Silvo Berlusconi the most controversial Prime Minister (PM) of Italy had heart surgery in Milan on June 14, 2016, earlier in May the embattled PM of Pakistan went through a similar procedure in London. As both leaders are businessmen cum politicians it prompted me to write this article. Like Nawaz, Berlusconi is one of the richest men in Italy with net worth of USD 6.2 billion while Sharif Group is close to USD 3.0 billion. Berlusconi was elected three times in 1994, 2001 and 2008 while Nawaz managed to prevail in 1990, 1997 and 2013 general elections.

Berlusconi was convicted in 2012 for tax fraud and in 2013 for having paid sex with an underage woman. Similarly there are several cases pending against Nawaz in various courts. In the famous Asghar Khan Case the entire leadership of IJI was convicted by the Supreme Court. However implementation of the verdict is still awaited. Currently the PM is under scrutiny in the Panama leaks scandal. In 1999 after the Musharraf Martial law, Abba Ji (Mian Sharif) very skillfully saved his son’s skin by agreeing to go into exile to Saudi Arabia for a period of ten years.

Berlusconi was born in Milan the commercial and cultural capital of Italy in a Middle class family. He was driven by success at all costs. Abba Ji had a similar approach to life. The Sharif family lived in Gawalmandi, Lahore very close to the food street and Bansawala Bazar. Abba Ji formed the Ittefaq Group and benefitted from Ayub Khan’s blind industrialisation combined with perks of plots and permits.

Ittefaq Group consisted of siblings of Mian Sharif. In the sixties they managed to build seven mansions in the industrial area of Model Town next to the ICI Dulux Paint factory on Ferozepur Road, Lahore. How they managed to build residential accommodation in an industrial zone is another story. In the mid to late sixties I had the chance to have dinner at the Sharif’s residence. The head of Pakistan Standards Institutions (PSI) now PSQCA was visiting from Karachi who was our home guest so the invitation was extended to my father as well. From the standards of the sixties it was a big house, well furnished but the living was very modest. There was no domestic help. Food was laid and served by Shahbaz Sharif himself. After eating, my father requested for tooth picks, instead Shahbaz was creative to bring cotton thread (not dental floss). Most dishes were from the Gawalmandi area and were not home cooked. Abba Ji remarked that in the kitchen we only have female help, our ladies are directly involved.

Then in the late sixties and early seventies I remember the beat up scooter of Nawaz, which he used to transport his wrestling partner to the ‘Akhara’ (wrestling ring) of Bhola brothers on Mohni Road. This was a daily routine, fruit shop of Malik Sahib in GCU to the Akhara, no academic pursuits like classes or exams. It was mainly wrestling, he used the Punjabi word ‘Ghulna’. Later on he married into the same wrestlers’ family. Government College of that era was a classy place where students came on chauffer driver cars together with assistants to serve them snacks and drinks. Then there were ordinary folks who came on foot or bicycles and even beat up scooters/motorcycles.

Sharif Group emerged from the Ittefaq Group and consisted of Mian Sharif and his children. The wealth of this group grew manifold after their entry into politics. It is not a story of rags to riches but certainly it is a tale of abnormal growth mainly due to misuse of executive authority by totally ignoring conflict of interest. The Sharifs are not alone in this bandwagon of vested interests. Since 1985 political power has been used to generate wealth at the cost of the nation and PML-N leads the pack in this group.

As a political party PML-N is driven by self, not national interests, that is why making money at all costs is justified. I asked my friends in the PML-N to name five members whose wealth had not increased after entering politics; they could name only two.

Plato wrote 2500 years ago that business and politics can not co-exist as one is focused on personal gains while the other seeks societal benefits. Both Nawaz and Berlusconi have a new heart now it is time to develop one. The Italian is older (79) while Nawaz is younger (67). They have played their innings disastrously in the past; it is time to reflect. Berlusconi has been convicted but has avoided prison due to his age. To be fair to Nawaz Sharif, I think had Mian Sharif himself entered politics he would have been one of the richest men of the world coming from the poorest country. He would have left Berlusconi far behind. From Gawalmandi to Jatti Umra the Sharif Empire continues to grow. My grandfather was also a businessman and so was my father, I have their tax returns with me it is time for the Sharifs to publish theirs from 1936 onwards. Only 1% people pay income tax in this part of the world, were they part of this elite group on August 14, 1947?