Pakistan's Political Elites Are United As They Invest In Dubai Real Estate & Overlook The Plight of Labour

The conflicts in Pakistani politics affects all Pakistani whether they reside in the country or anywhere else around the world. With the ease of access to news in the political landscape via social media, the conflict between supporters of different political parties never ceases. The nature of this method of propagation of information makes it difficult for most people to distinguish between reality and propaganda.

Many friendships and families have had to suffer because of political differences. But we seem comfortably ignorant of just how much our leaders share with each other regardless of the political differences they harbor. It may come as a surprise to many that most of the leaders from our top political parties like PPP, PML-N, ANP and MQM not only have their properties in Dubai but they also have real estate portfolios in the same buildings. This indicates some parts of the nature of their friendships that don’t change with political stances.

For example, a member of PTI has long been running a real estate company in Dubai, which becomes a launching pad for other politicians to get discreet service. Moreover, ex-President Zardari and PML-N MNA Ehsanul Haq Bajwa have served as “references” to MQM leader Farooq Sattar, when the latter wanted to buy real estate from an agent serving the two veteran politicians, themselves opponents. Shahi Syed of ANP and Makhdoom Amin Faheem of PPP also owned apartments in Jumeirah Heights at the same time. Finally, the Dubai office of Bahria Town is located in one of the towers owned by PML-N’s senior leadership. The Dubai Real Estate Licensed Brokers who have access to more detailed real estate transactions see a relationship through these transactions.

The political elite from traditional political parties and the newly-framed-but-old faces of PTI are all linked. It is extremely easy to invest in and manage real estate in Dubai. One does not need to buy property in one’s own name. The investors have several options to choose from to make their transactions perfectly legal, yet untraceable. These include registering a property in the name of either a relative or friend or even a freehold company owned by the investor. Thus, the convenience of covering up the traces of investment and money trails is unmatched by any other location.

The proximity and mutual dealings between top political leaders give one a glimpse of a behind-the-scenes picture of the political games as they play out in Pakistan. Only a few miles from the top leadership’s real estate assets lie the thousands of Pakistanis in Dubai’s labour camps, under extremely unfavourable terms. Many haven’t seen their families for years. Governments come and go in Pakistan, but none of them ever show concern for the Pakistani labour force abroad, even when their top leaders inhabit neighborhoods not too distant from these labourers. There’s a saying in Punjabi that seems to fit here precisely: Chori da maal, dangaan de gaz.

In Dubai, real estate is looked after by Dubai Land Department and all real estate transactions are regulated by the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA). RERA is very well-equipped in handling transactions, which Pakistan’s traditional Patwar Khana system, or even the latest CDA transfer system, cannot compete with in terms of efficiency and transparency. On a side note, we may have many problems with India but we must give them due credit for enhancing their efficiency and transparency of real estate transactions by following in the footsteps of Dubai Land Department. India legalised Dubai’s RERA version to boost resident and non-resident Indians’ confidence in India’s largest real estate markets. Our political elite must also be fully familiar with RERA’s processes in Dubai, but one suspects they would never dare to draft a similar system in Pakistan for fear of hurting their own interests.

Perhaps the lesson that we can learn from this is that, just like our political elite, we can continue to have differences when it comes to our political ideologies and preferred parties; but maybe it’s about time for us to see that this shouldn’t dictate our relationships with each other – like it doesn’t for our leaders.