Lavish Eid splurge sparks anger as Afghans count hidden cost

The amount spent or wasted on new clothes in an unknown number of Afghan households may reach hundreds of millions of dollars every Eid. (Reuters)
Updated 18 August 2018
0

Lavish Eid splurge sparks anger as Afghans count hidden cost

KABUL: Roadside stalls in Kabul are overflowing with colorful dry and fresh fruit, including imported varieties from as far away as Brazil and Australia, and shops selling sweets are bustling with customers.
Both rich and poor in the capital are rushing to buy treats to serve guests during the coming Eid — a celebration that is also an opportunity by Afghanistan’s wealthy to put on an extravagant show.
Families try to outspend each other to ensure they have the widest variety of food and fruits on the table.
As a result, the average expense for even a poor family can reach several hundred dollars, while more prosperous households routinely spend thousands of dollars on the three days of Eid celebrations in addition to throwing lavish parties.
Those who are destitute borrow from relatives and friends to have something on the table. For this reason Eid is described by some as the death of poor families in Afghanistan because those who have no cash to follow the tradition borrow money they cannot afford to repay.
The amount spent or wasted on new clothes in an unknown number of Afghan households may reach hundreds of millions of dollars every Eid.
But behind the outward show of prosperity lies a different story — one that has sparked debate across Afghanistan, an impoverished nation racked by four decades of conflict and reliant on Western aid even for its annual budget.
Such lavish and unnecessary spending is forbidden in Islam, clerics argue. Some have begun preaching against Eid excesses, while the number of poor and jobless people is increasing in the country and violence routinely claims scores of lives.
“Islam is totally against spending huge amounts of money for only a few days in the name of Eid,” Mawlavi Fateh Gul, a preacher at a Kabul mosque, told Arab News.
“Islam wants fair distribution of wealth and resources, and those who spend so much during Eid are responsible before society and Allah. This needs to be stopped,” he said.
Money spent on Eid could help build factories to create jobs, clinics and educational centers, another preacher said during a TV debate this week.
“People need to know that Eid means to forget vengeance and hostility. They should embrace each other and forget the enmity — that is the philosophy of Eid in Islam,” Ismail Seddiqi, a university lecturer, said.
“You can invite people to your house and prepare a normal dish, but it does not mean that you have to borrow or spend countless amounts of money.”
Almost without fail, prices rise in Afghanistan every Eid but hardly come down when the festival ends — another blow for impoverished families.
The price of cattle will skyrocket in Afghanistan as animals considered clean in Islam are slaughtered for the festivities.
“The drought has already reduced the number of herds this year and their purchase for Eid will mean further decline. That means prices will increase when Eid is over,” Rahmat Gul, a Kabul butcher, told Arab News.


Double trouble for Pakistan’s deposed PM Nawaz Sharif

These will be four fresh cases against the Sharif family. (AFP)
Updated 18 November 2018
0

Double trouble for Pakistan’s deposed PM Nawaz Sharif

  • The government announced it was referring four more corruption cases against the Sharif family to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for investigation

ISLAMABAD: Legal challenges for one of Pakistan’s most influential political families, comprising ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his political heir and daughter Maryam Nawaz, and younger brother Shehbaz Sharif — former chief minister of Pakistan’s powerful Punjab province — seem to be brewing with new allegations of corruption and misuse of authority surfacing against them.

The government announced it was referring four more corruption cases against the Sharif family to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for investigation.

“They misused the taxpayers’ money and authority while in power,” Shahzad Akbar, special assistant to the prime minister on accountability, alleged during a press briefing on Saturday.

Fresh cases

These will be four fresh cases against the Sharif family and the first to be referred to the NAB and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) by the incumbent government.

Detailing the misuse of public resources by Shehbaz Sharif and Maryam, special assistant to the PM on media Iftikhar Durrani alleged that they both enjoyed unauthorized use of ex-premier Nawaz Sharif’s aircraft, besides squandering public funds on the erection of a security fence around their palatial residence in Lahore, and misuse of authority while in office.

Government officials also revealed during the press briefing that a new high-end property portfolio in Frederick Close, central London, worth around £2.3 million ($2.95 million) recently came to the fore, reportedly owned by Sharif’s late wife. 

The documents about its ownership and rental income between 2012 and 2016 had been available, “but were buried in the files,” said Akbar. 

Senator Mushahidullah Khan, veteran leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, however, said that the cases against the Sharif family were “politically motivated” and the prosecutors had failed to present concrete evidence of corruption against Sharif in the accountability court.

“The PTI (Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf) government thinks it can politically damage the Sharif family by leveling false allegations of corruption and misuse of authority against them, but this is not going to work,” he told Arab News.

Pakistan’s law required Nawaz Sharif, being a member of the National Assembly and holder of the country’s top public office, to declare his dependents’ assets, including his wife’s, in the official documents, which he did not.

 The undeclared central London property held in the name of Begum Kulsoom Nawaz will now be probed by both the NAB and the FBR.

 “We are handing over all documentary evidence to these institutions for investigation,” said Durrani. 

 The corruption cases that the Sharif family has faced until now were either filed during their own tenure in power in 2013-18, or during the previous governments of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and General Pervez Musharraf.

Shehbaz Sharif, former chief minister of Punjab Province, is currently in the NAB’s custody, facing at least two cases of corruption pertaining to his tenure in the office.

 In July this year, Nawaz Sharif, Maryam and son-in-law Muhammad Safdar were handed jail terms of 11 years, six years and one year respectively, in a corruption reference pertaining to their undeclared offshore companies and properties in London.

 The trio is currently on bail while the verdict in two more corruption references against Nawaz Sharif is expected to be announced in the next couple of weeks.

Political analysts believe that the Sharif family will still have a long way to go to prove their innocence in the courts and return to the political arena. 

“Any imminent return of the Sharif family in national politics does not seem possible in the given situation,” Professor Tahir Malik, academic and analyst, told Arab News.

Sharif has yet to defend his position in two corruption references currently undergoing hearing against him involving Al-Azizia Steel Mill in Saudi Arabia and monetary transactions made through Flagship Investment Limited, both of which he denies any connection to.