LAHORE - The PPP has gone ballistic as the long arm of law is reaching the necks of those facing serious corruption charges. In their reactions the party leaders are saying things which are quite ridiculous and not compatible with the offices they held in the past or are holding even today.
But their demand that the PPP should not be singled out and that the PML-N leaders involved in corruption should also be proceeded against is absolutely fair. The corrupt should not be spared no matter which parties they are affiliated to.
A strongly-worded statement issued on Monday by former president Asif Ali Zardari, who has been out of the country for the past several weeks, is indicative of the serious consequences the party leaders fear they may to face in the weeks and months ahead. (It remains a mystery why the statement was issued by Mr Zardari and not Bilawal who is leading the party at present).
Mr Zardari demanded that those named in Air Marshal (r) Asghar Khan’s case should also be made to face the law.  This was a clear reference to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who, like many other leaders, is accused of having received a few millions of the ISI funds to defeat the PPP in the 1990 elections.  The FIA is already seized with the matter and according to a recent report carried by this newspaper he has presented himself for investigation.
(To set the record right, during the PPP rule the Supreme Court had ordered the FIA to investigate the matter. But it was then information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira who told reporters that the PPP government has shelved the matter as it doesn’t want Mr Sharif dragged by the FIA).
The former president also sought action against incumbent Finance Minister Ishaq Dar who, during the Musharraf era, had confessed to his involvement in money laundering for the Sharifs. There is also nothing wrong in reopening this case for the satisfaction of the general public.
Then Mr Zardari also called for action against the Punjab minister for education Rana Mashood whose video of receiving bribes from a Lahore consultant firm was aired by various TV channels a few months ago. This is also a fair demand.
But this doesn’t mean that the PPP leaders being proceeded against are not involved in corruption or that they are being victimised.
In fact, this is a golden chance for the PPP leaders to prove their innocence. They should appear before the relevant forums and prove that all allegations against them are baseless. Such a move would improve their public image and also enhance its vote shrinking vote bank. The empty rhetoric that the PPP is being victimised cannot shoo off the accountability process.
Opposition leader Syed Khursheed Shah’s demand that the government convene an all-party conference to discuss the high profile arrests in the ongoing surgical operation in Karachi is devoid of logic. He floated the ‘brilliant’ idea after the arrest of Dr Asim Hussain, who is known as the right hand man of Mr Zardari. Nowhere in the world APCs are called on such issues. Corrupt has to dealt with an iron hand, no matter how influential the accused.
Equally strange was idea of the opposition leader that another APC be held to devise ways and means to uproot corruption from society.
It would have been better if the PPP had held such a conference during its five-year rule. At the time the entire focus was on making money. The nation was crying hoarse that the PPP leaders have bled the country dry, but those intoxicated by power turned a deaf ear to such outcries.
Interestingly, it was during the PPP rule that a NAB chairman (Admiral Fasih Bokhari) had said that corruption worth eight billion rupees was being committed every day, or Rs 2,920 billion per annum. That was the time when the daily flight of capital was estimated at $25million.
The PPP repeatedly claimed that it “reformed” the system. May be they did so without the public being aware of it. The PPP has no reason for complaint now as its leaders are being tried under the same “reformed” system.
NAB sources allege that the PPP government had paralysed the institution. Funds were not released on time as a result of which its working was adversely affected. The previous government also herded pro-PPP prosecutors in the NAB, which dealt a serious blow to the accountability process.
Observers say that the threats that action against Mr Zardari would lead to a “war” show that the PPP has little to say in the defence its boss.
A newspaper on Monday carried a report on the disclosures made by an aide to former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani (who had pocketed even the necklace of the wife of the Turkish prime minister donated for the help of the flood victims). He gave details of how the leader from Multan used to receive bribes in bags and how the amounts were deposited in a foreign bank in Islamabad. According to him, Mr Gilani even sold medals and made money by misusing powers. The disclosures are a matter of shame for the entire nation.
The serious challenge for the PML-N government is to take the accountability process to its logical conclusion.  Already it has almost alienated the MQM because of the Karachi operation.  If the PPP and the MQM join hands, the possibility of which cannot be ruled out, the situation in Sindh in general and Karachi in particular can turn ugly. Therefore, the coming days and weeks will be quite important both for the government and the forces it is going to take on.