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. )

Farooq Sulehria

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 down.

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!





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