anything except for rumours if Panama leaks didn’t expose all. I have little love for Imran khan but he has never held a public office and at best he can be charged with is may be evading taxes. But the government will never complete his legal trial because a pending trial gives the talking points.
    So rest assured this has nothing to with his initial class. Whenever in pakistan someone gets some criticism, one always tries to side track the conversation. Be it use of Sindh card, religion etc or anything else. Now we have class as an excuse as well.
    Also it is great idea to judge all people under one standard however the absence of that doesn’t mean that we should never start an endeavour.Recommend

  • Parvez

    The people have always questioned this …..it was the Panama Papers that provided the opportunity to question it thoroughly and legally
    The issue in the Supreme Court today is ‘ the use of public office for personal gain ‘.
    Our Superior judiciary have to tread boldly but very carefully…..especially as its the sitting P.M in the dock…..and ensure that not only is the law followed but that justice is also done.Recommend

  • Patwari

    The Sharif Cabal, need to give YOU the highest civilian award in Pakland.
    YOU being a loyal supporter of Nawaz bin Salman bin AbdelAziz bin Sharif
    bin Panama, you turn purple while defending your Lord and Master, His
    Royal Imperial Highness, the Raja of Raiwind.
    The same Raja who had his minion threaten the Supreme Court justices,
    The same Raja who threaten the JIT investigating his ill gotten gains.
    The same Raja who cannot provide proof or a paper trail of how he got
    the money to buy 4 very expensive, posh residences in Mayfair, London.
    The same Raja who stormed the Supreme Court in a previous reincarnation.
    The same Raja who had a shifty, dubious Qatari prince vouchsafing his
    money trail. Not any bank, nor the State Bank of Pakland. Nope. Nothing..
    The same Raja whose prime witness, the Qatari prince, refuses to testify
    under oath in court.
    The same Raja whose father was a locksmith, but the Raja, himself, now,
    is a billionaire. A billionaire in dollars, $ 3.8 billion [USD] not rupees.
    So, why are we discussing Canadian PM Paul Martin’s riches, French president’s saving accounts, or Trump’s billions or Turkish strongman’s hidden wealth, or Russians, or Chinese. Nothing to do with Pakland.
    Pakland is a poor, third world country, being looted and plundered by the likes of Nawaz and his hoodlums. Nawaz got caught with his hand in the
    cash register. Need to set an example before they go after the others.
    Recommend

  • Humza

    Imran Khan can fume, rant and display the negativism for which he is known but that won’t change reality. The Sharifs starting their financial march upwards before they started in politics as did many upstarts. In fact the money they made in business allowed them to enter more privileged circles. Therein lies the bone of contention for many class conscious Pakistanis who never stop to put them down based on their simple antecedents. Clearly money begets money and influence begets more influence but no one can dispute that they were millionaires before they entered politics. Incidentally, I believe that people start a campaign to charge Imran Khan in the same way if his political future ever picks up.Recommend

  • Humza

    You really need to look at the sums of money being discussed in the Panama leaks which are in figure of several millions. If you think that this is proof of wrong doing, than you should prove it. By any standard, businessmen the world over have stashed money in overseas accounts through legal means. Nowhere in the world ( save the Icelandic island of 200, 000) did Panama have any impact on an elected leader – even former UK PM Cameron did not suffer despite being a beneficiary of an offshore account a la Panama. Only in Pakistan do anti social people carry on for years about alleged corruption over a few millions in the Panama Leaks which have not been shown to be linked to any wrong doing. Damaging the upward economy of Pakistan to further selfish political means and belittle the humble origins of the Sharifs makes no sense.Recommend

  • Humza

    We’ll see what most Pakistanis care about in next year’s elections and I am sure you will be in for a surprise. They care about economic development, stability, the nation’s future, decreasing violence, CPEC and much more. Take a look at what Western financial institutions say about Pakistan’s economy and future whether in New York or London. This will give you an idea about why Pakistanis will continue to support PML N. If the economy tanks, CPEC does not deliver and there is no improvement to show, then people will vote elsewhere. If you must know, I was a PTI supporter until Imran Khan’s antics of scaring away the Chinese President and trying to damage the country’s economy turned me off. I suspect there are a lot of people who are far more corrupt than Nawaz Sharif, Zardari, Imran Khan and the generals but the Pnama Papers have proved nothing and stashing a few million in legal overseas accounts like businessman all over the world have long done proves nothing. Ask yourself why none of the thousands of people named in Panama has yet to be charged in other countries when the funds they had were many times more what Pakistanis (not just Sharif family members) had. You may think you are judge and jury but Pakistanis are smarter than that.Recommend

  • Humza

    All I know is that Pakistan beat India in the cricket finals. That must bother you enough so I let it slide !Recommend

  • Patwari

    Guess you must be tongue tied. That happens when YOU are
    pushing a fake Sharif agenda and are at a loss for words. Have nothing to add, blank mind. YOU gotta churn/invent some facts now. Plenty out there.
    Typical for a glazed eyed defender of Lord Nawaz, Maharaja
    of Poonjab and his vizier, ever present Khadim e Ala Shahbaz.
    Not to worry, consult with Maryam Safdar oops! Ivanka Sharif,
    she will help you out with her staff of 120 people at PM House.
    Oh! forgot ! Sarfraz and Company trounced the daylights out
    Hindustan where your forefathers came from. That must really
    hurt deep down inside. Just bite the bullet and bare your teeth
    in a grin. Just one more fake for ya.
    Be good now.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    Nawaz, on the other hand, expects people to take his assets at face value and not question their source.

    Th Sharfs are parasites and ill never leave the power base hich assures their wealth and crony followers.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Rex Minor

    On paper, Nawaz is a mix of old money, corporate leadership and
    entrepreneurship. The issue is his lack of transparency. When compared
    to other politicians, the discrepancy in his wealth isn’t that much to
    begin with. It is a combination of hubris and poor media savvy that make
    him appear as a corrupt cheater defrauding the nation.

    The Sharif family is parasite and are not prepared to leave the power base which assures theirs and their cronies exstanc.

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Parvez MD Gondal

    The sad part is the entire country is engulfed in corruption, some at very high level like Nawaz Sharif and it goes down all the way down two police constables and ordinary people who will steal cheat and do whatever to make some extra money. This is a big problem because how many people are you going to deal with? But there has to be a good start which starts from higher level. If they can fix the corruption at top level then it would be easier to go down the pipe and fix the problem because top level control the corruption and promoted. The only people that can fix this problem as Army. I know for sure that army officers get paid real well and they got a great retirement but perhaps that deserve it to some extent. If the Supreme Court does not take action this time against Nawaz Sharif to take his assets away then probably there is no hope for any future in Pakistan which is very sad. I left that country 45 years ago to come to United States and it will not matter to me what happens but as a person born in Pakistan, I still care about the country and the people I can only pray that something will get better in that impish country where people are suffering only because of the greed of the politician and not because of lack of resources. Nobody is paying attention to the education of the people who are very young and eager to work. I would like to add that Nawaz Sharif is not the only crooked person in Pakistan. The previous prime minister Asif Ali zardari was even more corrupt just to name another one. He probably has looted more money than anybody in Pakistan. The best thing is to check everybody who has been in the politics to see where they got the money from and check it thoroughly in detail and you will find out a lot of the money has been looted and stolen from people of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Parvez MD Gondal

    Unfortunately you are wrong and don’t have your facts together and I’m sorry to say thatRecommend

  • No Doubt

    I don’t pretend I’m judge and jury but I also don’t turn a blind eye to ground realities. You should also not pretend to be judge and jury so don’t be too quick to exonerate Nawaz Sharif and his family. The highest court of Pakistan gave Nawaz Sharif and his family 3 chances and almost 9 months to provide the paper trail that could have cleared NS of tax evasion and money laundering charges. If they had any proof, the Sharif family would have submitted it a long time ago. But clearly, they were trying to hide their crimes. Still blind followers like you continue to support them. It’s shameful. We are a nation where some deluded people still support crooks and criminals and call them leaders. What a shame!

    My counter argument is still correct: Most Pakistani’s DO care about the accountability of NS. There is nothing unsubstantiated about this whole situation. If it was really unsubstantiated then why didn’t the lawyer of NS make any “substantial” arguments against the incriminating evidence regarding Avenfield apartments, Hudaibiya Paper Mills, Gulf Steel Mills, Capital FZE, Hill Metals Est, etc, etc? Lawyers of NS were given 3 opportunities to present a very, very simple thing: the paper trail for monetary transactions. If they had submitted these really, really simple documents then the case would have been over a long time ago. So please, don’t defend this corrupt Sharif family. Support whatever party you like but don’t defend corrupt leaders. It doesn’t matter if Pakistanis vote for PML-N again. But most Pakistanis want NS to be held accountable. That was clear before as well but now it’s crystal clear.

    Just think without your bias and you will realize that Nawaz Sharif is not PML-N. If Nawaz Sharif is gone, the party can easily become PML-A, PML-B, PML-C, whatever. Don’t defend corrupt leaders. Instead, support the party.Recommend