The major reason for the dismal economic situation of the country is corruption and the feudal-type nepotism that sustained it over decades has infested the state and its institutions. Making money from kickbacks by bureaucrats and politicians who are in a position of power, selling jobs and stealing public money from welfare and development projects Pakistan has been looted over the years. What more, that looted money has not been re-invested in Pakistani economy but been transferred out of the country in cash (like Pakistani model Ayyan who was caught with half a million dollars in a suitcase that she was trying to take abroad for Mr. Zardari?) or through black bank accounts with the tacit help of bankers who also took their cut. The largest stint of state-abetted and sponsored corruption was the five years of Zardari rule when the country was looted blatantly and shamelessly.
The Pakistani economy has reached a state where things can’t go on like this anymore. Not only damaging the economy, corruption has resulted in the weakening of the state institutions like administration, police and others so that the state cannot function any more effectively. This is a security issue because apart from plain criminals terrorist were also able to avail of the weak or non-existent state control. Spies and provocateurs sent by foreign agencies availed of the situation to bribe their way into any institution, bringing money in to arm militant organizations and movements. While the grey status of Pakistan on the FATF list is partly political, the monetary regime has been so loose and irregular that anybody could avail of those channels and no control was even possible. In addition, unchecked corruption over the years resulted in a degradation of values and ethics destroying the character of individuals, damaging family life and harming the values that our children are learning at a tender age, with the result that the tenets of Islam are eroding in this country.
For quite a while there has been growing conviction among well-wishing patriotic members of our society that corruption has to be tackled first and foremost. Accountability institutions in Pakistan have in the past been used for political vindication rather than for accountability. The Musharraf government started a credible effort but lost its way in between. The PPP government was a huge step back but the previous PML(N) government did allow accountability to function, the sitting PM had to step down for his inadequate ethics as a leader (Sadiq and Ameen). The PTI government under PM Imran Khan has made the fight against corruption a central piece of its policy and like the previous government as well has extended accountability to its own members and workers.
There is a central role of a clean and dedicated NAB in the endeavor to eliminate corruption, obviously the Chairman NAB would bear a large part of the burden. That is why the currently ongoing attack on Chairman NAB Javed Iqbal is so crucial. If he is corrupt himself how can he credibly sit and judge over the corruption or otherwise by anybody else? A retired judge of the SC of Pakistan Javed Iqbal was chosen in October 2017 as the new Chairman of NAB under the previous PML(N) government and – according to reports in the media – from a list that both PML(N) and PPP had jointly devised. At that time Shah Mahmud Qureshi of PTI complained that their party had not been taken into confidence and that PTI had problems with Justice Iqbal and would ‘watch him’.
Just one and a half years later the situation has change around. The PTI seems to have no complaint against him despite the fact that members of their own party have been implicated and convicted. Opposition parties PPP and PML (N) are now accusing Justice Iqbal that his accountability was politically motivated and that his accountability against business people would harm the economy. Well, the only economy that could be harmed was the one based on corruption! Only a week ago Justice Iqbal claimed that the two of the biggest industrialists in the country, Arif Habib and Mian Masha, had written to the regional NAB office in Lahore appreciating the work the Bureau was doing. The loudest voices are those of the Opposition with Zardari in the lead and that is no surprise. When those accusations didn’t stick now a new wave against Justice Iqbal has been launched with the tacit help of the media– a wave of character assassination. The video that has been shown by TV channel News One suggests sexual harassment by the Chairman of a woman of doubtful record by the name of Tayyaba Gul. Tayyaba and her husband Farooq Nol are already involved in 39 cases and are using the blackmailing tactics to taint the NAB procedures and give off an impression of them being motivated by personal preferences and vendetta. The NAB said that it received six complaints against Gul and Nol, and 36 witnesses recorded their statements against them. Now information becomes available that these two characters are members or even leaders of an international group that seems to include officials of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), police, Higher Education Commission (HEC) and other departments as well. A reference has been filed by the Anti-corruption watchdog comprising of 630 pages, which nominated the woman seen and heard in the audio-video scandal, Tayyaba Gul, and Farooq Nol.
PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and some leaders of the PML(N) are hurling allegations against the NAB Chairman, demanding that he step down. A part of the PML(N) leadership has however distanced itself from this demand that. Hamza Sharif has demanded a fact-finding committee on the NAB chairman issue. This is a valid demand and one central point of investigation should be the authenticity of the video that so carelessly or with such malicious intent has been disseminated in the social media and irresponsible media channels?
Another point of forensic investigation need to be the alleged presence of a group with malicious and disruptive intent possibly financed and guided by foreign agencies. Pakistan is increasingly finding itself in the middle of a hybrid war that is fought not only with means of promoting terrorism in our country but by using and launching fake news, by embellishing true facts with exaggeration and false flag operations. These means of hybrid warfare are meant to discredit the country and its leadership and damage the stability of our economy and even the state structure itself. Not only the population has to be informed about this state of affairs but to counter baseless attacks like the one against the Chairman NAB decisively, those who level such character assassination attacks against the Head of state institution should be tried for treason and given the death penalty.
The writer is a defense and security analyst.