.. by Raoof Hasan
“Without strong watchdog institutions, impunity becomes the very foundation upon which systems of corruption are built. And if impunity is not demolished, all efforts to bring an end to corruption are in vain.“ Rigoberta Menchú
Imagine a country
– where a parliamentarian would demand on the floor of the House that the services of fake degree and fake license-holder pilots should not be terminated;
– where a convict is allowed to travel abroad for medical treatment by merely signing a stamp paper of nondescript value;
– where the courts would repeatedly block the executive branch from performing its constitutional functions on one plea or the other, and where they routinely bail out alleged criminals to escape the investigation of the corruption they are accused of;
– where judges are caught taking dictations over the telephone; where fabrications, distortions, and downright lies adorn the screens for hours every evening without a check by the regulatory body;
– where key state institutions have been reduced to a cacophony of skeletons making a mockery of their very existence;
– where, instead of coming forth with evidence to nullify the allegations, a sitting judge of the apex court would take recourse to petty technicalities to save his skin, with other judges of the bench acting as accomplices; or where the guilty roam free and the innocent are caged.
– where state interests are compromised in lieu of advancing personal, profit-based relations; where political parties are run as family fiefdoms committed to ensuring state capture by a few to eternity;
– where merit is forfeited to enable family members and associates to occupy key positions in the government;
– where democracy is only apparel deceitfully used to hide cruel and despotic indulgences;
– where a sitting Prime Minister would help an alleged criminal escape the law in his official plane;
– where members of a former ruling family, duly declared absconders, unashamedly keep claiming their innocence;
– where the entire executive and judicial organs of the state are helpless before the marauding inroads that a property tycoon made by “putting wheels to his files” and getting away with plundering the holdings of the poor;
– where proven criminals step out of courts with beaming smiles and victory signs; where politicians operate as mafias and businesses as cartels; where bureaucrats are criminally politicised, judiciary has become a vehicle for providing relief to criminals and state institutions are used to perpetuate defilement of the constitution, rules and procedures.
Imagine a country where the word of God is hostage in the hands of a fleet of obscurantist merchants of religion.
And, worst of all, imagine a country where all this is done without remorse, without shame. That country is your country. That country is my country. That country, unfortunately, is Pakistan.
It is not what Pakistan was conceived for becoming, or how its founding fathers would have imagined it would evolve into. But, that is what it has become, and a large number of people may yet be convinced that it is the right thing to have happened.
It is as if we are numb to a million wrongs that afflict this country. It is as if we are blind to felonies, constantly driven by getting our needs fulfilled irrespective of the methods employed or the instruments used. All which is self-interest-driven of the powerful is construed as fair. However, if the same is done by ordinary people, we are quick to become moral vigilante brigades and raise accusatory fingers in their direction. In other words, we accentuate the malady that doing a thing the wrong way is the exclusive right of the beneficiary elite.
This is how deep the malaise has penetrated through layers and layers of the societal fabric with no hope in hell that it may, at some point in time, be reversible. In fact, with every passing day, this thought process is digging its tentacles deeper with the whole society standing on the sidelines watching in total and criminal silence. It is not a few odd people who have gone astray. By deliberately exercising our ‘right’ to stay silent, we have all become accomplices in this crime spree.
Look at our institutions. Look at the judiciary and the way it is conducting itself, letting criminals simply walk away; or the NAB with virtually no convictions to show by way of performance; or the financial institutions failing miserably in expanding the taxpayers’ base and trying to extricate more from the ones who are already captive in their hands; or regulatory bodies facilitating non-conforming organisations in expanding their illicit networks. These are symptoms of an inherently dishonest and diseased system which works by criminalising all annals of governance.
The state institutions have become impediments in the way of every possible effort to clean up things with the judiciary repeatedly obstructing the executive branch of the state by exercising its right of issuing intrusive injunctions, thus stalling all potential corrective measures. The adjudication in favor of the sugar mafia is only the latest example of this morbid penchant. Then there are a large number of hirelings employed by the previous governments who are still positioned in various institutions to continue the spree of malpractices of the past and block the path of reform in every possible way.
The extent to which this system has been bludgeoned by the corrupt beneficiary elite, it no longer remains fit to run the country. It is a piece of stinking rubbish that does not even deserve a bin to be thrown into. It has lost its relevance in the context of the challenges which have emerged as a consequence of how it has been manipulated through decades for the sake of raising illicit empires on the carcasses of the poor and the impoverished communities.
It has been distorted beyond recognition, beyond reform. Irrespective of a number of negative perceptions that prevail currently, some real and some fictional, this system has to be replaced by something more suited to the needs of the society which is intrinsically exploitative in nature, and where the rights of the weaker segments have to be ensured by the state beyond any prospect of exploitation by the gangs of crony beneficiary elite.
This system is to be so designed that, and I quote Angel Gurria here, “integrity, transparency and the fight against corruption should be part of the culture. They have to be taught as fundamental values”. Alongside that, there should be strict enforcement mechanisms to implement conformance to these basic strictures and tenets. It is then that we would begin to erect the edifice of a fair, just, and equitable state to ensure that the welfare, safety, and security of its people, particularly its marginalized communities, is not left at the mercy and discretion of the crony beneficiary elite.
This decrepit system is sinking in the poisonous juices of its own making. It is now for the people to do the rest. They are the guardians of the state and they must make a move to transform it into a beneficent and welfare outfit where all are treated equally and where the exploitative instruments are driven out of the realm of governance.
Let us see the people rising to the call of their conscience. They should perform the last rites of this rotten system. Otherwise, it is them and the deluge which advances their way!
The writer is a political analyst and the Executive Director of the Regional Peace Institute. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @RaoofHasan.