“There is nothing is more demoralising, or destructive, or disempowering to any citizen than the belief that the system is rigged against them by the people in positions of power; and crooks stealing the future of their own people. Corruption is a social danger because it leads to organised crime, destroys nation states, imperils opportunities particularly for women and girls, facilitates environmental degradation, contributes to human trafficking, undermines whole communities and destroys the future. Corruption is a radicaliser, destroys faith in legitimate authority and opens up a vacuum where predators move; an opportunity destroyer because it discourages honest and accountable investment. It makes businesses more expensive to operate. It drives up cost of public services for local tax payers and it turns nation’s entire budget into a feeding trough for a privileged few.”

When John Kerry the US Secretary of State spoke these words at Davos in 2016, it seemed he was referring to Pakistan. He cited Nigeria, the richest country of Africa reduced to anarchy, gang wars, poverty and terrorism due to corruption. He ended his speech by asserting that all countries must make eradication of corruption, a National Security priority.

It is very important to take note of these remarks because not only Nigeria but many countries of the third world headed this way because of corruption. Pakistan, a nuclear power with a strong standing army and very pliant and weak institutions is headed the same way since 2004. The movement Nawaz Sharif and his advisors are trying to start is all about protecting and securing the power houses of corruption by misleading people with tales of splendid fiction.

There is no doubt that elections in Pakistan have been repeatedly rigged in favour of Nawaz Sharif the military’s wonder boy. General Zia handpicked him in Punjab and also gratified the House of Ittefaq by writing off liabilities and paying unprecedented Rs.400 million as a startup. The same facility was refused to BECO an industrial enterprise many times bigger. The IJI victory that made him Prime Minister through General Beg was tainted by massive horse trading and payoffs through Mehran Bank that two successive democratic governments avoided opening. General Karamat handed him a two-thirds majority only to be unceremoniously booted out with the President and Chief Justice. Sharifs hunt in pairs and good cop bad cop magic worked with General Musharraf. He stopped all corruption inquiries against them and let them off. The worst was accomplished by General Kayani who negotiated the NRO, gave them the base in Punjab and subsequently the federal government. That 2013 elections were rigged is no secret. They were punctured through an exclusively crafted mechanism.

Now a man who never toiled to earn his spurs is up in arms against his benefactors. Through a process of dishonesty, deceit and money, he has created an army of courtiers that build an aura of indispensability and invincibility eclipsing the reality. This is dangerous with disastrous consequences. He wants to be seen go down fighting and take the system with him.

Panama papers name hundreds of Pakistanis in illegal offshore businesses. Ethically, he being the Prime Minister, was the first subjected to scrutiny. But this is just the tip. Volume 10 of the JIT Report holds appalling data of only one family. Seen in entirety, this corruption and laundering could amount to hundreds of billions of dollars. It is this corruption that the crook brigade will try defending lock, stock and barrel. As the corruption motor rally of ‘Save corruption in garb of democracy’ races to Lahore in custom made bullet proof BMWs, the last defiance is to kick start a popular uprising against the Judiciary and Army. This feeding frenzy on a carcass refusing to die must end, and punishing corruption must become a national security priority. The Supreme Court has no option but to keep moving forward.

But Pakistan is a strange country. The priorities are wrong because the people who control policies are also the ones who commit corruption. They have a notion that with control of National Assembly and Senate they have the potential to pass any legislation to maintain the status quo. Cognisant that the Supreme Court intervention could set a precedence to put them next in line, Chairman Senate has thrown a spanner to invite civil government’s representatives, the military bureaucracy, and the chief justice for an inter-institutional dialogue to strengthen the Parliament. Yes, this is the same Parliament that needs strengthening; that has defended corruption through legal lacunae; and passed a legislative amendment to make party leaders stronger than the Chief Executive. Yes, this is the same Parliament that has weakened the Federation towards a course of confederation (though constitutionally Pakistan remains a federal republic); protected most corrupt leaders of political parties; and devolved powers to provinces they are incapable of handling. Now that the Apex Court has checked them, they are getting irked and dragging the Judiciary and Armed Forces. Through such tantrums they are out to prove that Parliament is superior to Judiciary.

Certainly, the method to this madness is maintained by continuity of NRO and Charter of Democracy. Credit for this goes to General Kayani. The PPPP Government did its bit in legislation and corruption for five years and the present government has taken it to new levels. It is two similar sides of the same coin. The initiative by Chairman Senate cannot be taken at its face and academic value. There is coordination and cooperation between the two parties on all issues confronting them. Though Dawn Leaks is demonised, what would one say about an article written by Wajid Shamsul Hassan in a local daily, “Out of fry pan into the fire’ that repeats the same in more implied suggestions. For as long as PPPP is in the tight control of Zardari, propaganda against corruption is propaganda.

This is the death of conscience in majority of parliamentarians spreading to followers groomed in cult worship. This is because under the 18th amendment, the party chief has unbridled powers. Even a prime minister from his party is remains a pawn. Dissent means disqualification from the legislature. This is the why a disqualified prime minister and his party members though in knowledge and ownership of a company central to colossal money laundering, plead innocence. This is despite the fact they know too well, what lies in Volume 10 and beyond; something the lead attorney was too aghast to open. Using the same parliament, the crooks wish to rush through amendments in the constitution that take members of his coterie beyond the long hand of the law. This is why Chairman Senate is suggesting a meeting of the troika over an issue that has nothing to do with the army. Both Chief Justice and COAS are advised to stay away from this stratagem.

For the past few days, it has been a sorry sight to see ministers, in disregard to their constitutional oath turning out with followers to demean the Supreme Court and defy its verdict. It was a shameful spectacle to see the disqualified prime minister hanging around Ojri Camp and Rawalpindi for a day. Worse, a disqualified prime minister pleading his innocence in tears said something about his psychological condition. His ignorance of realities suggests that he has probably not even bothered to read the Supreme Court judgment and believes what his courtiers brief to megalomaniac proportions. Right now, his goons are packing departments and courts to ensure that corruption cases against them are weakened.

Nawaz Sharif is a king without cloths who has already brought down his children. Let us wait and see if he succeeds in bringing down his party or even PPPP?

In such damning times, it is the constitutional responsibility of the armed forces that public disorder is checked. It is the constitutional responsibility of the Supreme Court to make corruption a national priority and put checks on the Executive and Legislature that try to block it.

 

n          The writer is a political economist

and a television anchorperson.