Ask the common people in any area of the country about their opinion and perception regarding corruption by the ruling elite, including politicians and the military dictators, the prompt and curt answer is: the whole lot is corrupt and have taken the country for a ride at the expense of the masses. They are absolutely right. Public perception is never wrong. The all-pervading corruption in our society which has percolated to all segments of the society from top to bottom, has been the bane of our socio-economic development. I am sure if a referendum is held today an overwhelming majority of people would vote for across the board accountability.

Against this backdrop, the TORs drawn up through collective deliberations of the opposition parties for probe into the revelations made by Panama Leaks, seem farcical. What they are trying to emphasize is that only the Sharif family is guilty of amassing wealth through illegal means and transferring it abroad for investment in the off-shore companies and the rest of the political leaders are saints who have the divine right to hold them accountable. Doesn’t that sound bizarre? In my honest opinion it is not only bizarre but it also stinks. The bias against the Prime Minister is quite evident.

Though his name has not been shown as owner of any off-shore company, but the TORs are clearly based on the assumption that his name has appeared in the Panama Leaks. They want accountability of all members of the Sharif family even those who have not been named in the Leaks, beginning from 1985. They want the probe to be restricted to only the names given in the Leaks with priority given to the Sharif family. They also have demanded a new law regarding formation of the commission conveniently forgetting that all inquiry commissions constituted in the past have been formed under ‘Constitution of Inquiry Act 1956’. The government has followed the same legal course by writing to the Supreme Court to form the Inquiry Commission.

People surely want accountability of all the rulers, including Sharifs and the elimination of corruption from higher echelons of the government but they certainly do not want a witch-hunt by a gang of politicians whose hands are also soiled and who also have a tainted past. People want the accountability of all the political leaders and the military dictators who have ruled the roost. Selective accountability is not acceptable. Imran in his public address in Islamabad admitted that the generals could not be held accountable. If that is the case then what is it that he is hankering about? Is this what he means by across the board accountability?

This farce of selective accountability that has been repeatedly used by the rulers and politicians to victimise their political opponents and dupe the people, must end now. Elimination of corruption and across the board accountability would require widening the scope of inquiry. The revelations made by the Panama Leaks are only a tip of the iceberg. There must of thousands of other Pakistanis who have invested in the off-shore companies in other tax havens through legal firms other than Mossack Fonseca. There is also a need to know whether all of them transferred the money through legal means and did they pay their taxes on that money or not? There is also a need for a probe to have those investigated who got their loans written-off by political and military regimes and looted the national wealth. There is also a need to probe into the corruption and misuse of authority by the military rulers during the period from 1985 till date, as suggested by the opposition in its TORs concerning only the Sharif family.

The Sharifs are not running away from accountability. The Prime Minister has already presented himself and his family for a probe by the proposed judicial commission. The appropriate and welcome response by the opposition leaders and members of the parliament would have been to have voluntarily presented themselves for their accountability as well, not only restricted to Panama Leaks but for a wider inquiry about the allegations and scandals that they have been involved and have been facing in the past.

This conglomeration of different ideologies and interests has been stitched together to target the ruling party, particularly the Sharif family to settle score with it. PPP and MQM are under tremendous pressure due to the Rangers action in Karachi and other parties like Jamat-e-Islami, PML-Qare a bunch of traditional spoilers. PTI, after the reversals it has faced, is desperate to find its relevance to the political landscape, particularly Imran who sees Panama Leaks as his last chance to have his ambition to become Prime Minister fulfilled- by either forcing mid-terms polls or creating a political turmoil in the country in the hope of the

This is power politics and not an honest attempt to eliminate corruption or putting in place a system of accountability that not only prevents corruption but also holds accountable all those crooks that have looted the national wealth. The opposition blinded by its enthusiasm not to lose the opportunity to have a dig at the government, seems absolutely oblivious to the possibility that any attempt on their part to create political crisis or chaotic conditions in the country could work against the interests of them all and might scuttle the chances of democracy ever taking roots in the country.

The TORs made by the government were quite comprehensive in regards to across the board accountability. Legally speaking it is the prerogative of the government to formulate TORs for any Inquiry Commission. But the government showed a flexible attitude on the subject and amidst the rattling noise and vacillating stance of the opposition Parties, did indicate its willingness of resolving the issue through dialogue. Now, notwithstanding the fact that the TORs prepared by the opposition smack of mala fide intent and some of them are even illegal, the government has decided to engage the opposition in a dialogue as revealed by the interior minister in his press conference on Wednesday evening. Resolving political differences through dialogue is what the democracy is all about. The response by the PML-N government reinforces its democratic credentials as well as its honest intentions to ensure that all impediments to the formation of the Commission are removed to ferret out the truth to the satisfaction of the nation. The onus now lies on the opposition to respond in a positive manner with the spirit of give and take.

The country needs political stability to tackle the egregious challenges that it is faced with. The politicians irrespective of their party affiliations and political creed need to act in a responsible manner by accepting the ground realities and refraining from insulting the mandate of the people by trying to destabilise the elected government in whom they have reposed their faith repeatedly.

Imran in his public address in Islamabad admitted that the generals could not be held accountable. If that is the case then what is it that he is hankering about?