The corruption challenge By Malik Muhammad Ashraf

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It is almost uncontestable to say that we are a society afflicted with all-permeating corruption, which has been the bane of our socio-economic development. Make no mistake: the onus for this regrettable situation lies on the elite class of society and its rulers – both political and military. Saadi, a saint, an intellectual and a genius of unmatched faculties said that if a ruler eats up an egg illegitimately, the people will gulp up an entire flock of chickens in the same way. What that means is that corruption trickles down to the bottom from the top.

The saying also underlines the fact that no society and country can move forward without being stewarded by an honest leadership. Our dilemma has been that we have continued with the archaic colonial system of governance with inbuilt avenues of corruption which have given birth to a culture of entitlement and graft. That has been an irrefutable reality over the last more than seventy years. There is therefore a very strong corps of vested interests, the beneficiaries of which system are striving for the continuation of that system and resisting any change that could jeopardize their vested interests.

The history of the world is a story of continued battle between proponents of the status quo and those vying for change – a change promising a better and inclusive culture of governance purported to promote the well-being of the people rather than serving the interests of the elite.

Pakistan is also passing through a phase which represents this historical duel between the two forces. While the PTI government under the stewardship of Imran Khan is making strenuous efforts to eliminate corruption and hold accountable those who have taken this country for a ride over the last seven decades, the opposition parties are trying to sabotage that process through agitation designed to save their skin and pressurize the government to backtrack from its declared mission of eliminating corruption.

It is indeed mind-boggling to learn about the mega financial scams, money-laundering, benami properties and corruption of unprecedented proportions by the political leaders who have been ruling the country. If this country has to move forward towards its cherished destiny, we have no other option but to take these cases to their logical end. It is a now or never situation. It is really heartening to know that Prime Minister Imran Khan is standing firm on his commitment to keep the process of accountability going and ridding the country of the culture of corruption.

It is indeed a matter of satisfaction that the PTI government also seems committed to eliminating the culture of horse-trading and vote-buying in the Senate elections to enhance the prestige of the upper house of parliament. Accountability and transparency are the two pillars of good governance that help strengthen the edifice of democracy in a country.

This is a defining moment for the country and requires the political leadership to work collectively towards changing the archaic system of governance and plugging the avenues of corruption. The opposition parties are obligated to prove their claimed credentials to defend democracy and give a corruption-free system of governance to the country. Their future and relevance to the political landscape is also inextricably linked to the purported change.

If the opposition claims that the government is treading the path of a witch-hunt against them, they must have faith in the judiciary and have their names cleared through a legitimate legal process rather than stoking it into a political issue and trying to create instability in the country which it can ill-afford at the present juncture. It is better advised to use the forum of parliament to debate the challenges confronting the country and firming up plausible strategies to tackle them instead of wasting the time of the entire nation for the preservation of their vested interests.

The government has repeatedly made an offer of dialogue to the opposition parties on all national issues and reforms in the political system except accountability. I think nobody in their right mind can condone the conduct of parties in the PDM which can destabilize the country only to get away with corruption. The situation also provides them a good opportunity to prove their claimed innocence. Political movements are unfurled for national causes and not to hedge corruption. There is a national consensus on getting rid of the scourge of corruption. Political leaders and parties therefore must respect this consensus and take part in the process of course correction. One thing is certain: the change set in motion has gained momentum and cannot be forestalled through pressure tactics.

Under the prevailing circumstances, the only way the opposition parties can salvage their prestige and image as national entities working for the common good is to abandon their agitation and allow the process of accountability to run its course. That will separate the chaff from the wheat and if they have not committed any wrong, as claimed by them, they will stand vindicated. The other better option for them is to engage the government in a dialogue for carrying out the required reforms which in certain cases would also require amendments to the constitution. Because engagement is the name of the game. If they are really well-wishers of the people as is vociferously professed by them, then they must support the process of change.

Political stability is absolutely imperative for the economic progress of a country and in warding off the dangers lurking on its horizon. Therefore, the PDM must not try to foment an ambience of political confrontation which could undermine the national interests. In a democratic dispensation, it is the collective responsibility of the government and the opposition to ensure political stability in the country and contribute their bit to promote the well-being of the people. The path adopted by the PDM is decidedly inimical to national interests and needs serious rethinking.

The writer is a freelance contributor.