When I look at the painful mess that the country is in, my thoughts go back to Quaid’s Presidential address to the constituent assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947. In that discourse he identified the problems that needed immediate attention of the Assembly, besides framing of the constitution for the new state. Since, it is not possible to reproduce the entire text of the speech, I would therefore rely on some excerpts from it for the benefit of the readers. He said “The first observation I would like to make is this: You will no doubt agree that the first duty of a government is to maintain law and order, so that the life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by the state. The second thing that occurs to me is this: One of the biggest curses from which India is suffering—-I do not say that other countries are free from it, but I think our condition is much worse—-is bribery and corruption. That really is a poison. We must put it down with iron hand. Black-marketing is another curse. A citizen who does black-marketing commits a greater crime that the biggest and the most grievous crime. The next thing that strikes to me is jobbery and nepotism. I want to make it clear that I will never tolerate any kind of jobbery, nepotism. If we want to make this great state of Pakistan, happy and prosperous, we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, especially of the masses and the poor. You are free to go to your temples; you are free to your mosques or any other place of worship. You may belong to any religion, caste, creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the state”.

Have we as a nation succeeded in doing what he thought was the duty of the government and eliminated the curses that he considered a poison and the main stumbling blocks in our way of building Pakistan as a viable and harmonious state wedded to the objectives of independence? The answer regrettably is, No. We in fact have promoted and nurtured those evils and pushed Pakistan into the crucible of a precipice. The Quaid must be turning in his grave to see what we have done to his and our Pakistan. The sordid aspect of our ways of life is that we have not learned from our mistakes and continue to tread the same path that has even confronted us with an existentialist threat.

The Quaid considered corruption and nepotism as the biggest curses. Unfortunately they have been and continue to be the bane of our socio-economic development. I have no qualms in saying that our rulers both the military dictators and the politicians are equally responsible for the phenomenal corruption that has infected the entire social fiber, accentuating the evils pointed out by the father of the nation. The military dictators who invariably found corruption as the overriding justification for their coups, actually helped on precipitating the curse by indulging in misuse of power and indulgence in corrupt practices to give longevity to their rules. No wonder the Transparency International held Musharraf regime as the most corrupt government in the history of Pakistan. The politicians who ruled the roost unfortunately never proved better than their military counterparts. They indulged in reckless corruption to achieve parity with the Khakis or even excel them. Both the military and civilian rulers, however, did indulge in witch-hunt of their opponents in the name of accountability and curbing corruption, instead of making an honest effort to devise a fool-proof mechanism and system for across the board accountability, beyond the reach of the government to influence the process. The result is that both the military rulers and their cronies and the politician have a slew of skeletons in their cupboards as far as corruption is concerned. None of them stands at the high moral ground to look askance at the other. They are chips of the same block.

The current tug of war between the government and the opposition parties, including PTI in the backdrop of Panama Leaks, is also clearly an attempt at a witch-hunt. Whatever has transpired during the course of the controversy over the issue points to that direction. I have in my writings maintained that nothing will come out of this scandal due to a variety of reasons, including flaws in our own laws and Pakistan not being a member of any international arrangement to enable it to ferret out the truth. Even if a commission is formed it will not be able to unravel all the details that would lead to incriminating evidence against all those identified by the Panama Leaks including stalwarts of all the parties. We may need legislation to seek membership of OECD to have any chance of obtaining necessary information. The opposition knows this reality fully well. Their only purpose to make the hullabaloo on the issue is to embarrass and denigrate the family of the Prime Minister. One of my friends and a renowned columnist referring to the on-going deadlock between the government and the opposition on the formulation of the TORs, has used the best ever expression in the Punjabi language‘Paniwich Madani’ (a stirrer in the water)about the outcome of the exercise. The expression explains the reality that no matter how long you use the stirrer in the water, you are not going to get butter.

Nonetheless, the Panama Leaks have provided a good opportunity to our politicians to show their sincerity in dealing with the phenomenon of corruption. If they really want to end corruption they will have to go for development of an anti-corruption system that ensures across the board accountability of politicians, Khakis, judges, bureaucracy and the entire public representative under the same law. There is also a national consensus on giving top priority to elimination of corruption. So instead of digging bones out of the decades old graves to target a particular person or a party and wasting the time of the nation, the focus should be on plugging the loopholes in the system to prevent corruption in the future.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his address to the national assembly while trying to clear the position of his family regarding Panama Leaks, did emphasize the need for wider accountability by forming a national body to deal with the issue on permanent basis in addition to probing into Panama Leaks. The position taken by the government more or less seems quite reasonable and a recipe for dealing with corruption on permanent basis. Our salvation as a nation lies in making joint and dedicated efforts in subduing the number one enemy of the country: Corruption. Politicking must give way to honesty of purpose. National interests must get ascendency over narrow political ends. Making rattling noises and raising accusing fingers at each other without really wanting to deal with the real issue, is not going to take us anywhere. Such a behavior will keep hurting the Quaid.

Our rulers, both the military dictators and the politicians, are equally responsible for the phenomenal corruption that has infected the entire social fiber.