Apr 7 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan) – Spring has not shed its bloom, yet its roses have turned the colour of congealed blood. The latest massacre of our innocents took place this time at Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park Lahore on March 27. Over 75 children, their parents and other holiday-goers died. More than 340 were injured. It was a cruelly premature Easter resurrection for the Christians amongst them, and a hellish holiday for their Muslim co-victims.
Surviving Lahoris did not need to proclaim: `Je suis Lahore.` Over centuries, that slogan has been repeated with less grief in the adage `Lahore Lahore hai` (Lahore is Lahore). L ahore did not need to illuminate its Minar-i-Pakistan in mourning colours. That eastern Eiffel tower stood shrouded already in white, which on our national flag symbolises our terrified minorities.
Who, it could be asked, amongst those who lost their lives on that Easter Sunday, secured martyrdom the suicide bomber or his hapless victims? A contemporary Oxford historian Peter Frankopan, speaking recently in Lahore, provided an answer. He differentiated between a martyr sacrificing his/her own life in the name of faith, and those who commit suicide as an act of faith, to gain martyrdom, but murder unwary martyrs around them.
Did that suicide bomber in Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park believe that there are discrete heavens, as there are separate graveyards on earth, for Muslim and Christian martyrs? Surely, divinity does not contain discrimination in its DNA.
Whichever heaven those martyrs have gone to, it is certainly not in Panama. That heavenly haven was once thought secure and inviolate. Instead, e-leaks have disclosed reams of secret offshore transactions by luminaries such as Putin, the Bachchans, and the Sharifs. They all assumed that they would take their secrets (if not their money) with them to the grave. Instead, their financial fandango has been exposed. Their fiscal tomfoolery has become known to the public, and probably also to their spouses. The last thing these well-known names expected to see was their laundered money being washed again like dirty linen in public.
Money laundering is not a new phenomenon. Nations have been doing it for centuries.
Imperial Athens and Rome, Beijing and Moscow, London and Paris transferred regularly the portable riches of their colonies to swell their treasuries at home. Immoveable assets were kept abroad, in kind.
For example, in the 1880s, King Leopold II effectively owned the Congo Free State. That allowed him to exploit its enormous mineral resources and then divert the proceeds to his personal benefit. Victorian Britain became Great Britain riding astride the elephantine economies of its colonies. Even a minnowcountry like Holland expanded its lungs breathing in oxygen provided by the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia).
By contrast, the rulers of today prefer to denude their own nations and instead window-dress the economies of foreign ones. One single super-rich Russian oligarch, for example, can prop up London`s property market on his littlest finger, like Krishna did Mt Goverdhan. The post-Gorbachev perestroika of the 1980s made the island economy of Cyprus a sanctuary, to cool red-hot Russian money. Dubai`s property boom soared after Arab oil shifted from beneath the sand and transmuted into skyscrapers built above it.
Now that Panama has destroyed its reputation (who needs a tell-tale bank manager?) and damaged those of its trusting clients, one wonders how newer 21st-century Nadir Shahs will hide their troublesome wealth? Will they solidif y it into gold? Each would need a private Fort Knox to safeguard that. In property abroad? As Rockwood Estate once showed, there is always the danger of having to disclose beneficialownership. Through shell companies? Sea clams are more reticent than Panamanian lawyers. In overpriced jewellery? Not any longer. Even majesties dress like frugal republicans. The maladies of the overrich are peculiar to their own species. That is whythey invent their own antidotes.
Strange as it may seem but plausible in its perversity, perhaps the safest haven for our Muslim magicians is to make their money disappear into Israeli banks. Who would think of searching there? How could NABeven if it was so inclined retrieve assets that have been squirreled away in a country we do not even recognise? Only a myopic optimist or a naïve parliamentarian would believe that money that has been taken out of the country will ever find its way back. Black money has no such homing instincts. Similarly, there is little to be gained from moral finger-wagging and social tut-tutting. Neither will arouse the conscience of either democratically elected kings or of their courtiers. They donotcare.
As Nietzsche said: `He who cannot give anything away cannot feel anything either.
Money no longer matters to those slaughtered in Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park and in Army Public School, Peshawar. They paid admission fees with their lives. Pakistanis pay every day to admit their filthy rich into Panama.
The writer is an author.
This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan