While all political guns are targeting President Asif Ali Zardari for his Swiss millions, the latest declarations of assets by members of parliament have opened a spectrum of new targets, with many new and unexpected millionaires in the run and some having added unexplained crores to their existing wealth in just a few months.

The shocking addition to the list of new upper class Crorepatis comes in shape of the MQM, a party which always claims to belong to the middle class and its leaders and workers always remain open to accountability, not so from the politicians or the media, but more from its own leadership in London.

It is absolutely possible that many MQM MNAs were rich when they joined the party but still they, more than others, have to reconcile the addition of millions to their wealth in just one year by explaining at some forum how they earned the extra cash, whether they have paid the due taxes on their income and whether they have kept their leadership in London properly informed. And whether Altaf Hussain also approves of such filthy growth to riches of his selected top faces in their offices is another question.

The PPP leadership has also added millions upon millions in just one year and they also have to explain it either to the tax authorities, the FBR, the NAB or even the Public Accounts Committee, if these organisations have to disprove that they are not just impotent forums.

For instance, Prime Minister Gilani claims that he bought a house by selling his property but his wife, under a plea bargain, paid off Rs 570 million loan by giving Rs 45 million. Where did that huge chunk come from is not explained.

The few politicians who have almost doubled or quadrupled their declared assets in just one year have to do a lot of explaining. These include PPP Minister Aijaz Jakhrani (Rs 15.6m to Rs 61m), Syed Khurshid Shah (Rs 24.6m to Rs 51.6m), Manzoor Wattoo (Rs 74m to Rs 156m) and Hazar Khan Bijarani (Rs 34.4 to Rs 40.7m).

Assets have grown by leaps and bounds in some other cases. For instance, Farahnaz Ispahani has added US$466,000 (a cool Rs 4 crores) to her income, some of which was used to pay off mortgage ($300,000) or invested in stocks ($60,000); MQM’s Dr AQ Khanzada has shown an increase from Rs 6.2 million in 2008 to Rs 17.7 million in 2009 or more than a crore; Khushbakht Shujaat owned property worth Rs 6 million last year which has grown to Rs 18 million in a year while her loan has come down from Rs 14 million to Rs 9 million, or a net gain of Rs 17 million; MNA Faryal Talpur’s income jumped by Rs 23 million while sister Azra also added Rs 11 million.
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Likewise, Babar Ghauri of MQM has a declared worth of just under Rs 200 million. We all know how he started in the KPT before joining the MQM but will he or his party explain whether he was such a rich man before he joinedthe party and how he has amassed this much wealth and property and whether he has paid the due taxes. His declarations do not mention any private business, so how is his wealth snowballing.

In comparison, a known businessman of the Sharif family, Hamza Shahbaz Sharif, has declared his net assets as Rs 211 million and he gives all the liabilities and loans that he owes plus his assets. Whether Hamza Sharif can justify his assets before the tax and accountability authorities is another matter but he is ahead of Babar Ghauri by a few millions only.

Another curious admission has come from Water and Power Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, who is under fire for the rental power plants. He says he has to receive Rs 8 million from his brother, why and for what has not been explained. Astonishingly, the famous Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the JUI, known better for his petrol and diesel links, only has a worth of Rs 3.5 million.

All these random examples prove that the declarations of assets are a total fraud and a farce unless it is backed up by credible and serious efforts to counter check the claims and pin down the culprits.

For instance, these assets are not supposed to reflect the ill-gotten wealth by anyone. But if people of modest means, at least a few years ago, are now confident enough to claim that they own millions, it is but obvious that they have not declared their full worth. So if someone has Rs 20 crore to declare, how many more would he or she be hiding in local, Benami (fake names) or foreign accounts.

The process of declaring assets is absolutely essential, no matter how deceptive the claims are. This process needs to be extended to all sections of the society; the judges, generals, journalists (I am ready to file at any time), lawyers, businessmen, Ulema, bureaucrats and even non-electedpoliticians.

But more important is the need to set up a national structure where these claims are scrutinised. Either the tax authorities could do the job or the proposed independent and autonomous NAB should automatically take this responsibility. If these institutions are not trustworthy, let the Supreme Court name one judge to carry out this annual exercise.

Declaring assets and then forgetting them is like playing a big joke with the people. What is the point if no one asks our elected representatives how they got themillions or how they doubled, tripled or even in one case quadrupled them in just 12 months, given all the doom and gloom around our economy and business.

And why not ask all others, especially those who are in the public eye and who lecture others on morality, principles and good governance on a daily basis. Let people come clean before they ask others to be accountable. (Content Sourced From: The News Intl)