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Oct 29 - Nov 04, 2001

The terrorist attack of September 11 in New York and Washington besides carrying the tragic stories of human killings, bloodshed and destruction has opened some interesting chapters also which may prove a windfall for the third world economies including Pakistan.

According to an estimate, the size of the drained out money from Pakistan has risen to the level of $100 billion over a period of time. A real follow up to get back this money to Pakistan would certainly change the shape of the scathed economy of this poor country.

Pakistan has been a victim of the corrupt politicians who plundered the country due to their access to the power corridors. The corrupt bureaucrats, also the part of the ruling class, did not lag behind and misused their powers for personal gains. The corrupt at the top also made a sunshine for the drug traffickers and the gun-runners. A large number of tax evaders from the private sector also grabbed their share in connivance with the corrupt government machinery. It is a national tragedy that all of them deprived the national economy mercilessly and deposited ill-gotten money in huge sums to the foreign banks responsible to provide a refuge to the ill-gotten money.

Though the flight of ill-gotten money has been an open secret since everybody knows about the flight of national wealth out of the country. However the rules of the international banking providing a haven to such money were not in favour of the affected countries, while the developed nations were also displaying an indifferent attitude over this issue.

Now the circumstances have forced the developed nations to change their views regarding the banking facility provided to the corrupt depositors.

After the incident of September 11, the United States and the European countries that never lent an ear to listen to the grievances of the third world countries are now making laws against such money, which they believe is being used for the terrorist activities.

The efforts being made in the US and the European countries against illegal money include the making of stern laws against laundering of illegal money drained out from various third world countries into the banking channels of the developed nations.

The European Parliament is also dealing with a strong legislation to prevent money laundering with very strong support from European Ministers. The countries, which, will not cooperate in this campaign against illegal money, will have to face financial isolation the US and EU have decided categorically.

The changed scenario has risen the hopes of the third world countries including Pakistan and the huge deposits of the illegal money deposited with financial institutions of various countries is likely to be reimbursed to the relevant countries.

The corrupt Pakistanis managed to take huge amount of ill-gotten money out of the country to the safer havens in Europe and America and other countries like Switzerland, Luxembourg, Cayman Islands etc providing shelter to such clients.

The looted money was not only deposited in the foreign banks providing shelter to such funds but quite a large amount of this ill- gotten money has been invested in various businesses, real estate properties and other running business abroad.

Under the new international banking laws all anonymous bank accounts would be done away with. The laws being evolved for an effective check on illegal flight of money and money laundering will certainly help Pakistan to bring the money back to the country.

Dr. Mahbubul Haq, former finance minister had once indicated that the size of the taken away money was in the region of $20 billion during his days. While a prominent industrialist had claimed the size of that ill-gotten money abroad to the tune of $30 billion.

Dr. Ishrat Hussain, the governor of State Bank of Pakistan in a published interview has said that the term of drug money is obsolete now. The major concern is now about huge amount of tax evasion and other illegal means, which may be $50 billion or $100 billion. These estimates he said could be guesswork, as nothing can be said about the exact size of the ill-gotten money deposited abroad.

The national economy has a depth to pay taxes estimated to the tune of Rs600 billion a year, however the Central Board of Revenue (CBR) could collect only Rs400 billion last year which means taxes worth Rs200 billion are evaded every year. In order to eradicate the nuisance of money laundering through illegal resources, the government of Pakistan has also decided to institute a task force having representation from finance division, SBP, FBI and representatives from NAB to deal with this issue.

Now is the time for Pakistan to seek support of US and other Western countries for recovery of huge money drained out of the country.

It is the right time to strike, as the iron is hot, an effective follow up could produce positive results. Get the looted money back; the poor of this country really need that money.