Malik M Ashraf
There are no two opinions about the fact that we are a society completely immersed in corruption, which decidedly is the bane of our socio-economic development and national integration. There is also no doubt about the fact that our rulers both military dictators and politicians are equally responsible for this detestable phenomenon, which due to its trickle-down effect has penetrated into the entire fabric of our society. According to a saying of Saadi Sherazi if a ruler eats one egg through corruption, the subjects will eat the entire flock of hen in the same way. That is the situation we are faced with today. Taking cue from the rulers the people are also engaged in a mad race to accumulate wealth through illegitimate and corrupt practices. Corruption has become an accepted norm in the society.
Law enforcing agencies, judiciary and government departments which are supposed to ensure rule of law, justice, checking corruption and promoting well being of the masses, are themselves afflicted with corruption to the core. And regrettably there seems no end in sight to this process of self-destruction. We have often been hearing from the rulers their resolve to eliminate corruption from the echelons of the government and the society as and when it suited their political interests. But the fact is that whatever accountability mechanisms they did put in place, they were meant to target their political opponents rather than an arrangement for across the board accountability. The military dictators who staged military coups citing corruption as the overriding consideration with the promises to put the genie in the bottle, themselves indulged in reckless misuse of power and corruption to prolong their rule, pushing the country further into the crucible of a precipice. No wonder Transparency International declared Musharraf regime as the most corrupt government in the history of Pakistan. Introduction of systemic reforms to curb the culture of graft and entitlement that the present system of governance encourages has never been the priority of our rulers.
The so-called movement against corruption that PTI has unfurled is quintessential of the politics of hypocrisy and self-aggrandizement. It is a typical witch-hunt against Nawaz Sharif and his family. The government is desperately trying to make the public believe that if the alleged corruption against Nawaz Sharif was proved and he and his family were held accountable, the country would become free of corruption. That is the most misleading proposition. This is amply proved by the verdicts of the High Court while granting bails to the accused in Saaf Paani Company and Ashian Housing Scheme, including Shahbaz Sharif. The High Court has unequivocally said that no corruption was committed in those cases and the NAB has acted with mala fide intent. That is indictment of the government and the NAB against their collusion in conducting a farce, called accountability. If the purpose honestly is accountability and elimination of corruption, then all those whose hands are soiled with corruption, no matter who they are, must be made to face accountability. The fact is that politicians on both sides of the isle have myriad of skeletons in their cupboard. One really wonders at their audacity to hurl allegations of corruption at others while morally and legally speaking they also stand on the same pedestal. The solution lies in an honest collaborative effort in bringing about necessary systemic reforms that discourage misuse of authority by the rulers, nepotism and plugs the avenues of corruption. The government and opposition parties must form a National Anti-Corruption Commission ( a constitutional body comprising retired Supreme Court judges appointed on the basis of seniority instead of consensus between the government and the opposition parties) vested with the powers to probe cases of corruption against any citizen of Pakistan belonging to any profession including the Khakis.
Another much needed systemic reform is changing the way we elect our representatives. The present single constituency system is the mother of all types of corruption. Under this system only the rich and influential persons can contest elections eliminating the chances of well educated and enlightened persons belonging to the middle and lower middle class to ever think of making to the legislatures or serving the country in any representative capacity. The result is that in the resultant number game to clinch power, the parties and their heads, invariably prefer giving tickets to the electable persons without ever bothering about their financial and moral integrity or reputation. When they get elected they blackmail the party heads and resist any change that could endanger their vested interests. Further the members who get elected under this system are not necessarily the ones having obtained the maximum numbers of votes registered in that particular constituency. In a constituency where two hundred thousand votes are registered, a person obtaining 40% of votes or even less could get elected due to the distribution of votes among several contesting candidates. The winner therefore is not the representative of the majority. Under the single constituency system small regional parties also fail to get due representation. Consequently the assemblies that come into being, though are said to be enjoying franchise of the people but are in no way truly representative bodies. The solution lies in switching over the proportional representative system which suits the genius of the multicultural and multi-lingual society like Pakistan.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.
Malik M Ashraf