- A fiasco costing the country $28.7 million
The single-minded desire of the Musharraf regime to find some– any– evidence against the Sharifs and the Zardaris has led the government to shell out Rs 28.7 million to a company the Musharraf government had engaged in 2000 to find assets abroad created by those who had embezzled money. The company, Broadsheet LLC, created specifically for this purpose, made no recovery but because of a clause in its contract, had a claim for a share in recoveries by NAB, including recoveries made in Pakistan. It filed a claim after its contract was terminated in 2003, and won an award of $22 million in 2018. The government appeal in 2019 failed, and the recovery efforts culminated in the seizing of $28.7 million from the bank accounts of the Pakistani High Commission in the UK. Earlier, Broadsheet had tried to take other assets of Pakistan, such as the money paid to the Pakistan cricket team, and the Avenfield apartments seized from the Sharifs.
The decision was announced by PM’s Interior and Accountability Adviser Shahzad Akbar, who was, through the Assets Recovery Unit he headed, supposed to recover from abroad the vast amounts the PTI holds were skimmed off government funds and parked abroad. Instead of making any such recovery, after more than two years of efforts, Mr Akbar has managed a payment of $28.7 million, of taxpayer’s funds, by a country which is strapped for foreign exchange.
The pity of it all is that there is no trace of any attempt at negotiation to have the damages reduced. The high hand with which the government seems to have conducted proceedings has backfired badly. The government is now reduced to searching for those responsible, though it should be clear that its own desire for targeting Mian Nawaz Sharif was at fault. Though $28.7 million is not a sum to sneeze at, it pales in comparison with the $5.97 billion awarded in December 2020 against it in favour of the Tethyan Copper Company in the Riko Diq case, which is over 200 times greater. That particular award will be disastrous for the country as a whole, unless it is negotiated. Aside from the need to give responsibility in the Broadsheet case, the government needs to prepare a strategy for the Reko Diq case.