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London property fetish

19 8 134

IT was sometime in 1997 that a visitor from Pakistan requested if we could drive him to Rockwood Estate, a sprawling mansion in the beautiful Surrey countryside, that had made headlines in the United Kingdom as well as at home.

If you are wondering what is being referred to here, this might help. The 350-acre (141 hectares) property is better known in Pakistan as Surrey Palace and was purchased in 1995. The matter came into public knowledge when Ms Bhutto’s government was dismissed towards the end of 1996.

All through his long incarceration, the spouse of the then former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, Asif Ali Zardari, denied he owned the property either directly or through an offshore company. It was not until 2004 that the ownership was accepted, and the property was sold for a sum said to be Ј4 million.

Rich Pakistanis seem to have a fetish for London properties even at a time when many old-time Londoners have to move out.

I remember our drive on a warm and sunny summer afternoon about an hour away from our rented two-bedroom flat in a not-so-leafy part of south London. We stopped at the imposing gate of the property and started to take pictures.

A guard came out and told us to go away. I showed him my BBC ID (I worked in London then) and said there was no way he could stop us taking pictures from the main road as we were not trespassing.

Although visibly unhappy, he moved back towards the gate and stood watching us as we took some........

© Dawn