Economic progress requires sustained good governance. Unfortunately bad governance is symbolized in Pakistan by a combination of corruption, nepotism and greed among those privileged to be our leaders. When the rich become richer and the poor get poorer, corruption being perceived the major cause by the masses is a sure recipe for inspiring violent social upheaval a la the “Arab Spring”. More importantly it gave space to the bad and the ugly to spread their own perverted ideology on the community.
Politicians clamoring for straightjacketing NAB (National Accounting Bureau) is a strong indicator that despite desperate attempts to derail their “mission statement” since 2002 by selective accountability by both military and political leaders for their own selfish reasons, accountability is finally back on track. NAB’s recent initiatives have been equitably fair and targetted evenly. Though the Administration’s “spin doctors” would have us believe otherwise, the PM would hardly have had a go at NAB on the complaints of businessmen unless accountability was targetting someone close to home. “Hit man” (literally and figuratively) Rana Sanaullah followed Mian Sahib the next day. The day after that CM Shahbaz Sharif delivered a more direct “threat” to NAB to “behave”. For good measure Pervez Rasheed chipped in about “clipping” NAB’s fingernails a day later.
Out of the blue, one of the dire affectees of NAB’s awakening, Zardari regretted, albeit with a hint of sarcasm, Gen Raheel Sharif refusing an extension as COAS 10 months before his retirement. The raison d’etre for Zardari’s sudden statement was in its later part about the Army and Rangers targetting of corruption (and murder) to go with their anti-terrorism drive. With Dr Asim, Uzair Baloch etc in custody and Zulfikar Mirza imminently so, one can understand why Zardari is so desperate. Adding to the mystery, PPP’s spin doctors Kaira and Sherry Rahman were later trotted out to backtrack on the Zardari statement, not for the first time (remember his “Hoshiar” bravado before he left hurriedly for the safety of Dubai).
While our soldiers continue rendering the supreme sacrifice fighting insurgency and terrorism, the blatantly corrupt make tons of money, purchase palatial houses and ranches, etc with “official connivance”. The Armed Forces in-built system for combating corruption is only gets selectively used because of a misplaced sense of loyalty to the individual rather than to the institution and the country. Fortunately for Pakistan we have a different breed of soldiers today in the military hierarchy, the best one has seen in five decades. With a “green signal” from GHQ, NAB has arrested a number of former DHA senior personnel and their businessman partners-in-crime, Ashfaq Kayani’s brother Kamran is still absconding. My great respect for Brig Shaukat Qadir notwithstanding, does he really believe Amjad Kayani’s fairy tale that Gen Kayani (who has remained DG ISI) did not know what his brothers were up to? Many friends and well-wishers informed Kayani that his brothers were giving him a bad name. Did he listen to them or “blacklist the messengers” bringing such views?
Feudals cannot tolerate stakeholders governing at the grassroots level, they will never allow “Local Bodies,” which facilitates credible governance, to function. Joined by the “untouchables” (businessmen, industrialists, bureaucrats, servicemen, judges, etc), feudals can not only purchase influence (and a responsible place in society) outright but browbeat witnesses. Without material witnesses giving evidence in court, accountability becomes difficult. Nepotism is endemic in the body politic. Many of those extremely close to previous regimes, accessories and willing collaborators in looting the national exchequer, continue occupying positions influencing policy and decisions thereof. Accountability has still to be carried out without regard to the individual’s status and/or position and/or connections. Any person using his office for material gain for himself, family and friends, etc is a crook, pure and simple. Consider exemplary punishment for those (1) giving false witness under oath, i.e. commit perjury and (2) engaging in cover-ups while conducting enquiries, with punishment commensurate to those who would have made others suffer from their falsehood and/or the cover-up.
“White-collar” criminals who get away with much more than “blue-collar” ones seldom leave incriminating evidence around. One can (and should) use indirect methods, such as the “Äl Capone Ploy”. Gangster Al Capone could never be convicted for murder, extortion, etc because witnesses were too scared to testify, ultimately he was incarcerated for “tax evasion”. Living beyond one’s means without commensurate means of income, makes for a prima facie case of cheating on personal taxes and of “perjury” declaring income incorrectly and/or not at all. Without getting hard-to-obtain evidence to court it becomes frustrating, let’s use this “KISS” (keep it simple, stupid) formula. Known political liars and gangsters who have looted the till must not become lawmakers and/or have any role in governance.
Evidence exists implicating components of the various provincial governments in blatant corruption, extortion and target killings, how can democracy function when its governance mode has criminal overtones? That only focuses on protecting and promoting murderers and the corrupt in the political and administrative hierarchy? NAB exercises a check over the watchdogs to make sure they do not eat the chickens in the coop they are supposed to protect.
In the 60s during Ayub’s rule Reader’s Digest documented cars, air conditioners, refrigerators, etc being “gifted” by the dozen during the weddings of the children of bureaucrats. Indeed bureaucrats never seemed to lose in card games, the card table being now replaced by the Stock Market. Gyrations in the share prices may make many lose their shirt, with funds parked with “safe” brokers our “players” always win-win, “legitimately”. The villas and apartments in Dubai, London and NY symbolize the institutionalizing of corruption by Musharraf’s National Reconciliation order (NRO), truly a “Pakistani First” as the blackest of all black laws. It is a national disgrace that master corrupter Salman Faruqi (who guided Zardari in manipulating the bureaucratic machinery) continues to occupy the August Office of the Federal Ombudsman by virtue of our collective hypocrisy. He should thank Musharraf for making such a calumny possible through the NRO.
Controlling nepotism and corruption will encourage genuine economic resurgence, not one based on fudged statistics. The pursuit of accountability is a zero-sum game pursued without fear or favor, unfortunately political nuances, client-patron relationships and self-interest that go with it have been compromising its process. Accountability is fundamentally flawed when nepotism at the highest reaches of government and society emasculates the political will to root out corruption. Consider the recurring cost to the institutions and to the country if a threat a day manages to keep NAB away?
Ikram Sehgal is a defense and security analyst