Republished – Original Publish Date: July 29th 2017
“I am here to turn a new page in India-Pakistan relations,” Nawaz Sharif told the Hindustan Times ahead of his globally watched handshake with Narendra Modi, the first foreign leader to do so after the Indian leader was sworn-in in a highly anticipated ceremony at the British-built Presidential Palace.
The two later held a bilateral meeting at the Presidential office.
“We (India and Pakistan) have a historic moment to open a new chapter. The new government under Mr Modi has a strong mandate and I look forward to picking up the relationship from where I and Vajpayee left it in 1999,” he further said.
But to many, that was not the agenda in reality, and for practical reasons now clear to most Pakistanis after the ousting of Nawaz Sharif, and the highly anticipated NAB reference drive against the Sharif Dynasty.
But what really went on behind the iron curtain?
In 1998, a book came out on the corporate interests of Nawaz Sharif’s extended family, “Who Owns Pakistan”, it was written by Shahid-ur-Rehman, a respected journalist who has been covering finance and the economy for nearly three decades. Remember that after Nawaz Sharif became prime minister in the 1990s, Pakistan went through a wave of privatization and tweaked a number of policies dressed up as economic liberalization? Rehman’s contention is that most of the moves were made merely to strengthen various industrial houses, including the Sharif family’s. The Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz government had marked 115 units for privatization, of which 67 were privatized by 1997.
Ittefaq Group holdings belonged to the Sharif family, which gained the most from these moves. The Ittefaq Foundries, a relatively modest cast-iron parts business, was established in 1939 by Mian Mohammad Sharif and his six brothers, a family of Kashmiri immigrants who settled in Punjab in the late 19th century. After migrating from Amritsar at the time of Partition, the family settled in Lahore where Nawaz Sharif started the iron business, initially on a limited scale and later grew it, even as aristocratic Pakistanis sniffed about the rise and rise of the fortunes of the “lohars”. In 1972, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government nationalized several private-sector businesses, including the Sharif family’s. They then moved their business to West Asia but while Ittefaq’s fortunes plummeted (in 1998, according to Rehman, 119 offspring of the founders of the Ittefaq Group were fighting court cases on inheritance and assets division. Mian Mohammad Sharif died in 2004). Nawaz Sharif and his brother, Shahbaz Sharif, quietly worked on their business and grew it. The steel business continued, but the family also acquired property abroad (in the UK, Saudi Arabia and the UAE) and in Pakistan as well as agriculture-related concerns like poultry feed and other assets.
It was at this time when the Sharif and Jindal families began their early interaction, mostly in UAE and UK, and found ways to integrate their business interests. Lately, frequent visits by Jindal family to Islamabad were aimed to push to obtain the “right of way” from Pakistan government to transport iron ore by road from Hajigak iron ore deposits in the Bamian, Afghanistan, to Karachi. From the Pakistani port, the ore was aimed to be shipped to western and southern parts of India.
As per 2011 agreement between India and Pakistan, Sajjan’s JSW and Naveen’s Jindal Steel and Power Limited, who are part of a consortium led by India state-owned SAIL, along with Monnet Ispat and AFISCO (Afghan Iron), would construct a 1-million-tonne-a-year steel mill and develop the 1.8-billion-tonne iron-ore reserves at Hajigak.
Rings a bell?
Jindals have always held a neutral political outlook but that changed rapidly with the advent of BJP and India’s overall aggression towards minorities while keeping the vote bank alive. This was smartly achieved through seconding powerful business tycoons to their political rescue in times of chaos.
Relations between Jindal and Nawaz Sharif came out in public domain after Jindal was part of a three-member Indian delegation which met with Sharif in the hill station of Murree, just outside Islamabad with Indian PM Narendra Modi in 2015 December, when Modi was on his way back from Kabul. The real question is, if the Sharifs and Jindals have known business ties going back 30 years, where does that leave Pakistan? Sharif family members have held powerful public offices including the highest chair thrice during this time. After Panama Papers investigation, the opened Pandora box clearly indicates where Sharifs put their interests; and that is always before Pakistan’s.
More than US $ 10 Billion has been transferred to India during Sharif’s last unsuccessful rule on Pakistan.
Sajjan Jindal’s secret meeting with Nawaz Sharif earlier this year was no coincidence either. He had a special message for Sharif from his friend and confederate Narendra Modi.
Oh he is a friend alright! Was this the reason for him to violate Pakistan’s visa rules and meet our then Premier in Murree instead of Lahore and Islamabad as per the law? Was this the reason Nawaz Sharif became the first Pakistani PM to return from India without meeting Huriyat leaders in Kashmir? The Pakistani nation has seen enough and it’s no secret that the Sharifs have placed their business interests above the law, integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan.
The time won’t be any more ripe than the era we are living in. The nation must stand behind it’s law enforcement system and be able to distinguish between right and wrong. If our nation continues to be used by politicians as a means to make money, we’ll soon have a national security disaster that would implode us from within.