Following the arrest and detention of the chairman of the Sindh Higher Education Commission and former petroleum advisor Dr. Asim Hussain by the LEA’s in Karachi, there has been observable panic and anxiety within the elite ranks of Pakistan Peoples Party in the country. Now this political party looks quite determined to resist and undo the very act which has ‘undermined the democracy and democratic institutions in Pakistan’. Besides MQM, the PPP has also started openly criticising the role of LEA’s in Karachi. Therefore, now both ‘major political stakeholders’ in Sindh are on the ‘same page’ as far as the ongoing Karachi operation is concerned.

Presently, it is also being widely speculated that the so-called establishment is going to launch a crackdowns on the individuals involved in the corrupt practices in the same manner as it has done earlier against the militants, terrorists and Karachi’s criminal mafias. At the moment, one cannot predict anything with precision about the future trajectory of this move. However, the need for an efficient and effective accountability regime is being strongly felt in the county now. Therefore, it would be a bit difficult for the government to either sideline or ignore this crucial issue any longer.

It was indeed an embarrassing moment for the entire nation when the Transparency International rated Pakistan as the second most corrupt country in the world in 1996. Pakistan is still considered among the most corrupt countries in the world. Observably, the corruption has deeply penetrated the body politic. However, despite pervasive and rampant corruption in the country, we have hardly observed the required degree of resolution and commitment on the part of government to effetely curb this menace. Consequently, we have failed to evolve ant comprehensive counter-corruption strategy in the country so far.

In 1999, General (r) Pervez Musharraf announced his so-called seven-point agenda soon after coming to power in the country. Ensuring swift and across-the-board accountability in Pakistan was an essential part of this agenda. For this purpose, replacing the Ehtesab Act, 1997, he readily promulgated his much-trumpeted NAB Ordinance, 1999 in the country. However, political pragmatism and expediency instantly overshadowed his entire accountability drive within a short period of time. He extensive employ the instrument of accountability to compel various politicians to join the King’s Party- the PML-Q. Later, by promulgating the notorious National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) in 2007, he formally provide a legal cover to all the persons involved in the corruption and corrupt practices in the country.

Corruption emerged as one of the major political issues attracting considerable public attention during the 1990’s. Both major political parties, the PML-N and PPP, duly incorporated this issue in their election manifesto. Consequently, ‘Ehtesab’ became a popular political slogan at that time. However, after coming to power, both political parties used accountability as an instrument to victimise their political opponents. Eventually, aimed at evolving a better political culture in the country, both parties signed a ‘Charter of Democracy’ in 2006. Therefore, as a ‘goodwill gesture’, both parties formally decided to remove the word ‘accountability’ from the political lexicon. Both parties have, readily and diligently, pursued the policy of reconciliation, initiated by the President General (r) Pervez Musharraf, during their rule. Now we can observe a ‘friendly’ opposition party and a ‘mature and non-partisan’ ruling political party in the country at the same time.

Despite many mutual political differences and conflicts, there is a consensus between the two political parties as far as the issue of accountability is concerned. Since this issue is a ‘great potential threat’ to the democracy in the country, therefore both parties are equally determined to protect the ‘fragile’ political institutions in the country. Ironically, they have easily been minimising their differences to appoint CEC, the ECP members and Judges of superior courts, but often hardly reach an agreement to appoint the Chairman NAB. This was the reason the post of chairman NAB lied vacant most of the time during the last government of PPP.

The last PPP government has been identified as the most corrupt regime in the history of the country. Internationally, it was referred to as a ‘Kleptocracy’. In 2012, Transparency International claimed that Pakistan had lost more than Rs 8.5 trillion in corruption, tax evasion and bad governance during PPP’s five year rule (2008-2013). Similarly, in 2012, the then chairman NAB revealed the starting figure of daily corruption in Pakistan which just hovered around Rs12 billion. In this way, the annual figure simply touches Rs4000 billion to Rs5000 billion. During this period, the unique stories of corruption and plunder of national wealth have constantly been surfacing one after the other. The media brought to light many mega-corruption scandals like the Rental Power Projects scam, NICL scam, Hajj corruption scandal, Pakistan steel Mills scam, LPG quota scam, Ephedrine case, BOP scam, OGRA scam etc.

On the eve of 2013 general elections, the PML-N vowed to bring back all the plundered national wealth through a rigorous accountability process. However, all these statements made by various PML-N leaders were nothing beyond political gimmickry. So far, the government has hardly made any serious endeavour to initiate an extensive accountability drive in the country. Instead, it looks more interested in reciprocating and repeating the very conduct of the last PPP government vs-à-vis the accountability. Presently, there is no such thing as ‘accountability’ in country’s national discourse.

The government is selectively employing its legal apparatus to combat corruption in the country. Some months ago, the FIA proactively arrested and registered a criminal case against the CEO of Axact Shoaib Ahmad Shaikh as soon as the NYT published a report regarding his alleged involvement in the fake degree scam. On the other hand, despite detaining the model and actress Ayyan Ali for four months, the investigating authorities could not complete the investigations in this money laundering case. Later, she was granted bail by the LHC. She has not been formally indicted by the court so far as the authorities have yet not submitted the final Challan in the trial court. The Ayyan Ali case necessarily indicates towards the resolve and commitment on the part of government to combat corruption in the country. At the same time, this case also speaks volumes about the institutional capacity of our investigating agencies to handle high profile corruption cases.

Despite the fact the terrorism has been posing a serious existential threat to the state for a long time, the civilian government could not evolve any comprehensive counter-terror strategy. Similarly, Owing to certain political expedience, it has also failed to contain various criminal mafias in the city of Karachi for a long time. Consequently, now the military establishment is making all crucial decision regarding ongoing Karachi operation as well as the military operation against the militants and extremists in the country. Therefore, now if the civilian government again fails to rise above its political expediencies to initiate a rigorous accountability process in the country, then the so-called establishment would soon fill this administrative vacuum by readily assuming this crucial task too.