Waj S. Khan's Real Estate Rumours

Aug 27th, 2010 | By | Category: Blogs

I love email. It makes communication fast and easy. No more standing around waiting for the post office to open if you only have a computer and an Internet account. Unfortunately, it’s the perfect way to spread all sorts of rumours and smears. “Hey, I was just forwarding an email!” That roughly translates to, “I want to gossip, but I don’t want to be responsible for whether or not its true!” In fact, it is such a problem that there are entire websites dedicated to debunking these “urban legends” that get circulated in emails. A good friend of mine often tells me that, “if it is in an email someone forwarded you, chances are it is not true!”

I also really like Wajahat S Khan. I think that, among the TV personalities out there, he is a pretty reliable guy. Of course, everybody makes mistakes. I think Waj made a pretty big mistake today with a post on his blog today about a “confidential email” claiming that Zardari bought a million pounds flat in London. Why is Waj spreading rumours and political propaganda?

This “confidential email” is simply another smear against Asif Zardari, as is clear from its closing lines:

This is a small reminder to the sick people in Pakistan, who were against the throwing of the shoe to a “Respected President of Pakistan abroad”!!!

They are purblind to the realities of the damage this man called Zardari has done to the nation.

But what damage would Zardari have done by buying a flat in London, if that is even the case? And why is Waj publishing a rumour that even declares that it doesn’t know the facts? The email itself says that “The final bid was made by mobile phone from inside a bullet proof car”. Is Asif Zardari the only man to own a mobile and a bullet proof car? What kind of proof is this?

Frankly, it’s quite disappointing that Waj saw fit to promote this sort of obvious political propaganda on his blog. As a respected journalist, he lends such obvious political smears an air of authority that they do not deserve. Why did he not exercise his investigative skills and do more research rather than simply repeating an obvious political rumour?

But let’s get to the meat of this email rumour, shall we? Actually, let’s see if there’s really any meat there, or if it’s just a mess of mashed pulses mixed with a handful of masala meant to fool the unsuspecting.

First, is it really newsworthy if Asif Zardari buys a flat in London? Look at other leaders. Pervez Musharraf owns a flat worth many millions of pounds. In fact, many Pakistani politicians own London flats.

The meeting took place at his apartment on the ninth floor of the Castleacre, Hyde Park Crescent.

The cost of the accommodation certainly runs into millions of pounds. Musharraf would not talk much about how he mobilised funds to purchase this because the money was ‘pooled’ by his own lecturing resources, his US-based son, Bilal, and the assistance from a friend that was not named.

It is the same locale, a few meters from the picturesque Hyde Park, where fabulously rich Pakistani politicians like Nawaz Sharif, still have or had apartments. As I reached the high security multi-storey plaza twenty minutes before the appointed time, I was greeted by a well-built Pakistani, wearing the traditional Safari suit of the same colour, and was told that Sahib has just finished his physical exercise, spanning one and a half hours.

Actually, the Sharif family are quite the wealthy landowners in London, with several properties worth millions of pounds each.

Of these, the Sharif family residence, three flats at 17 Avenfield House, 118 Park Lane alone are worth around 12 million pounds (Rs1.6 billion). According to documents available, Flagship Investments Limited, one of the companies run by the Sharif family in London, owns property worth around 10 million pounds in Central London. This does not include the value of the company’s offices. Hasan Nawaz Sharif, the son of PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, is listed as the director of company on official documents. According to its website www.flagshipinvestments.co.uk, the company refurbishes and redevelops luxury residential properties in top end Central London locations. Sought after properties in Mayfair, Knightsbridge, Kensington and Bayswater are their primary focus. The company’s address listed on the website is Stanhope House, Stanhope Place, Marble Arch – one of the city’s priciest neighbourhoods. However, according to documents, the company moved to Tower Bridge House on St Katherine’s Way in November 2007 – a much more upscale property located near the bank of the River Thames.

The company’s website lists several properties, which include Flat 8, Burwood Place – London W2, worth 700,000 pounds (Rs96.6 million); Flat 9, Burwood Place – London W2, worth 900,000 pounds (Rs124.2 million); 10 Duke Mansions, Duke Street, London W1, worth 1,495,000 pounds (Rs206.31 million); Flat 12a, 118 Park Lane, Mayfair – London SW1, worth 475,000 pounds (Rs65.55 million); Flat 2, 36 Green Street – London W1, worth 800,000 pounds (Rs110.4 million); and, 117 Gloucester Place, London W1 (value not listed). The website also features a piece of real estate near the Buckingham Palace, which is valued at around 4,450,000 pounds. In addition, one of the properties listed on the website – 841 Neil Gwynne House, Slone Avenue – is said to be the residence of one Waqar Ahmed, listed on the documents as the Company Secretary of Flagship Investments Limited.

MQM’s Altaf Hussain owns multiple million pound properties in the UK. Evan PTI’s Imran Khan’s massive property which includes a private cricket ground for his sons was paid for with the proceeds from a London real estate deal.

Like most world leaders, Asif Zardari is wealthy. This should not be any surprise. And while it is a popular for his political opponents to spread rumours about his wealth, it is also a fact that Asif Zardari was a very successful businessman long before he ever met Benazir Bhutto and got involved with politics.

While there is no evidence that Asif Zardari is the buyer of this flat, the buyer, however anonymous right now, will come to be known. All properties in the UK have to be registered, so even if it is bought in the name of a company, the owner will be easily traceable. Why not wait until the registration is complete to say who the buyer is? Is it because this is now political opportunity to undermine the credibility of the President? That’s fine for political operatives, but not for serious journalists. I expect better, Waj.

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