BBC’s Hardtalk Ishaq Dar interview has put Johnson at the centre of Pakistan’s politics. If PM plays his cards well, he can fight and win Pakistan’s war against accountability. Now is the time to break the narrative of the opposition by pinning down linchpin of corruption in UK. It will establish third political force in the country, and bring permanent end to CoD. Above all it will set a precedent to hold corrupt international absconders accountable. But here is why there is little hope for it. Dar whitewashed all foreign property records in his interview because Johnson is saving Pakistan’s corrupt by sitting on 2018 bill which will make public the foreigners and companies owning UK properties. It will give much needed money trail to Pakistan. In her 2019 legislative speech, Queen instructed Johnson to end money laundering in the UK property market. The UK shadow chancellor Dodds is also demanding UK PM should make this information public to end money laundering. So whenever this record will be made public, it will end many political careers. That is why a segment of media is peddling for grand dialogue to avoid such an outcome. PDM’s “selected” stance against PM was also eroded when interviewer said that EU called Pak’s 2018 election credible. If government informs public about UK ownership bills, it will further weaken opposition’s narrative and corrupt individuals. Dar’s interview was another horrific reminder of corrupt era. But the interview has also exposed the government. It is clear that PDM tried to internationalize the issue with help of British media. Its timing shows that it was an attempt to keep the pressure ahead of Lahore jalsa after opposition failed to get desired results in journalists’ case in IHC. SAPM routine statement on Dar’s properties and earlier government position asking fugitives to return voluntarily are disappointing. It explains why fight against corruption in UK is not being shared with public.
Is government also using opposition strategy to avoid accountability? It is common knowledge that PM’s cabinet members are involved in mega corruption. Supreme Court’s latest order for detailed investigation into the ‘Billion Tree Tsunami’ project is just a tip of the iceberg of this government’s corruption. The politicians and advisors in PM’s cabinet are with the opposition because like any previous corrupt governments they are also opposing any system of check and balance. Based on prevalent corruption, it is becoming difficult to separate government from the opposition. But it does not solve country’s good governance problems. High cost of living has made life of public very difficult. If we look at UK, things are no different. Media is filled with reports of mega corruption in testing, NHS, medicine prices, policing, money laundering, property frauds. One can clearly determine that there is hardly any difference in UK and Pakistan in style and results of governance. It brings us to the bigger question? Why? The answer is capitalism or economic model. The western economic model does not recognize any control or oversight. If you look at the statements of our politicians and Johnson’s statements against parliament (revoked it), judiciary (will not respect its judgment) and media (threatened BBC to withdraw its funding). Same is the case with Trump in US and PM in Pakistan. That means capitalism and democracy cannot work together. It means nation state cannot protect its citizens from the powerful rulers who take power and corruption for granted. In Pakistan’s case, three previous governments had serious allegations of corruption, abuse of power and outright attacks on other branches of government and state itself. The Memo Gate and Dawn Leak show complete protection of personal profit with total disregard for public and state also know as complete isolation.
George Monbiot expresses similar views. He writes that Brexit stems from a civil war in capitalism in which we are all just collateral damage. To one sort of capitalist, the insecurity and chaos that Brexit will bring is horrifying. To the other it is highly profitable. It is equally true for Pakistan. Our national energy team has made billions as well deserved reward. The privatization of Pak Steel is being sold as saving of Rs200bn but PM is unable to explain Rs600bn iron and steel import in 2019 only. The loot and plunder goes on unchecked. The health card is another mega corruption. Its one million rupees limit is giving public funds to private hospitals at the cost of providing healthcare at the district and tehsil levels, healthcare jobs and free medication. The 400% -800% price increase of medicine explains why health card has been approved. Big charity healthcare organizations like SKMH and health card merit to be banned to force government to provide quality health care at grassroots levels. It is job of government to protect weak against strong. But our successive leaders somehow end up doing just the opposite. Things could be no different in case of fugitives in UK. Our PM is continuing with $1.4bn annual coal import instead of using Thar coal which is also corruption because he claims to help economy and jobs. The clean chits given by Transparency International or the interviews are but faces of universal corruption in which strong save corrupt at the cost of weak public.
—The writer is senior political analyst based in Islamabad.