Corruption threatens democracy


Rizwan Ghani
According to rough estimates reported in the media $55bn are owned by handful of people in power corridors for the last ten years or so. The JIT findings have exposed yet another web of ill-gotten wealth by our ruling elite through corruption. Under the circumstances, the state should carry out ruthless accountability across the board. Accountability does not threaten democracy. In fact it is the other way round. It is the corruption that undermines public’s faith in democracy and its institutions of the state. JIT was established by the judiciary because anti-corruption setup failed to act against the rulers on Panama Report. It was pointed out in the court judgment. It was the legal obligation of the judiciary to establish writ of the state as no one is above the law including the prime minister of the day. In the Panama Court proceedings, the court has not been satisfied with details provided by the PM and his family in JIT including money trail, concealment of facts, perjury, and forgery of documents. The details show a case of moral turpitude that by law could lead to the accusation and disqualification.
The ruling elite is now demanding accountability of other politicians on similar grounds. It shows that existing system of checks and balances has been skewed to circumvent mega corruption in election application. On the other hand, the parliament wants to complete its tenure under continuation of democracy and hold elections in 2018. The fact is parliament failed to act against its corrupt members. The support for in house change to save loopholes in the 1973 original constitution including hundreds of changes under the infamous 18th Amendment that protect nepotism, corruption, undermining of interests of state and public. The continuation of parliament will be a at the cost of democracy.
Politicians have failed to control corruption. Under the good cop, bad cop policy, Bilawal has started calling for resignation of the PM publicly while federal anti-corruption accountability law has scrapped in the Sindh with approval of Zardari to avoid accountability. The federal law ministry has called it unlawful but not taken any step to stop it. Anti-corruption drive is already frozen in KP. Corruption is endemic in Punjab and Sindh. Under the circumstances, the judiciary and establishment has to act on behalf of state to protect national interests. But it is only possible if the current laws are scrapped which were deliberately designed to facilitate and protect corruption. Some of the major challenges exposed by JIT are movement of money, use of dual nationalities, two jobs-two salaries, foreign direct investment laws, misuse of independence of SECP, State Bank, monetary policies, approval of mega contracts, loans and mega loan write offs.
The state can recover the stolen money. Reportedly, more than $500bn of Pakistanis are stacked in the foreign accounts. Reportedly, it is mostly stolen from public and national exchequer. The recovered amount can be used to write off our national debt, self-finance mega projects and adopt independent policies in national interest. But the fact is corrupt politicians are imposed on the country because independent prosperous Pakistan does not serve the interest of West. Irrespective of the alleged media reporting non-cooperation, reportedly UK is global money-laundering center (The Independent, the Guardian). It is also true for many Gulf States. Reportedly, Pakistan is among top foreign investors in UAE (Rs224bn in 2014 only, Emirates 24/7 News). It explains visits of our political elite to Gulf States and manipulation of State Bank, SECP and FIA.
As part of National Action Plan, Pakistan should expand its NAP internationally and tell UN under UNCAC to blacklist all those countries that are involved in money laundering and hiding money stolen from poor countries. The UN anti-corruption laws are clear but Pakistan will have to initiate them. The NAP should continue indefinitely to put the country is in order. Our present ambassador to the UN needs to be replaced if Pakistan wants to recover our stolen money and move UN to impose sanctions against all those countries that are violating UN’s anti-corruption and money laundering laws and failing to cooperate with other countries on the issue.
If politicians are serious to save the system and improve democracy, then parliaments should really purge their system from corruption starting with scrapping of all the amendments in the Constitution including 18th Amendment to uphold independence of state institutions. The executive should hold itself accountable on moral grounds just like Cameron and others who resigned after news of off shore accounts.
Otherwise, whole system should be packed including Senate, which by having six-year term is so designed that it continues to protect corruption of outgoing government. This cycle will never allow state to hold corrupt governments accountable. Finally, global players protect corruption and corrupt leaders as part of their geo-strategic interests. It is easy to control policies of weak, debt ridden and aid-dependent Pakistan. Our corrupt leaders make West’s job easy in securing their objectives in the region and beyond. If a portion of JIT’s findings are correct then people of Pakistan need to support our judiciary and establishment to protect national interest through ruthless accountability with help of due process of law.
—The writer is senior political analyst based in Islamabad.

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