Naked stands the emperor | Raoof Hasan


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: Twitter: @RaoofHasan

Published in Daily Times, July 25th 2017.