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The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL - Cyril Almeida

FIRST, the good news: at least no one lost their minds. There's been no cri­sis. No mu­tants crawl­ing out of the wood­work. No­body thinks the govern­ment is about to fall. Ba­si­cally, a win for con­ti­nu­ity. The longer this democ­racy thing goes on, the more folk will be able to take dis­agree­ments in their stride. It's how democ­racy is sup­posed to work. Not ev­ery­thing is the end of the world. Not ev­ery­thing is so frag­ile. Some things are built to last.

Now, on to the bad news: con­ti­nu­ity aside, there's not much good go­ing on here. NAB is a flawed or­gan­i­sa­tion. Thor­oughly so. It has to be: it was cre­ated by a mil­i­tary man and de­signed to take on civil­ians. Partly, that's what's hap­pen­ing again. But that's not only why Nawaz is snarling and his acolytes are yelp­ing.

The surest thing we've learned about Nawaz the third time round is that a con­fi­dent Nawaz makes for a snippy Nawaz.

Ba­si­cally, Ra­heel's told ev­ery­one he's go­ing home. Which means Nawaz is king of the cas­tle for a while. At least un­til the next chaps set­tles in. And that makes for trou­ble. If Nawaz thinks you're an ir­ri­tant, any­way. Re­mem­ber Model Town? The mas­sacre hap­pened hours af­ter Zarb-iAzb be­gan. The cal­cu­la­tion then was as clear as it is now: the boys were on-side, which was a good time to whack an op­po­nent or two.

This time, we've learned the boss isn't too happy about how NAB is go­ing about its busi­ness. And it's re­vealed sev­eral things to us, be­sides the ob­vi­ous. First, the me­dia has been neu­tralised. Its abil­ity to cause real trou­ble for a govern­ment is gone. There, fault orig­i­nally lies with the boys: they de­cided in­de­pen­dence - rau­cous, self-serv­ing, ma­nip­u­lated me­dia in­de­pen­dence - was a step too far.

Once the boys in­ter­vened, the govern­ment got its chance. Soon enough, hy­per par­ti­san­ship was the name of the game. Which makes hys­te­ria less ef­fec­tive. So now - Nawaz snarls at NAB, the me­dia goes into a frenzy, and most ev­ery­one else yawns. You can't re­ally know what the truth is be­cause you al­ready know which side ev­ery­one is on.

Se­cond, the out­burst re­vealed the ex­tent to which Nawaz has been cap­tured - or al­lowed him­self to be cap­tured - by bu­reau­crats. Go over the orig­i­nal words. He was ag­grieved that NAB was scar­ing bu­reau­crats. Not let­ting them do their job; in­ter­fer­ing willy-nilly.

It's like govern­ment of the bu­reau­crats, for the bu­reau­crats, by the bu­reau­crats. That's never a good thing - for democ­racy or politi­cians them­selves. Nawaz's in­su­lar­ity is at its peak. Third, Nawaz doesn't much care for the rules. The NAB prob­ing is partly rooted in an old political prob­lem: try­ing to get too much done too quickly with­out the reg­u­lar checks and bal­ances. Big-ticket items - flag­ship in­fra­struc­ture projects - this govern­ment is so proud of are hard to get off the ground. Not im­pos­si­ble, but re­ally dif­fi­cult. The rules are byzan­tine, the agen­cies many and the traps count­less. There's al­ways some­one around to say no and an­other three peo­ple to ex­plain why.

But Nawaz - and the brother in Pun­jab - is im­pa­tient. Pol­i­tics is about re­sults, not rules. So short cuts are taken and trou­ble is cre­ated - partly be­cause the sys­tem is bro­ken and partly be­cause there's no in­ter­est in re­form­ing it. Fourth, the guy at the top seems to think ev­ery­one around him is like him. Pos­si­bly a ru­pee tril­lion­aire by now, there's no real im­pulse for Nawaz to line his pock­ets.

The brother in La­hore is nowhere near as wealthy, but he's rich enough - and money isn't what seems to re­ally make him tick. What the brothers are do­ing, they be­lieve they're do­ing for the greater good. Which makes them bris­tle at cor­rup­tion probes - it is to ques­tion the ba­sis of all that they now think they stand for. Five, not ev­ery­one around them is like the Brothers Sharif. This is ob­vi­ous enough - or should be. If you're not al­ready a bil­lion­aire or tril­lion­aire, there's in­cen­tive to stick your hand in the cookie jar. And maybe too if you al­ready are a bil­lion­aire. The sys­tem is so big, the op­por­tu­ni­ties so many, the temp­ta­tion so great that only a fool would be­lieve that there's noth­ing go­ing on at all.

Cor­rup­tion ex­ists be­cause cor­rup­tion makes sense - the up­side is great, the down­sides few, es­pe­cially when the sys­tem is bro­ken and your boss has your back. Put all of that to­gether and we're still left with that one, big old ques­tion: how to get the pols to do the right thing?

The most ob­vi­ous route is gone. Were Iftikhar Chaudhry still around, he would have roared and suo motu-ed his way to the cen­tre of things. We'd ei­ther have a new NAB or a re­ju­ve­nated old one. Par­lia­ment is com­pro­mised. The old op­po­si­tion, ie the PPP, is wor­ried about it­self; the new op­po­si­tion, ie the PTI, is caught be­tween rad­i­cal­ism and the sta­tus quo.

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