The action taken by COAS Gen Raheel Sharif, of dismissing his own army men on corruption charges, has jolted the political world of Pakistan. This act can change the course of the country’s history. Earlier, the COAS had declared ‘war against economic terrorism’, as part two of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, and an important component for winning the war on terrorism in totality. His movement against corruption has vindicated his stand.
The firm actions by the army chief have thrown the ball into the court of the political administration. Observers are expecting the democratic government to respond. There is a series of scandals and acts of corruption in the history of the political administration in Pakistan, accumulated over the years, but unfortunately not accounted for. Now, there is no exemption from accountability. This message has upset the ruling classes of all the political parties, bureaucracy etc.
The message to the political leadership is clear. They need to act now and weed out the corrupt from within to save their own parties. Those leaders whose credibility is at stake or has been challenged should come forward to explain. The political leadership needs to rise above and face the music. This would save democracy and restore faith in political parties.
The political leadership should provide opportunity to the new cadre, if they are serious about saving democracy. There is a saying in Sanskrit: “For the family, sacrifice the individual; for the community, the family; for the country, the community; and for the soul, the whole world”. The word soul has been interpreted by political scholars to mean a sacrifice for the common good.
The anti-corruption campaign is for the cause of the common good, and the first step has been taken by the army chief. The political leadership should follow suit before it is too late. The vision of the army chief seems to be a result of his wisdom, garnered from his meetings with global leaders.
The growing population of the country is adding to the depletion of the available resources. The world is facing a food shortage and water scarcity. Pakistan is no exception. How can we afford corruption by the few, at the cost of the whole nation? The future management of Pakistan is the basic question. The term of service of the COAS has nothing to do with the continuity of the agenda. The initiative taken by him cannot be reversed.
Now the ball is in the court of the political administration and the political parties. If the army has ended its own exemption, civilian exemptions cannot be created for anyone. The democratic setup must present itself up for accountability; this would be in the interest of democracy. Who can understand that more than me. In the Musharraf regime, I suffered two years in jails, plus eight years in trial with hearings, twice a week, with my wife and children, despite the fact that there was no case.
But now, in a democratic setup, political victimisation is difficult in the presence of vast media. The political leadership can legislate to save itself from victimisation – but no escape from accountability is possible. Transformation is knocking at our doors. The political leadership needs to take action against those power brokers who have accumulated money over the years, while sharing power with every government. These people change their political beliefs in the middle of every victory and now must be held accountable.
It is high time that political parties removed bad elements from their ranks, so as to be able to survive. The political leadership needs to revisit the organisational structure of their respective parties and make them real political institutions. They must provide opportunities to the youth of the new middle class, rather than opting for the old corrupt elements already tried in previous governments. Only the youth of the middle class and the working classes can build Pakistan.
It is imperative to save democracy. For that, the political leadership must come up with a system to ensure the smooth running of democracy in the future. The leadership and political parties have to deliver – and there is no way out. The people would then voluntarily want to support one party or the other.
The ball thrown by the army to the civilians can bring about strong civil-military relations, if efforts are made to save democracy. The changing times are transforming society in Pakistan, and the political leadership needs to take steps to ensure accountability.
The writer is a former senator.