The blueprint of the future accountability system is reportedly under finalisation and a new 'independent' accountability set-up may well be a reality in the near future. In our country where the concept of an independent institution is rarely implemented, the proposed Independent Accountability Commission may profoundly influence the future shape of Accountability in Pakistan. In December 2008, Malaysia established an independent Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to meet the aspirations of the public to enhance the government's efforts to eradicate corruption to the culture of zero tolerance for corruption. Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC)'s success story has been considered the model behind the transformation from Malaysia's earlier Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) to an independent anti-corruption commission. The new MACC Law envisages action against the bribe givers/receivers in both public and private sector and gives legal protection to whistle blowers and witnesses. MACC will report annually to the Parliament. It will comprise talented and educated individuals as expert investigators and the size of this force is planned to be tripled in next five years. Independence and credibility are two important pre-requisites for the successful operations and image of any anti-corruption agency. Independence is most significant to prevent the anti-corruption agency from being used as an instrument of witch hunting against the political rivals of any incumbent government, as corruption investigations do become weapons in settling personal/family scores. When corruption investigations are biased and politicised, then powerful officials misuse their authority and victimise the weak. One important indicator of the degree of independence of the anti-corruption agency depends on how far it has taken steps to fry the Big Fish. How many Big Fish have been prosecuted and convicted as a result of the agency's investigations will always remain the most frequently asked question. An independent anti-corruption body will lose its credibility in the eyes of the public if it investigates and enforces anti-corruption laws unfairly, focuses on petty corruption instead of mega corruption, protects the Big Fish and is perceived to be corrupt itself. When viewed in our perspective, it was a gross mockery of justice when the 'Big Fish' behind national level mega scams like the infamous sugar scandal, the engineered stock exchange crash, dubious steel mill sale scam etc escaped accountability. Similarly, those who devoured billions of huge bank loans and those who wrote them off with stroke of pen deserved to be firmly prosecuted. It, therefore, remains the prime responsibility of any independent accountability body in the future to undertake accountability across the board in a firm, fair, transparent and neutral manner without accepting pressures from any quarter. Review of Hong Kong's ICAC and Singapore's, 'Corrupt Practices Prevention Bureau' (CPIB) indicates that they combat corruption in both the public and private sectors. Both are ruthlessly independent, swift and fair in their operations and prosecute across the board. Both focus on the three pillars of anti-corruption i.e. awareness education, prevention through systemic improvements in public sector and enforcement. According to the World Bank's Control of Corruption Indicator 2008, Singapore and Hong Kong have achieved 96.1 percent and 92.3 percent control over corruption respectively. In terms of Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index 2008 (CPI), Singapore and Hong Kong have CPI score of 9.2 and 8.1 out of ten respectively and are rated the least corrupt Asian nations. There is now greater focus on corruption prevention. Corrupt systems demand greater attention. Corrupt individuals can be charged and punished but a corrupt system if not changed, will breed more corrupt persons. After ratifying the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), the Chinese established National Bureau for Corruption Prevention, (NBCP) in September 2007 with the sole aim to introduce systemic improvements in public sector to build a clean and honest government. Why is political will considered the strongest prime mover for ensuring effective implementation of a national anti-corruption strategy? Because politicians can change the culture of corruption through comprehensive anti-corruption legislation, establishing an independent accountability agency equipped with sufficient funds and well trained human resource and by ensuring that anti-corruption laws are impartially enforced across the board by the independent accountability set-up. The role of whistle blowers and witnesses is becoming increasingly important in the conduct of successful anti-corruption investigation. In Pakistan, whistle blowers themselves become the accused while those corrupt whose corruption is exposed become darlings of the Law. Whistle blowers must be accorded legal protection with adequate rewards system in our new Accountability law. The cumulative financial effect of all types of corruption cases (over 3000) in public/private/corporate sectors that are under trial in Accountability Courts/Higher Courts or ongoing investigations all over Pakistan is about Rs 160 billion. Interestingly in Punjab alone, around 75 references in Accountability Courts pertaining to financial crimes (including banking frauds etc) are worth over Rs 20 billion. This is just the tip of the iceberg of corruption in Pakistan. Hopefully the new Accountability Commission will ensure that these cases are not consigned to the dustbin of history. The success of any accountability system no matter how independent, professional and credible it may be, depends largely on an honest, efficient and independent judiciary. In Pakistan where the rule of law remains an elusive dream, the judiciary has a responsibility to display greater commitment and support in our fight against corruption. Achieving speedy justice at all levels poses the biggest challenge for any anti-corruption/accountability agency in our society. If the planned Independent Accountability Commission for Pakistan in the future is truly independent, effective and credible, modelled similar to the universally acknowledged success models of Hong Kong's ICAC and Singapore's CPIB as well as the Malaysian MACC, duly adapted to our own social imperatives, then the forces of corruption are in for difficult times. This apex independent accountability body must follow an integrated anti-corruption strategy like ICAC, CPIB and MACC encompassing the essential pre-requisites of Awareness, Prevention and Enforcement. Its focus should be on all the key segments including public office holders, government servants and the private sector in a holistic manner. There should be no holy cows. Only then will accountability prove to be genuinely meaningful, realistic and result oriented. The writer is a retired brigadier. E-mail: fhkhan54@gmail.com