Rulers, accountability and people


Dr Muhammad Khan

INSTITUTIONS are made to strengthen the state as per their assigned role and mandate. Strengthening the state includes; facilitation in the functioning of the state and aiding the masses and ensure its own economic survival while contributing towards national economy. In Pakistan, there are many national institutions, companies and departments which over the years have proved as burden over the state. Their performances have been contradictory to their assigned mandate and desired goals. Resultantly, the state of Pakistan suffered on account of incurring huge finances for the sustenance of these institutions at the cost of many other essential national developmental projects and economic development of the state. For decades now, PIA, Pakistan Railways and Pakistan Steel Mills have been a huge burden on the national economy and exchequer of Pakistan. These were very beneficial departments of Pakistan until the decade of 1980s. Thereafter there have been gradual slow-down and then destruction to the current level. There have been similar results of many other governmental departments, institutions and organizations which pose great economic burden on the national economy, since their performances fall much below the expectations.

The down-fall of abovementioned departments, companies and national institutions can be attributed to factors like; one; preferring individual interests over national interests and two; lack of accountability and good governance. In the past, there have been involvements of individuals, few families and political elites with vested interests in derailing and damaging of the productive organizations and departments. Through illegal ways, these individuals and elites earned a lot for themselves at cost of national economy and financial survival of Pakistan. For a long-time there has been no know-how of their ill-practices and damages they caused to national exchequer. Later, in 1999, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was establishing to trace the massive corruption and those involved into it. NAB was established to “deal with corruption prevention, raise public awareness, and enforce of anti-corruption measures.” Unfortunately, there have been no worthwhile achievements of this national institution in the past. Rather, it has widely become a white elephant or else an institution of political victimization.
The on-going debate about accountability of the former ruling families of Pakistan and those elites who earned huge money through illegal means has raised many questions about the prevailing system of accountability in the country. The biggest question is; either there is an in-built fault in the mandate of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) or else there is lack of will to implement its legal obligation through a neutral mechanism. This is indicative from fact that, the tall promises of the Government and NAB about recovery of the ill-gotten money from the former ruling class are still awaited for implementation. As a result nothing has added into the national treasure of Pakistan till-date, despite series of arrests and detentions. Rather deciding the previous issues of accountability, new cases and new scandals are appearing in the electronic and press media after every second day. But, there is no positive outcome from any of these cases of corruption, mismanagement, misuse of power or any other violation of national rules and regulations.

In the past, NAB has paid huge money to UK based Broadsheet for tracing the ill-gotten money and facilities, the former ruling families and elites had in UK and elsewhere. But, practically, it has failed to extract this ill-gotten Pakistani wealth. There are some influential individuals both; among the top bureaucracy of Pakistan and owner of top law firms in Pakistan who have been interacting with Broadsheet and other international firms’ on behalf of Government(s). The individuals and officials caused huge damages to NAB and the state of Pakistan and still considered to be the top-notch players and lawyers in Pakistan. Nobody can dare to accuse them since they dictate to; courts, government and the state. Yet another question, why the arbitration decision of Broadsheet vs NAB which was announced in 2016 remained unknown for four years.

Every day, Pakistani masses helplessly witnesses all these on television channels with allegations and counter allegations without any punitive actions against wrongdoers. NAB’s failure to recover the ill-gotten money has enabled the already tainted lot to hit back and blame other institutions, Government and the state, creating a chaos and questioning the justice system. The studious minds contemplate the entire happening as a stage-managed drama for diversion of people’s attention and to pass the time without any progressive ending. This stage-managed drama is being repeated with new faces and through new strategies without a realization that, it has damaging effects on; state, society, economy and above all the prevailing political system of Pakistan. Each government would like to pass its five years tenure while accusing the earlier one, doing nothing itself.

Irrespective of their political affiliations, the masses of Pakistan are rapidly losing trust on the current political system and ruling elites. The repeated trends of; bad governance, corruption, lack of meritocracy, injustice, politicization of accountability process and un-affordable price hike (inflation) have created chaos and insecurity among the masses of Pakistan. Indeed, a stage has reached where majority of the masses find it hard and difficult to meet their basic necessities. Leaving aside the imported goods, the masses find it difficult to purchase the home-grown national agricultural product of Pakistan. Then, away from lavish way of living, the basic necessities of life are not available for the common people at an unaffordable price. This serial happening in the country at the hands of successive ruling class is an irony indeed. The government must concentrate on the essentials issues of governance, justice and availability of basic necessities of life at affordable price. Besides, the Government must provide equal opportunities to masses by introducing a uniform economic system at national level.
— The writer is Professor of Politics and IR at International Islamic University, Islamabad.


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