Naked stands the emperor | Raoof Hasan

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Well, it has taken almost thirty years for the mask to finally come off the faces of the Sharifs. And, what horrible spectacle they present!

They virtually stand guilty on all counts called: illicitly earned billions, money laundering, blatant lying, forgery, perjury, tampering with record, accumulating assets beyond means, submission of false documents, concealing facts, ad nauseam. Even shame is shamed at the door of the Sharif clan. The godfather comment of a learned judge of the apex court fits perfectly the perfidy of these people:

“We all wear masks, and a time comes when we cannot remove them without removing some of our skin.” — André Berthiaume

In their case, it is not them who removed the mask. Instead, it was stripped off their faces by a plethora of evidence presented in the apex court by the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) as well as mountains of documentation available through other sources.

The apex court has reserved judgment and is expected to release it in due course. Whenever it may come, the questions that would continue to haunt one’s thoughts are why the ruling mafias are allowed to indulge in ceaseless and shameless plunder, what should be done about the institutions which are rendered irrelevant in prosecuting their myriad scams and why do they keep escaping the dragnet of accountability on one pretext or the other, even by tampering with records, what has led to virtual liquidation of governance, and what steps can ensure that all those who have committed such-like crimes are brought to justice irrespective so as to cleanse the system and create a deterrence for the future?

All this is easier said than done because, at the root of it all, is a rotten system that does not allow merit to prosper. Instead, it promotes and imposes rank mediocrity, nepotism and corruption through an ingeniously-crafted and well-oiled strategy that keeps the state institutions hostage in the vice-like grip of the executive authority. This alone eliminates any prospect of change for the better.

There is a grand camaraderie among the ruling mafias at the top which breeds corruption. The godfathers and their complicit bootleggers ensure that each institution is headed by the most decrepit individual available so that there is no effective probing of corruption and corrupt practices of those in power. The case of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is a classic reflection of this malaise. Not only that it works to protect the corruption of its master/s, its chairman puts up a defiant face before the apex court in blatant transgression of the authority’s charter. There is no great mystery in this: he being a thoroughly corrupt person can secure his interests only by perpetuating the sordid system and its protectors encompassing the entire ruling mafia.

A call for democracy in the country should begin with instilling transparent and accountable democracy in the political parties. Otherwise, it is nothing but a farce. Only a credible Election Commission can enforce this as a prerequisite for political parties to take part in the elections
So, where do we begin in unravelling this system and its attendant ills? It’ll have to be at the top because corruption flows down from there, not the other way round. That, inter alia, requires incorporating fundamental changes in the constitution and the rules and procedures emanating from there in four broad categories.

First: The state institutions should be freed from the stranglehold of the executive control. They should be made autonomous with in-house rules and procedures to render them transparent and accountable, and fully empowered with adequate capacity to function independently, free of possible incentives and pressures.

Second: Government patronage of selective institutions should be withdrawn, most importantly that of the media houses. Disbursement of advertising revenue to outlets should not be at the discretion of the government. It should either be discontinued altogether, or a credible non-government system and mechanism evolved to do due diligence of media outlets.

The ministry of information should have no role to play in this because therein lies the principal source of corruption where gratification flows on the basis of support extended to government by individual channels and publications in preference to their respective credibility and efficacy.

Cross ownership of media outlets is a deep and inherent flaw in the system tailored by the government. The existent system has perpetuated the hold of a few who lord over large media conglomerates which are used to serve the pecuniary interests of their owners and, by extension, those of their patrons and partners in the government. This must be immediately remedied.

Third: Another key area is the need to incorporate electoral reforms to ensure that only credible and deserving people are returned to the assemblies. Let me dare say that the minimum threshold of a graduation degree for prospective legislators introduced by General Musharraf was relevant and needed for the country. It should not have been dispensed with to serve the cause of the illiterate corrupt mafias on the plea that it was a dictator’s doing.

The work that the Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms is doing is principally cosmetic in nature and will not bring about any fundamental improvement in the system. This task should be handed over to a committee of experts who should devote quality time to ascertain what is wrong with the current electoral system and how can it be remodelled to suit the needs of the people and the cause of transparency. It is a gigantic undertaking which cannot be handled by pigmies sitting in the assemblies nodding at the command of their respective godfathers.

Fourth: A call for democracy in the country should begin with instilling transparent and accountable democracy in the political parties. Otherwise, it is nothing but a farce. Only a credible Election Commission can enforce this as a prerequisite for political parties to take part in the elections.

These are the broad contours of a difficult path to improving governance and getting rid of the making of future godfathers. No one wants to see the emperor naked in the court of justice. It makes for a nauseating sight!

The writer is a political and security strategist, and heads the Regional Peace Institute — an Islamabad-based think tank. Email: raoofhasan@hotmail.com. Twitter: @RaoofHasan

Published in Daily Times, July 25th 2017.

  • S.R.H. Hashmi

    The writer has ably described the malpractices in Pakistan which have brought the country to the sorry state that we find it in. Luckily for the nation, through Panama papers report, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a really independent source, has exposed the corruption of Sharif Brothers and others.

    And Sharif Brothers, apart from (mis) ruling at the federal level, almost always had under their strangle-hold the most populous province, Punjab, which hosts more than half of the total Pakistan’ population.

    And unfortunately, Zardari-led Peoples Party’s performance record has not been exactly spectacular. Apart from acquiring Surrey Mahal and 60-million-dollar fame – which would appear to be peanuts when compared with the present level of corruption prevailing in Sindh – Peoples Party’s recent initiatives have been to strip the local governments of their powers and financial resources, bringing police under the total control of politicians and of course the joke of the century as demonstrated by banning the operation of Naional Accountability Bureau in the province and replacing it with an accountability institution which would be under the total control of the provincial government not known for much else but corruption, nepotism and bad governance.

    And under the present political system, PML-N and PPP will keep alternating, with no hope of improvement even in a hundred years. And we do not even have hundred years, knowing that, barring the founding leaders, others of either shade managed together to cut the country into half in a mere 24 years and felt none the worse for it.

    And if Pakistan got further dismembered, the leaders of these parties would have nothing to lose because their heart, home, hearth, health(care) and wealth are already abroad, ready for them to move in permanently once Pakistan nears further dismemberment.

    And excepting the times of founding leaders, the history of none of the major Pakistani state institutions has been beyond reproach. However, presently Pakistan’s armed forces and the superior Judiciary are the two institutions that carry credibility among the population, and what is even better is that they have powers to reverse this tide of decay.

    So, I think I would be expressing the wish of the vast majority of Pakistanis when I request the superior judiciary and the armed forces to join hands to salvage whatever is left of Pakistan and to put it on a sound foundation and, in this way, they would also get an opportunity to atone the past sins of some black sheep among them. Together, they could work out a way to get a neutral, caretaker government of competent, honest persons which directs the population census people and ECP to speed up their work, including determination of fresh constituencies and introducing electoral reforms , also defining the eligibility conditions of Assembly aspirants in a simple and easily applicable, preferably check-list form. Fresh elections with strict application of Articles 62 and 63 could bring in a crop of honest Parliamentarians who, forming dedicated government and effective opposition later, could put Pakistan on a steady path to progress and also bring back the looted wealth and use it to reduce the crippling loan burden.

    The above becomes imperative in view of the situation where, having devastated Iraq, Libya and Syria in the implementation of its map-change operation, the US and its gang is now concentrating on Pakistan, Iran and Turkey, and has already started taking aggressive action in preparation for that. The country also faces other internal and external threats including economic mess. With falling exports and remittances, rising imports as well as increased interest and servicing charges on the astronomically rising loans, the PML-N Government has brought the country into the situation prevailing before its earlier ouster, when the official foreign exchange reserves had almost been wiped out and the government had to resort to confiscating foreign currency held legally by Pakistanis in their foreign currency accounts, paying out rupee equivalent later. Also, Nawaz Sharif had opened accounts in bank within the country and abroad, asking Pakistanis to deposit donations in there under the “Qarz Utaro, mulk sanwaro’ scheme, the proceeds of which did not get dealt with in a transparent manner. And now the same government has started over-burdening the country with loans with exorbitant interest rates for over-priced projects with hefty built in commissions, which can best be described as ‘Qarz barhao, mulk dubao’ scheme.

    In the pesent circumstances, staying aloof is defnitely not a choice, for those who have powers to set things right. In fact inaction in such a situation would amount to criminal neglect of duty for which the nation would not forgive them.

    Karachi.