Without getting into who will win and who will lose, I was wondering the effects of the Panama Case on me and my fellow Pakistanis and how it has affected Pakistan’s stature in the comity of nations. The major part of the debate on the case has been partisan, depending upon which camp you followed and which party one supported; but honestly we all lost as a nation.

Frederic’ Bastiat was a great French free-market economist and author of 19th Century. His famous work on state and corruption is a beacon of light for those who want to struggle for a corruption free society.

I admire one of his famous quotes on corruption, “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”

Has Pakistan reached the level that Bastiat projected? I think we are not there but getting very close to it.

If the leadership at highest level not only becomes an accomplice to corruption but the very epitome of it, where do you go?

Panama has exposed the fault lines in our democratic system as well. Apparently democratic dispensation is becoming very difficult in view of the strategic paralysis of institutions of accountability; no wonder the SCP bench hearing the Panama case remarked that the NAB was dead.

Objectivity in the media was seen to be evaporating when some media houses and analysts were found defending an undependable turf of political gerrymandering based on biases and incentives. The media appeared to be operating from two hostile camps, this is again not very encouraging for a free media that we keep on harping upon.

The questions raised during the case have highlighted the following loop holes in our democratic dispensation, which need an objective debate in the media; If public office holders have business interests in foreign countries, how do they affect decision making and sovereignty of Pakistan? Can the Pakistani state have normal leverage with other states in foreign policy when business interests of leadership at highest level clash with national interests? How can Pakistan peruse an independent foreign policy, when public office holders have tied their own hands due to their business interests in foreign lands?

Can our public office holders at high position have resident status in foreign countries; how does it affect the business of the state? No wonder our decisions are affected by foreign capitals like Dubai, London, Washington, Riyadh and even New Delhi.

If the next generation of our leaders prefer in not only staying abroad but also adopting foreign lands as their home, what message we are giving to people of Pakistan? Mistrust in Pakistan as a state and nation? We always reiterate and harp upon foreign direct investment, how do we attract it when our own children prefer to invest in foreign lands?

Are off shore accounts, a recipe for concealment of wealth? Can we learn from the fact that Qaddafi, Mubarak and Ben Ali regimes may have been brought down by the same money they invested in foreign lands? Recalling a report published in The Guardian in Feb 2011, President Hosni Mubarak’s family fortune was estimated to be as much as $70bn (£43.5bn), with much of his wealth in British and Swiss banks or tied up in real estate in London, New York, Los Angeles and along expensive tracts of the Red Sea coast. Could this huge amount of personal wealth save Mubarak from prosecution? We may have few lessons here.

If the precedence of producing dubious letters from foreign leaders and business concerns, to justify stashing of wealth is set in Pakistan, aren’t we conspiring against transparency and real democracy, wont it become almost impossible to do accountability in Pakistan?

If institutions, responsible for accountability are headed by cronies, loyalists and bosom buddies, are we falling into the trap of what was predicted by Frederic’ Bastiat, “a system that authorises plunder and a moral code that glorifies it”.

The case also highlighted aspects of forgery, outright lies and obstruction of justice; is it the new normal in Pakistan and can Pakistan overcome the hurdles created in the delivery of justice through a very complicated system of white collar crime? Is our justice system being exploited to only prosecute the poor and powerless? Syedna Hazrat Ali’s famous quote “Justice is better than courage as if everyone is fair to others, then there will be no need for courage,” is advice for the Pakistani state and society. Can we learn from the wisdom of our greats?

The most important psychological effect of Panama case on the collective psyche has been the dark question; how does it affect Pakistani state and individuals? If leadership is reflection of our collective psyche and polity, are we a nation of crooks and criminals who would use all energies to deceive and decoy facts? In my opinion, this damage to reputation of Pakistan in comity of nations is the biggest casualty of Panama Case which cannot be weighed in terms of dollars and rupees, and will keep haunting us as a people for years to come.

I would quote another piece from Frederic’ Bastiat and end here, “When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law.”

Are we collectively pushing the individual Pakistani to lose respect for Pakistani Law?