Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bhutto – the Polish connection

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto was the top news item on Polish TV this evening, as it probably was in many countries. Pakistan will get more unstable still as a result. But she was always a controversial figure – mainly due to allegations of corruption. One of her alleged scams involved Polish Ursus tractors...

In 2004, a Swiss court looking into alleged corruption deals by the Bhutto family during the 1990s concluded:

"Mrs Benazir Bhutto, the then prime minister, her husband, Mr Asif Ali Zardari, her mother, Nusrat Bhutto, are suspected of having collected in the course of 90s corruption commissions on several government contracts concluded with foreign companies dealing with arms, agriculture material and merchandise inspection," the court orders said.

[…] The State vs Benazir Bhutto and nine others…suspected that the accused persons in connivance with each other indulged in acts of corruption and corrupt practices by purchasing 5,900 Russian and Polish made URSUS Tractors at a cost Rs150,000 each under the Awami Tractor Scheme (ATS) in violation of law, rules and regulations of the Agriculture Development Bank of Pakistan, presently known as the Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL).

Those kind of deals sound familiar to Poles. This summer the BBC reported that the evidence given by the Polish government contained details of bank transfers, and copies of fax communications between the Polish tractor company and middle-men helping to secure the contract.

Benazir had launched the Awami Tractor Scheme for the welfare of poor farmers in Pakistan and allegedly received 7.15 percent commission in the purchase of tractors through their front men – Jens Schlegelmilch and Didier Plantin of Dargal SA – who received about 1.969 million dollars for supplying the Ursus tractors.

The Bhutto family had their international assets and interests in the UK, US, Belgium, Switzerland, Pakistan and elsewhere - conservative estimate 1.4 billion dollars - frozen in 1997.

The charges by the Pakistan government were dropped to enable her return – the families’ assets were also released, plus interest. With values of property growing massively over the years, the family fortune was spilling over.

The Bhutto family – her father was hung for conspiracy to murder charges in 1979 – has always claimed that the charges were trumpted up and political in nature.

The Bhutto family regards itself as socialist, so the corruption scandals hang over the dynasty and how people will remember her and her father.

I don’t think she was assassinated for anything to do with Polish tractors, however. She was a secular politician in a country where religious extremism is growing – particularly since the region was further destabilized after the invasion of Afghanistan.

She was also a woman. She got away with being a female prime minister twice – but you can’t get away with that anymore, as secular, if not sometimes democratic - governments in Muslim countries tumble – or are overthrown by outside intervention.

The future for Pakistan looks pretty grim. It was only a few months ago the Polish Consulate General in Kurachi was telling an audience:

In Poland we highly appreciate Pakistan's continuity of its economic growth, fast economic development, the structural and comprehensive reforms in various sectors. Pakistan at present stands among the top 4 Asian countries. All economic indicators point to the fact that Pakistan will sustain acceleration in the growth of 6-8% over the next 5 to 10 years. As such investors should look to Pakistan as a potential hub of economic activity in the region.

Pakistan is about to become ‘a hub’, but not for the economy.


Anonymous said...

What happened to Benazir Bhutto should have happened to Simon Mol the moment he arrived to Poland.
12 lives would be saved.

Anonymous said...

Beatroot: you need to slightly more careful about where you quote from. The first red flag should be the "5,900 Russian and Polish made URSUS Tractors", Ursus tractors have never been made in Russia.

A bit of digging reveals that the ADB purchase was actually for a total of 8,000 Ursus tractors and some 12,000 Belarus tractors.

The Ursus tractor was the model 2812, a reliable but rough tractor which was precisely what the western market didn't want at the time and which Ursus couldn't even give away to western farmers. Checking shows that in 1997 Rs150,000 was USD 3,405. Sounds terribly cheap for an Ursus tractor, especially given that nearly new (i.e. 85 hours' use) examples of that type (not to be confused with the new Ursus 2812) currently sell in the US for USD 10,000. I suppose that the must be lights, pollution filters, shipping, safety features, etc which might not be needed in Pakistan and shipping costs (at least a few hundred dollars), retailer's margin (about 10%) and import duty would need to be reflected in the US price, but a 65% discount?! has a quote from a spokesman from Bhutto's party (PPP) saying that the real market price of the tractors was Rs250,000 each. That's USD 5,675. Looks like he might have been telling the truth: somehow a 40% discount was negotiated. Let's see, is paying a 7.5% commission to somebody who gets you a 40% a bad idea?

Other interesting facts appear to include that Poland had offered to buy back the tractors at the same price after three years. And most interesting of all, the charges came after Bhutto's government had been overthrown and the government which replaced her sold the tractors to farmers at Rs450,000 each.

Anonymous said...


It didn’t need to make economic sense it was effectively a government-to-government transaction.

During the 90’s Poland was a haven for every scam and scam artist imaginable besides just Bhutto ripping off her countries taxpayers. The middlemen and their Polish contacts likely had a hand in this. There may have been more than one national treasurery being looted here.

Ms Bhutto was not unique as there is a mind set with third world elites educated in the west, they feel they have a licence to pillage their economies.

Getting rid of all state own businesses is the solution.

I’ll giver her this, she certainly was versed with the concept of getting rich quickly.

Anonymous said...

There is a news story that isn’t being addressed in the media; did she have a death wish? To have been moving around Pakistan with no security of her own and a target painted on her ass seems crazy. From the very beginning of her return she made a number of statements that were going to guarantee the extremists would be lining up to try and kill her. Then she conducted herself with complete disregard to security procedures that a person under the threat of assassination would be expected to follow.

The Pakistan government told her that they were aware of a number of plots to assassinate her.

This was a highly educated, intelligent and experience politician. Knowing that the current regime was not a fan of hers wouldn’t you arrange for professional and private security that answers to you directly you? A number of international firms offer this kind of service.

It would be interesting to see someone from her inner circle speaks publicly about this.

Anonymous said...

jannowak57 said...

It didn’t need to make economic sense it was effectively a government-to-government transaction.

During the 90’s Poland was a haven for every scam and scam artist imaginable besides just Bhutto ripping off her countries taxpayers.

I'm still not seeing how it was a rip off for them to buy tractors worth Rs250,000 a piece for Rs150,000 a piece. And even if it was, what the following government did (i.e. selling the tractors for three times more than had been paid for them) was far worse!

beatroot said...

It’s refreshing after all that Mol crap to get back to some interesting chatter.

I know Harry has written car reviews for a publication in Warsaw. Wouldn’t it be an idea to write a review of an Ursus tractor? Could be good.

And they have a cool web site!

I bet you the Indians will buy them out just to piss off the Pakistanis.

Frank Partisan said...

I wonder what the PPP will do next?

Her popularity has nothing to do with her sex, as much as the popularity of her father.

Tariq Ali on radio today, said that her husband and possibly her, had something to do with her brother's assasination.

Anonymous said...

She was never an angel when she was in Power and I fear that Pakistan will just carry on in the same old murderous fashion for the forseeable future.How can they not do a proper post-mortem on the body before the burial?!The whole thing stinks!

Will things be any better without the dictator and with the oppostion in power? I think not!

sonia said...

She got away with being a female prime minister twice – but you can’t get away with that anymore, as secular, if not sometimes democratic - governments in Muslim countries tumble – or are overthrown by outside intervention.

I disagree. Unlike most Muslim countries, both Bangladesh and Pakistan had female prime minister - not because of religion, but because of their shared Indian cultural traditions, where it is normal for wives and daughters of famous statesmen to succeed them.

This has nothing to do with Islam or "outside interventions". Benazir Bhutto simply followed in the footsteps of Indira Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina.

Incidentally, Philippines, Argentine and even Alabama also have such "Indian" political traditions...

beatroot said...

That's fair enough, Sonia. But the reason why those 'Indian' traditions are no longer acceptable these days is because of the rise of Islamism.

Anonymous said...

What about the 'Indian' traditions of Turkey and Indonesia which have also had female heads of government? Or, what about Hillary Clinton who 'would have no shot at becoming president if she didn't just happen to be married to one already.?' Maybe these 'Indian' values have already seeped into Christian majority states. Although, the condition of women under these same 'Indian' values isn't anything to write home about (in a positive light, at least) as described in this clip (starting around 2:20).

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