Hopeless fight against corruption
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.