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The vulgar living style of Pakistan’s nouveau riche

Compare the vulgar display of wealth and ostentatious lifestyles of the Sharif and Bhutto- Zardari dynasties with how Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah lived, and you will be surprised. Jinnah, during his legal practice, was the highest-paid lawyer in British India. He was the owner of palatial residences, all built from his earnings, in New Delhi and Mumbai.

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According to the media reports, Shehbaz Sharif, Pakistan’s recently installed PM, ordered an expenditure of Rs. 3.5 crores and 2 crores respectively on the renovation of the swimming pool and washrooms in the PM House. Earlier, Shehbaz Sharif, despite lamenting the poor state of Pakistan’s economy, had led large official delegations to Turkey and the UAE, all paid out from the taxpayer’s money. Miftah Ismael, the Finance Minister, spent Rs. 5 million on the renovation of his official residence. Maryam Aurangzeb, during her last tenure in Nawaz Sharif’s government, had refused to occupy the house allotted to her in the Red Zone because she wanted a better swimming pool.

This is not only a display of the Sharifs’ and their carpetbaggers’ ostentatious lifestyle. Nawaz Sharif, when he was the PM, often spent his weekends at his retreat in Murree. While holidaying there at the taxpayer’s expense, the food for the entire prime ministerial horde was routinely helicoptered to Murree from Nawaz Sharif’s favorite food outlets in Lahore. When not spending his weekends in Murree, Sharif would fly to Lahore to play cricket at the Lahore Gymkhana Club. Not to be left behind, President Mamoon once asked his helicopter pilot to give him a joy ride in Islamabad- poor Mamoon! He could not dream above free joy rides.

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Understanding the matter better

Benazir Bhutto, when PM, also used the official helicopter during her many pleasure visits to Murree and elsewhere. She once ordered a fancy bed flown to PM House from Paris. Talking of Zardari, he quite often absented himself from the President’s House and landed unannounced in Dubai. His whereabouts during these visits were known only to his few close confidants. In most of his secret jaunts to Dubai, Zardari would first go to Lahore and stay at the Governor’s House. From Lahore, unbeknownst to everyone except Salman Taseer, the Punjab governor, Zardari flew in his private plane to Dubai.

Zardari prided in calling himself the “Businessman President”. Both Zardari and the Sharifs exploited their official positions to promote their family businesses. Having very humble family backgrounds, the Zardaris and Sharifs behave like royals. The Gucci’s and Armani’s flaunted by their women, their London palaces and French chateaus, spread over hundreds of acres, are a far cry from the mean streets of Jati Umra East (in the Indian Punjab) and the slums of Nawab Shah, Zardari’s hometown.

Compare the vulgar display of wealth and ostentatious lifestyles of the Sharif and Bhutto- Zardari dynasties with how Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah lived, and you will be surprised. Jinnah, during his legal practice, was the highest-paid lawyer in British India. He was the owner of palatial residences, all built from his earnings, in New Delhi and Mumbai. After independence, Jinnah purchased the famous Flagstaff House in Karachi, though he never lived there. Flagstaff House is a museum now. Jinnah bequeathed all his wealth to charities and national institutions like Islamia College, Peshawar, and Aligarh University.

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He left nothing for his family

After Jinnah’s death, Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah was allotted the Mohatta Palace where she lived till her death. Mohatta Palace is also a museum now. A few years back, a descendant of Jinnah, his grandson by relationship, was earning his livelihood selling kites. One night, during the month of Ramadan, the young man went out of his house to buy sehri for his family.  He was gunned down by unknown terrorists. Another relative of Jinnah didn’t have a place of his own to live. He was allotted a house by the then PM Yusuf Raza Gillani.

Pakistan, right from day one was torn by multiple problems

The biggest problem it had to grapple with was how to rehabilitate millions of refugees pouring in from India when the state exchequer was empty. But Jinnah, the founder of this poor and shattered country, was a proud and self-reliant person. An excerpt from the book written by his physician sheds light on Jinnah’s psyche:

Talking of cigarettes, he liked to smoke Craven A’s, but they were then unobtainable at Quetta. I preferred State Express 555 but happened to have some tins of his favorite brand which I smoked when I could not get those of my choice, and these I offered to send him. To prevent excessive smoking I decided on second thought, however, to send him only one tin, to begin with, and when I met him again the same evening, asked if it was fresh. He thought it was all right, but the next morning he complained of its staleness and enquired if I could get him some fresh ones from Lahore. I undertook to procure them but felt surprised how the cigarettes had suddenly lost their freshness. Soon, however, it occurred to me that the meticulously proper Quaid-e-Azam wished to avoid being under an obligation to me. This was characteristic of him: he never accepted anything from anybody without paying for it.

I remember when I returned from Lahore on the 6th of August, Begum Muhammad Akbar Khan sent some grapes for him from Quetta with me. He liked them very much and asked where I had bought them. I told him they had been sent by Begum Muhammad Akbar Khan who could send some daily if he cared for them, but, while appreciating the Begum’s kindness, he politely declined to accept any more.

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I can recall another incident of the same kind. One day I went to a private garden with General Muhammad Akbar Khan (Garrison Commander Quetta, sic). There I was shown some green roses not known to me. The General plucked some and asked me to present them to the Quaid-e-Azam and tell him, that if he liked these and other flowers, he could arrange to have them sent daily. He accepted the roses thankfully but said that he did not wish to give the General the trouble of sending him anymore (Bakhsh, 1949).

 

Saleem Akhtar Malik is a Pakistan Army veteran who writes on national and international affairs, defense, military history, and military technology. He Tweets at @saleemakhtar53. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.