Panama disclosures are a first and it’s not a leak

Published: April 25, 2016
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PHOTO: REUTERS

PHOTO: REUTERS

PHOTO: REUTERS The writer is a retired brigadier and a former president of the Islamabad Policy Research Institute

To begin with, let us be clear that the Panama disclosures are not a genuine ‘leak’. Beginning with ‘scandals’ like Watergate, Iran-gate and so on, the world was introduced to such scandalous discoveries made by investigative journalists, which could impeach presidents of the US. In more recent times, we were introduced to ‘leaks’; wherein conscientious individuals serving an organisation, or government, discovered that these organisations, in coordination with governments, were indulging in illegal activities. Unable to stop these acts, they blew the whistle on their own organisation or government, by making their activities public.

Commission to investigate Panama Paper leaks expected within 48 hours: Nisar

The Panama disclosures are neither of the above. This time, Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian corporation, has been hacked and therefore a cyber-crime has been committed; a fact to which no one seems to advertise. In fact, apart from Mossack Fonseca, no one seems interested in even acknowledging that a punishable crime has been committed. On the Panama Papers, according to Wikipedia, “An anonymous source using the pseudonym ‘John Doe’ made the documents available in batches to German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, beginning in early 2015. Given the scale of the leak, the newspaper enlisted the help of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) … The first news reports based on the papers, and 149 of the documents themselves, were published on April 3, 2016. The ICIJ plans to publish a full list of companies involved in early May 2016.”

Despite the fact that the disclosures begin by admitting that nothing contained in these disclosures indicates that a crime has been committed and merely points out the possibility that a crime might have been committed, the disclosures have proved embarrassing to many political leaders. Iceland’s prime minister resigned, as did Spain’s minister of industry, who had initially lied. David Cameron too, made a fool of himself by initially denying but quickly recovered by disclosing all to the public. In Pakistan, the ruling political party is still reeling from the shock. China included, there are also other countries whose political leaderships are among those named. However, it is unlikely that Chinese leaders will find their feathers ruffled by this news. The Middle East survived the Arab Spring, but only just. These disclosures could again fan the anti-kingdom/princedom anger in that region.

It seems, therefore that, apart from Europe, Pakistani political leaders and the Middle Eastern kings and princes might be the most embarrassed. The first question I ask here is why? Why this disclosure and is the timing of any relevance? Seeking answers, I came across “Mossack Fonseca: inside the firm that helps the super-rich hide their money” in The Guardian. If this article is authentic, it all started in 2013 with a threat by Cameron, the British prime minister, to sweep away decades of off-shore “tax-secrecy”. Cameron, whose father holds an account there?

Panama Papers: SCBA wants national task force to probe leaks

A couple of Swiss lawyers, disturbed by Cameron’s threat, were seeking safer safe havens and discovered Mossack Fonseca. Interestingly, within days of the disclosures being made public, a US-based respected scholar of Russia suggested that the Kremlin might be responsible. Russia becomes suspect because even though numerous friends of Vladimir Putin have benefited, disclosures pertaining to Russia appear to be legal; and, therefore, unembarrassed. But the accusation fails to vector in why the Kremlin should do so.

Neither Barack Obama nor his acolytes or associates are among those embarrassed. So, who is Putin targeting and why? It does not seem likely that Putin would seek to embarrass the leadership of any country listed so far. Putin soon responded by accusing the US of being behind the disclosures. Once again, the question arises, if the accusation is to be given credence, who is Washington targeting and why?

Again, I find myself at a loss. If my conjectures about the US having seized to target Pakistan in hybrid wars is correct, I fail to understand why. US relations with the Saudis have deteriorated in the recent past. The US-Iran rapprochement began the slide and it’s still sliding. A bill is in Congress seeking to nominate Saudi Arabia as responsible for 9/11. Saudis have warned the US that if the bill is passed, they will sell their holdings of US bonds and securities worth $750 billion. Obama is desperately trying to block the bill. In earlier articles, I have pointed out the desperation of the Saudis which has made them coerce Pakistan into joining their 34-nation Islamic Alliance. But apart from Syria, where the US confronts Russia, why should the US be interested in destabilising the Middle East?

Panama Leaks: Probe should start from Sharif family, says Aitzaz Ahsan

There is only one more possibility. Even as the understanding between the US and Pakistan improves, I am conscious of the fact that there is a strong anti-Pakistan lobby in the US. Initially powered by the Israel-India nexus, it has acquired a following of believers who are convinced that Pakistan must be cut to size. Pakistan has often been accused of having ‘rogue’ elements in its security establishment, an accusation that has, on occasions, not been totally groundless but, I am firmly of the view that it is the US that has empowered its CIA to an extent that creates many times the rogue elements that 10 Pakistans might house. Could it be one of these making a last ditch effort to further destabilise Pakistan at a juncture when it seems that it might, just might, have begun to find its feet?

Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th,  2016.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • Shahryar
    Apr 25, 2016 - 10:07AM

    Mr. Qadir,

    Your piece above is a marvellous piece of writing if nothing else. However with the global politics turning out the way you have mentioned (and I dont disagree with you on this), does it change the fact that Pakistani PM’s family might have utilized funds which were earned illegtimately to set-up these off-shore instituions? It certainly does not.

    It is good to know what you have to tell us. However lets not redeem the focus on real issue. Pakistani politics is corrupt to its core today.

    We must find a way to reduce corruption. I choose my words very careful when I say reduce. As you may not be able to eliminate corruption ever.

    Yours Sincerely,
    Shahryar

    PS. We must stop the blame game. Accusing US & other countries only produces whiners. Recommend

  • Apr 25, 2016 - 11:38AM

    Agreed with sharyar, we dont need external enemies, if pakistan has corrupt rulers who rely on offshore companies to hide their income, they will always be compromisedRecommend

  • Harmony
    Apr 25, 2016 - 12:52PM

    “conscientious individuals serving an organisation, or government, discovered that these organisations, in coordination with governments, were indulging in illegal activities.”
    I would say the leaks are the work of a whistle blower, who has done a favour to the society by exposing the possible wrongdoing of the rich Recommend

  • Trollslayer
    Apr 25, 2016 - 2:00PM

    The day Pakistan rids itself of paranoid conspiracy theorists and the culture of corruption, that day will be a new dawn for Pakistan. Recommend

  • Hafeez
    Apr 25, 2016 - 3:06PM

    I am a bit confused by your last para. How can you just say that? I mean the Panama leaks names hundreds of influential and rich people around the world, just with the objective to destabilize Pakistan? If we take your conspiracy theory along then you can also say that someone wanted Pakistan to get rid of corrupt officials, politicians, army brass and judiciary. Now will that stabilize or destabilize?Recommend

  • Feroz
    Apr 25, 2016 - 3:37PM

    Assumption and presumption rather than solid logic forms the basis for this article. Recommend

  • ishrat salim
    Apr 25, 2016 - 3:38PM

    Another conspiracy theory instead of accepting the fact that our leaders are corrupt to the core & have no morality to say the least. Had this bean a conspiracy, Icelandic PM, Ukraine President, Spanish minister would not have resigned & PM Cameron would not have accepted his late father as having one offshore account through which he benefitted UK Pnds 30,000.00 on which he paid taxes, details submitted in the Parliament. That is how person with moral values acts. Recommend

  • Rahul
    Apr 25, 2016 - 4:58PM

    Our monthly dose of conspiracy theories by Brig. Shaukat Qadir!Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Apr 25, 2016 - 6:47PM

    To begin with, let us be clear that the Panama disclosures are not a genuine ‘leak’.

    The whistle blower is in the hiding fearing for life whereas the journalists nvesigating the Panama phenomina are under police protection changing their residence on a dily basis. What the author of the artice with his military background does not realise that this leak has greatly shaken the world economies and not all the information has been made public, the next batch could provide further details of the accounts.

    Rex Minor Recommend

  • kamran choudhry
    Apr 25, 2016 - 7:36PM

    Qadir Sahib is upset that our leaders got caught. It does not matter the perceived roles of other countries in the Panama leak. The fact is our past and present leaders (khaki and plain cloth) cheated us tax money that would have been used for roti, kapada aur makhan. I wonder how our leaders managed to own luxurious villas both at home and in foreign lands and send their children to study abroad with comparatively moderate salaries. The sad part of this Panama saga is our leaders have the power to change the tax codes to encourage investments at home earning tax revenue rather than hiding money in foreign accounts to avoid paying tax at home. It is not a question of legality or other foreign leaders do it but right vs. wrong. Qadir Sahib, stop blaming others but let’s face the realities. Recommend

  • Imtiaz
    Apr 25, 2016 - 10:08PM

    Not impressed by the conjectures. Pakistan is not finding its feet thats precisely the problem. Nawaz has not done nothing to achieve that. Spending on motorways and metros is not the solution to our economic vows but quite the reverse. How are these projects going to help a country which can not afford to import fuel for its power plants will benefit by having motorways that double the journeys both by distance and in time. Not only that building these ghosts on borrowed money too. We need projects that create long term jobs. We need cheap down to earth thinking with the masses in our minds. Motorways are for the privileged BMWs and Merc drivers who spend either taxpayers and on stolen wealth.

    Its about time we question those running our beloved country in our name but doing the bidding for their foreign masters.Recommend

  • Parvez
    Apr 26, 2016 - 12:23AM

    Second attempt at a comment : That was paranoid ……… it sounded like something one of our B rated TV channel talk show host would say. Even if it were a conspiracy……does it detract from the fact that off shore accounts are held by the person our Constitution says must be Sadiq and Amin ( honest and truthful )…..its not a legal issue, its a moral one. Recommend

  • Avtar
    Apr 26, 2016 - 4:27AM

    Fail to see the conclusion in the last para. Why would US target Pakistan – when Pakistanis themselves are good at doing that. I thought Sharif’s are proud to have joined the league of rich and famous around the world – including people linked to Chinese leadership.

    If Sharif’s above board than what is the point of going the route of Panama! Did Mr. Modi or Obama do it. Pakistan has to get rid of its feudal leadership!Recommend

  • oats
    Apr 26, 2016 - 9:20PM

    @Imtiaz: Perhaps you don’t know that Pakistan has been seen as a stable and developing Muslim democracy in the Western media the last few years. You may disagree but media here in the West is positive on Pakistan, especially since it’s one of the few stable Muslim democracies in the world. Improved security, better infrastructure including CPEC and even the appearance of democracy has Pakistan seen its image improve which scares others. Even Western financial institutions had upgraded Pakistan’s rankings. Maybe this is why Panama came out now to destabilize things there.Recommend

  • Imtiaz
    Apr 26, 2016 - 10:35PM

    @oats:
    Thanks for your reply. But I also happen to live the West and read Broadsheet Newspapers of note too. In today’s Times for instance there is a news about Gawadar port and CPEC but in between the lines there is message of insecurity and terrorism as well. As for Ratings by Moody’s etc they rate Saudi Arabia as well which has over $70 billions invested in US alone. Its not about rating its about putting your money your mouth is. Rating is helping the plunderer to borrow more and plunder more thus get Pakistan shackled even more..Recommend

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