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Hakim Ali Zardari: Another perspective



Hakim Ali Zardari is quite a prominent part of both Pakistan’s political and business history.

This note did not even require much digging and was easily available information.

Aside from vast agricultural land holdings in Nawabshah and literally acres of property in Karachi, Hakim was a prominent politician. This is decades before Asif’s marriage to the late Benazir Bhutto.

Hakim and Mujeeb Ur Rahman supported Fatima Jinnah against Ayub in 1964. At the height of General Zia ul Haq’s dictatorship, Hakim who was affiliated with both NAP and PPP, supported Nusrat Bhutto and Benazir to lead the MRD Movement.

When Shia Muslims were attacked by Zia-backed terrorists during the 1980s, Hakim Ali Zardari was present at the residences of late scholar and speaker, Rashid Turabi. Witnesses noticed him and were touched that he, a denominational Sunni Muslim, showed solidarity with the under-attack Shia Muslims.

Hakim’s vast properties were inherited by Asif Zardari making him far more richer than Bhuttos. Asif Zardari drove a Mercedes in the early 1980s.

Both father and son were reputed to be generous with gifts. Hakim had very good relations with the old business families of Pakistan especially the Zoroastrian communities. One account is of him regularly tipping the staff at even his friends houses with big denomination notes in the 1960s.

Of course, much of this is ignored once Benazir’s marriage was arranged with Asif.

After that engagement, the Zardari’s became the 2nd biggest villains (among the Pakistani elite) after ZAB and his family. They went from owning a cinema house to being smeared as “ticket scalpers”.

ZAB’s “crimes” of breaking up powerful monopolies and oligopolies through nationalization was unforgivable to Pakistan’s ruling elites and the power civil-military bureaucracy. They have never forgiven that and will never forgive his son-in-law Asif Zardari either. Asif’s biggest crime was to support his wife Benazir Bhutto.

A rich and connected businessman, like Asif Zardari, taking the backseat to his true leader of a wife Benazir, is unfathomable to Pakistan’s venal urban bourgeoisie.

The Mumtaz-Ghinwa-Fatima Bhutto lobby is acceptable to Pakistan’s establishment because they rejected and trashed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, his legacy and politics.

It was always disappointing for many of us to see the one sided and selective diatribe against the Zardaris – little to none of which was based on any verifiable fact. In fact most of it was contradictory to ground realities.

Like the popular urban myth in Lahore and Karachi elite drawing rooms that the Zardaris were ticket scalpers and sold black market tickets. This is so absurd and is laughable. Why would a cinema owner scalp tickets related to his cinema. The reality was that Hakim was generous in giving away free tickets. And the vicious, petty and jealous chattering classes could not handle this.

There is valid criticism for both Hakim and Asif but much of what one hears is poorly manufactured propaganda that does not stand up to basic scrutiny.

Somewhere between the late 1980s/1990s, a prominent business family scion had approached Hakim Ali Zardari to seek Asif’s intervention in a crucial business venture. That lucrative business venture was being threatened with a hostile takeover by Nawaz Sharif. Asif saved the day for that business family. His reward was being abused with another manufactured slander which subverted his efforts into another pathetic and unsubstantiated gossip of commission.

Basically, if Zardari had not married Benazir and the Zardaris had not left NAP and joined PPP, their perception today would be 180 degrees different.

The image below is of Hakim Ali Zardari with Waheed Murad, Pakistan best leading man and actor. Hakim was friendly towards Pakistan’s early cinema scene and his son, Asif Ali Zardari (Former president and current MNA) even played a role as a child actor.