Hope­less fight against cor­rup­tion

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS & COMMENTS - Ali Ashraf Khan Email: balti1551@ gmail. com

THE over­ar­ch­ing theme for the last many days are the Panama leaks and how to deal with them. The im­pli­ca­tion of Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif’s fam­ily is used by the op­po­si­tion par­ties as a wel­come op­por­tu­nity to de­mand ac­count­abil­ity and in­quiries into the fam­ily im­pli­ca­tion. They seem less con­cerned about the vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple named and un­named in the leaked pa­pers in their own par­ties. That im­pli­cates al­most all of them, but in first place the PPP and their rul­ing fam­ily – the Bhutto- Zar­daris.

The mat­ter be­comes funny when af­ter Nawaz Sharif was un­able to talk the mat­ter down he now grudg­ingly agrees to an in­ves­ti­ga­tion but re­fuses to step down for the time of it. That clearly shows that he is not se­ri­ous about ac­count­abil­ity when since his tak­ing over power in 2013 he has man­aged to fill all the lead­ing posts of in­sti­tu­tions with his bud­dies and is now sure that he can man­age any in­quiry. The mat­ter be­comes even fun­nier when he and his en­tourage is de­vel­op­ing TORs un­der which the in­quiry has to go on. That is like putting fox in charge of hen­house! Only right way would have been to de­velop a com­mon way with op­po­si­tion to deal with sit­u­a­tion and step­ping down so as to al­lay all ap­pre­hen­sions of in­flu­enc­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Now we have two dif­fer­ent sets of TORs and Mian sahib has de­clared the readi­ness to ne­go­ti­ate – a clear way to de­lay things and to find a way around the whole thing in the process. That is what even PML mem­bers con­cede when they are quotes as say­ing about their deal­ing with the mat­ter that “sources in the PML- N said the meet­ing was fix­ated on the op­po­si­tion’s TORs. The prime min­is­ter and his se­nior aides agreed to en­gage the op­po­si­tion in talks in order to pacify frayed pub­lic tem­pers but not to make any com­mit­ment on their TORs”. TORs given by op­po­si­tion also ap­pear to have been well tai­lored to hood­wink within op­po­si­tion as this will first re­quire the en­act­ment of a law to in­ves­ti­gate on pa­ram­e­ters given in TORs, which pro­vides breath­ing space to Nawaz Shairf as within few weeks bud­get ses­sion will start in which no other busi­ness will come up be­fore par­lia­ment. So in a very ar­tic­u­late man­ner the pub­lic will be led up the gar­den path while weeks will pass in use­less dis­cus­sions and in the hope the whole things will even­tu­ally die down as per prom­ise made in their Char­ter of democ­racy.

The prob­lem in this coun­try is that the rul­ing elite — not only those in govern­ment but those in op­po­si­tion as well- are least in­ter­ested in ac­count­abil­ity. Fi­nan­cial cor­rup­tion has be­come an In­ter­na­tional anath­ema in which the worst suf­fer­ers are the com­mon peo­ple. The Panama leaks ap­pear to me the big­gest leak in his­tory ex­pos­ing murky off­shore secret accounts and how some politi­cians and rich peo­ple are avoid­ing tax­a­tions in their coun­try by stash­ing cash off­shore that goes to prove cor­rup­tion at the high­est lev­els.

The fact that this is not only a Pak­istani prob­lem but that the leaks re­veal sketchy off­shore ac­tiv­i­ties of more than ten Heads of State and gov­ern­ments and 60 politi­cians linked into cor­rup­tion is not a con­so­la­tion. Else­where there are ways and means and a de­ter­mi­na­tion to sort things out. While Ice­land’s Prime Min­is­ter was forced to re­sign un­der pub­lic pres­sure, while Aus­tria is in­ves­ti­gat­ing two banks for money laun­der­ing, Aus­tralia is in­ves­ti­gat­ing 800 peo­ple linked in these pa­pers for pos­si­ble tax eva­sion and more than 1,000 pros­e­cu­tions are brought each year in the United States for money laun­der­ing, Pak­istan seems much less con­cerned.

Off­shore accounts have yet an­other di­men­sion those who have in­vested in these accounts are the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of 1/ 3 of the world’s black econ­omy that may be fund­ing de­vel­op­ment projects in which some $ 2 tril­lion of off­shore funds are in­volved which calls pub­lic at­ten­tion that how the priv­i­leged are ex­ploit­ing the un­der priv­i­leged mem­bers of their coun­tries. UN Char­ter and Laws made to erad­i­cate cor­rup­tion from the body pol­i­tics have failed rather pow­er­ful most in US are the big­gest ben­e­fi­ciary of off­shore accounts.

Those in­volved and named in these pa­pers in­clud­ing Pak­istani politi­cians, bu­reau­crats and busi­ness­men should not start a blame game to de­fraud in­ves­ti­ga­tion, they should rather now re­sign their po­si­tion if hold­ing pub­lic or govern­ment of­fice and present them­selves be­fore the in­quiry com­mis­sion, and if they are cleared then they can play their trum­pet of hon­esty and pa­tri­o­tism be­fore the na­tion. Be­cause apart from the crim­i­nal­ity of the act of tax eva­sion, black money and money laun­der­ing keep­ing good money out­side Pak­istan and in­stead of in­vest­ing it in our coun­try to cre­ate jobs and im­prove the lives of the peo­ple they buy flats in Lon­don and Dubai and else­where or in­vest the money some­where else. How can the Prime Min­is­ter in­vite any­body from abroad to in­vest in Pak­istan when he is keep­ing his own money out of the coun­try? Pak­istani rich peo­ple are re­ta­tion ported to have in­vested over 3 bil­lion Dharams in Dubai only. Then how should a for­eigner trust when our own po­lit­i­cal and non- po­lit­i­cal elite is not trust­ing and keep their money out? And se­condly, the foul na­ture of our democ­racy has proven again by the fact that the po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion is as much in­volved in the Panama scan­dal as is the rul­ing party and both – op­po­si­tion and rulers- are un­will­ing to rock the boat. They do a bit of shout­ing but no­body is in­ter­ested in fight­ing cor­rup­tion – and the leaks are wit­ness of cor­rup­tion- in realty. Now ev­ery­body is sit­ting like the rab­bit in front of the snake wait­ing for the leaks an­nounced for next week. Will my name be there? It is a shame to have to say that the army seems to be the only in­sti­tu­tion that means busi­ness when talk­ing about the fight against cor­rup­tion. It was the army only that has in­ves­ti­gated and pun­ished its own mem­bers and not the low ranks! What does this sug­gest for our fu­ture?

Tail piece that will make how dif­fi­cult ac­count­abil­ity is, when I was frus­trated in FACC ( Fed­eral An­ti­Cor­rup­tion Com­mit­tee) one of my se­nior friend Late T A Ab­basi had writ­ten a let­ter pub­lished in The News ( News­post) on 20- 12- 1995 as “FACC has lost, Cor­rup­tion has won” the last lines of this let­ter are “The fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions have de­fied Ma­lik Qasim and now the civil ser­vants as a class de­fied him, sup­ported by the Cab­i­net. What is now left for Ma­lik Qasim? Where lies his strength. The statute books of Pak­istan are full of laws against cor­rup­tion, but it re­quires only a will to op­er­ate them, and un­less the will is there, cor­rup­tion will run supreme as long as Pak­istan ex­ists.” God bless Pak­istan and Hu­man­ity. — The writer is a se­nior colum­nist based in Karachi.

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