Pakistan must congratulate itself for a near miss to chaotic situation. The political parties on the other side of the isle, no matter how much hurt by NAB activism, simply did not agree with the premier to clip the wings of this anti-corruption institution. It is not the one or the other court that has asked the political clan to behave but the very wisdom, that had prevented legislators from validating the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), has prevailed.
The kind of federation we have now can’t be run merely through constitutional means if its underlying spirit is lost. It is only late that the public institutions, call it bureaucracy, has started taking seriously the court and Parliament. Why a person should feel confident to commit corruption? What moral authority or law allows the officials to flout authority of the state? What high grounds the political parties have to stand behind the corrupt?
A state has always a choice how to establish durable peace in the society. It is not the international pressure which makes it adopt a certain system of government. Rather, it is the goal which it strives for and the glory it wants to touch. What is really problem with political parties? Have their leadership not brains to understand what ultimately serves their interests? And what the benefit they want other than that they enjoy the trust of the electorate? While it has gone nuclear to ensure its porous and, in some cases contentious, borders Pakistan has lagged behind many East Asian nations on the course of economic development; going by its human indices, it is right in the rank of African countries.
The most criminal, one would say, act on our side is to drag religious extremism in politics despite clear warning to this end by the Quaid-e-Azam, the founder of Pakistan. It is almost everything to do with the state affairs — right from setting the curricula of schools to determine who is friend and foe of the country. The mosques, where the clergy has to take high seat to guide the people in their daily affairs, have been politicised. Instead of engaging it in social work, the religious lot is happy in the company of the financial wizards and landlords. Who will take care of the poor and downtrodden, wherefrom the religious scholars rise?
Parliament proved wise enough to not endorse the NRO but the governments have also not allowed NAB to clean the mess as well. It is quite in the interest of the political folks to scratch each others’ backs but if you want Parliament to be supreme and provinces autonomous, there is no escape from accountability. If politicians fail to observe standard norms and practices while running the affairs of the state, the mechanism to hold them accountable should stay intact and functional.
Now, the report by PILDAT is heart rendering. Are political parties, which have been made stakeholder due to democratic dispensation of the country, also democratic in their own affairs? Not going by the numbers and positions which the leading parties have been assigned by the said report, those in the corridors of power observe the norms of democracy the least. One should duly expect explanations from the ruling parties if the contents of the report don’t suit the interest of the ruling clan.
Political lot should feel the heat of public opinion and take care of the way they are being rated. If political parties fail to confirm the norms of democracy in their own affairs, they risk becoming a liability, rather. Their fund-raising mechanism may speak louder of whom they are meant to serve at the end of the day. The more a party has winnable candidates, the more it becomes vulnerable to ‘alien’ influences. Going by the huge inequalities Pakistan entertains in the realm of prestige and power political parties need to remain immune from the danger of being literally high jacked by the anti-people forces. We see a lot of anomalies whereby the political parties have been shifted away from their initial programs.
That the ruling parties have subjected energy and telecom products to high taxation and failed to widen the tax net beyond 10% is something related to the question that control these parties. The privatisation drive is on halt and the loss earning public-run enterprises are sucking the national exchequer money is also a fact that indicates the sectional concerns of the political lot, irrespective of their party affiliations. Why the local government elections have been delayed and, once the electoral exercise is done, they have not been given enough space vis-à-vis the provision of vital public goods like education and health, remains a subject of academic interest.
The Centre has ultimately to have some mechanism to bridge the loopholes in the political system, from top to bottom, for the sake of its own integrity. It needs to take care of many talks of making anti-corruption drive a provincial business. Not, at all, till the political parties evolve a self-accountability system to purge the corrupt out of their folds. There is a fine line none should cross, in any circumstances. No individual, organization or institution should question the integrity of the state in any circumstances. The authority of law is inviolable. It does not give political parties the right to rule without a clear commitment not to undermine State’s integrity — justice.
Finally, the question of state credibility is very much linked to its defenses. Gluing the State with its people is the first step towards deterring foreign interferences. Army and all the deadly arsenals it commands over, come later. Corruption breaks the will of the state far ahead of the enemy’s decision to violate it borders. The political parties, to cut it short, have been entrusted with the job to weave trust between state and its subjects. They have to take devolution of power and resources to the grassroots level. They have to be instrumental in improving the standards of life; it means justice and sustainable growth, the both.
— The writer is a freelance columnist based in Islamabad.