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In the name of accountability?

Courtesy: Malik M Ashraf

Corruption is generally defined as misuse of entrusted power or authority by the rulers or appointed civil servants for private gains. It usually entails embezzlement of funds, nepotism, kickbacks, bribery as well as deliberate attempts to perpetuate a system with inbuilt avenues of corruption, graft and entitlement. Corruption has many forms but the major cause of concerns are the systemic corruption and political corruption which germinate other forms of corruption that eat into the social and economic fiber of a country besides generating social tensions and hampering its economic progress.

Political corruption occurs at the highest level of the political system usually at the policy formulation level when politicians and state agents entitled to make and enforce laws in the name of the people, use their position to sustain their power, status and wealth leading to misallocation of resources and perversion of the process of decision making. Systemic or endemic corruption is an integrated and essential aspect of the economic, social and political system prevalent in a country, embedded in a wider situation that helps to sustain it.
Unfortunately, Pakistan has a history of treachery and betrayal of the objectives of the creation of a separate homeland; a history of flouting and undermining the vision of the founder of Pakistan; a of history of pummeling the constitution and governing through extra-constitutional steps; a history of politicians subverting the continuation of democratically elected governments by urging military takeovers to settle scores with their opponents; a history of generals presiding over the dismemberment of the country and derailing the democratic process and destroying the institutions of the state to assuage their lust for power; a history of generals indulging in arm-twisting of the civilian governments even when they were not in power; a history of generals conspiring the fall of representatives regimes if General Aslam Baig is to be believed; a history of turf war between the generals and the civilian governments with the former having better of the latter; a history of politics of graft and entitlement and a history of feudal lords and elites of the civil and military bureaucracy making common cause against the masses.
The cumulative effect of the foregoing factors during more than six decades is that Pakistan has enjoyed the dubious distinction of being among the most corrupt countries in the world. The country has remained under martial laws for more than half of its political existence. The dictators invariably used the all pervading corruption as a justification for their unconstitutional acts with a promise to weed out the menace and to give the country a better system of governance. But regrettably all of them not only perpetuated the archaic system of governance but also indulged in reckless corruption and prolonging their own power stints. The politicians as a class also remained oblivious to the need for reforms to serve their vested interests.
As is evident both the politicians and military dictators are equally responsible for the rampant corruption and the diabolical challenges that the country is confronted with at the moment. There is a Punjabi saying which translated into English goes like this: How can a winnowing pan taunt a sieve? So the military establishment and the politicians stand at the same moral pedestal as far as corruption and integrity is concerned. Ironically both have invariably used the cliché of across-the board accountability to shame and malign their political opponents whenever it suited their vested interests without ever making an earnest effort to reform the system or to do something about corruption. So in the permeating ambience of hypocrisy one really wonders as to whom one should complain and against whom? They all have a blemished past. In the wake of revelations made by Panama Leaks, we are again hearing echoes of accountability. Those who are crying hoarse from every convenient roof-top , unfortunately are not for accountability of all the corrupt elements and those who have taken this country for a ride. They are only targeting the Prime Minister and his family members; clearly a traditional witch-hunt. The Prime Minister in his address to the nation was right on money to ask for the accountability of all the tormentors of the country without any distinction. That is what is really meant by across the board accountability. People do want accountability of all the corrupt elements but not a witch-hunt.
The government has therefore rightly decided to form a judicial commission as demanded by the political opponents with the TORs to probe into Panama Leaks as well as the corruption done by the former rulers and holders of the public office. But as expected, despite making vociferous demands for a commission under the Chief Justice, they are now backtracking on the issue. That is crass politics. It makes their motives very clear. Had they been sincere they would have welcomed the step and presented themselves for accountability, like the Prime Minister has done.

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