A Pakistani lawmaker who allegedly wore a very expensive watch during a session of the National Assembly has sparked an outcry over the huge wealth gap in a country reeling with massive poverty.
It's not clear which member of the Pakistani government was wearing the watch in question, but it was Shazia Marri who brought it to the public's attention. According to Pakistani media, Marri, an assembly member affiliated with the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) – which just lost a national election to new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan’s Muslim League (PML-N) – criticized the new government for its failure to present a program to alleviate poverty in the national budget, saying the new budget favors the wealthy (particularly industrialists). “What else one can expect from a party whose leaders are fond of wearing such expensive personal items,” Marri said on Monday.
Marri was apparently referring to a watch that she valued at $4.6 million, worn by an unidentified PML-N member. The statement shocked the parliament and prompted Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq to ask Marri if she meant 4.6 million U.S. dollars or Pakistani rupees. She confirmed she meant U.S. currency. (Converted into Pakistani currency, the watch would cost a cool 455 million rupees.)
“Then the owner of the watch must have got it adequately insured,” the speaker quipped. But Marri refused to identify who was wearing such a costly accoutrement, even after the speaker asked her.
ZeeNews of India reported that, according to Twitter accounts, it was none other than Nawaz Sharif who was wearing the watch, a Louis Moinet “Meteoris” that does indeed fetch a price of $4.6 million.
According to watchmaker Louis Moinet, the Meteoris watch includes pieces of actual meteorites, as well as pieces of the moon and asteroids.
If Sharif is actually the owner of the Meteoris, he can certainly afford it.
According to Daily Pakistan, Sharif’s family owns assets estimated at a minimum of $1.4 billion -- apparently generated by their interests in steelmaking and paper mill businesses as well as land in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the Middle East -- making them the fourth-wealthiest clan in the country. Sharif also owns a bewildering array of luxurious properties in Pakistan as well as stakes in companies from Lahore to London.
Sharif, who spent several years in the early 2000s in exile in Saudi Arabia, reportedly enjoys contacts with high-level government and business figures in the kingdom.
Very few people in Pakistan could possibly afford to purchase an indulgence like the Meteoris. Pakistan, one of the poorest nations on earth, has an average annual per capita income of about $1,257. At that rate, the average Pakistani wage-earner would have to work almost 3,700 years to be able to purchase a Meteoris.
However, Meteoris is merely the world’s fifth-most-expensive timekeeper; according to Rediff.com, the absolute priciest watch in the world is the Chopard 201-Carat, which is listed at $25 million.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.