Myth of a 'legendary banker'
(This article was sent to The News as a rejoinder but was not run by the
said newspaper. We are publishing it on our website. )
Her 'Islamic' nature is comprised if 'Republic of Pakistan' embraces
Bhagat Singh, Mirza Ibrahim, Bacha Khan or Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Even the
founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and his Shia faith no longer
complies with puritanical needs of big beards busy shaping Pakistan's
idealogical outlook. Hence, the heroes manufactured by
Ideology-of-Pakistan laboratories are at best flawed, at worst
scoundrels. The unravelling of A Q Khan myth few years back, to save
some Khaki skins, illustrates the crisis of hero worship facing the
confessional ideologues guarding Ideology-of-Pakistan. The op-ed pages
of the mainstream dailies, dominated by outright reactionaries, serve as
the myth mills spinning off heroes for national worship.
'A legendary banker' , an op-ed piece by Sirajuddin Aziz, was run by
daily The News (August 5) in an attempt to re-invent a rather forgotten
hero: Agha Hassan Abedi, the ''highly acclaimed pioneer of the then
strikingly notable Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI)'' .
Besides paying glowing tribute to the banking legend, Sirajuddin Aziz
innocently (dis)informs his readers: ''The bank was shut down… in fact
forcibly closed by a college of regulators. The bank was highly liquid,
but not comfortably profitable. It didn't suffer from any non-treatable
financial malaise unknown to the global banking industry, but that it
was shut down was more a consequence of the interplay of diabolical
political and regulatory suspicion''.
Alas! matters were not that simple. When the BCCI ('Bank of Crooks and
Criminals International', according to the late Benazir Bhutto) was shut
down, Pakistan's Media Mujahideen presented Abedi as a victim of US
imperialism. This was perhaps true but only half-true. Before
victimising the acclaimed pioneer of strikingly notable bank, the USA
abused all norms of banking to fund Afghan 'Jihad', through BCCI
Shaheed. The BCCI was a financial al-Qaida with the only difference
that demobilising al-Qaida did not prove as simple as shutting BCCI
Nevertheless, both al-Qaida and BCCI were US-approved, Saudi-sponsored
projects to fight infidel Soviets in Afghanistan.
The BCCI was owned by Arab capital: 20 % was controlled by Khalid bin
Mahfouz while another leading shareholder was Kamal Adham. Once head of
the Saudi intelligence, Adham's business partner was Raymond Close,
former CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia.
It was through ''highly liquid'' BCCI channels, the Kingdom of Saudi
Arab was able to fund Contras in Nicaragua and Unita in Angola. At
times, even Noreiga in Panama became a fan of our banking legend and
made use of our strikingly notable bank.
Many US institutions including National Security Council and CIA
utilised the BCCI accounts. Our puritan banking legend even brokered
arms deals for Israel. The BCCI was also pretty well connected in the
phoney underworld of illegal arms. The infamous $17 million
no-more-secret arms sale to Iran by Uncle Sam, through Israel, would not
have been possible without BCCI branch at Monte Carlo.
While '' more conventional departments of BCCI. handled such services as
laundering money for the drug trade and helping dictators loot their
national treasuries'', there was a ''black network'' according to a Time
report which would function as a global intelligence operation and a
Mafia-like enforcement squad. According to Time, operating primarily out
of the bank's offices in Karachi, Pakistan, the 1,500-employee black
network used sophisticated spy equipment and techniques, along with
bribery, extortion, kidnapping and even, by some accounts, murder. The
black network -- so named by its own members -- stopped at almost
nothing to further the bank's aims the world over, Time claimed ( Time
29 July 1991).
Besides this excellent track record, the fact that BCCI had an
overwhelming Pakistani management and was driven by Gulf dollars, the
then CIA boss William Casey thought BCCI had the perfect pedigree for
Afghan 'Jihad'. After all, laundering drug money and purchase as well as
shipment of illegal arms was pivotal in sustaining Afghan 'Jihad'. The
BCCI was brokering covert arms deals, shipping the illegal arms using
its own fleet, insured them with its own insurance agency and provided
security en route. By the mid-1080s, the BCCI had gained control of the
Karachi port and handled all customs operations for CIA shipments to
Afghanistan. To dispel any doubts, former CIA director Richard Kerr
admitted that the CIA had secret BCCI accounts in Pakistan in order to
distribute funds to khakis and Afghan 'Mujahideen'. So much for the
BCCI-myth and banking legend!