Friday January 27, 2023

Panama Leaks amid a new paradigm

April 11, 2016


DUBAI: Panama Leaks have only confirmed for Pakistanis what they already knew but in the current (a new governance paradigm that has now been introduced in the country), scenario nothing much will happen, no matter how loud the media noise or how morally strong the demands for the PM to step down.

Basically, what Panama Leaks tells us is that the Pakistani elite is corrupt and where and how that corruption has been preserved, secured away from the public eye and for how long. But Pakistanis have never worried about these issues in the past.

Why I say so is that many authentic details of similar forms of corruption, offshore accounts, shell companies and how these were used have already come to light against many leading politicians, including Asif Ali Zardari, but nothing happened.

Why nothing happened then, and why nothing will happen now, is because the country’s political, judicial and security establishments are not yet ready to put their hands into this hornet’s nest.

And until there is a will and a firm commitment resulting in some sort of a consensus to go after the white-collar crime, the stakeholders, both accused and those sitting outside, will find a way to brush this issue under the carpet.

There may be different reasons for each establishment not to act. The politicians would never want this Pandora’s Box to be opened, minus a couple of parties like PTI or Jamaat Islami, because the top leaderships of most other parties have similar skeletons in their closets.

The judicial big bosses would like to stay away, as this can burn their fingers and even clothes, as happened in the past. Many a time judicial commissions were formed and the judges were used or abused, not to find out the truth or punish those found guilty, but to cover up or delay the matter and provide an escape route. That is why even retired judges are now reluctant to look into Panama Leaks.

The security establishment is not interested in the nitty gritty of white-collar crime until it starts abetting terrorism or hits issues or institutions that are considered by the security establishment as integral part of their domain.

So if financiers of terrorism are found to be using corruption money, the security apparatus will move with all its might. If the PIA privatisation is done in a non-transparent manner for favorite persons or companies, wheels will move to stop it.

This has thus become the new paradigm of governance in the last couple of years. The boots will stay away from political interference but while sitting on the fence they will, and are, keeping a close watch on how things are being managed.

They will interfere proactively if they feel the need as in Zarb-e-Azb, arresting Dr Asim Hussain, starting an operation in Punjab, forcing Reuters to withdraw a news interview or fixing a green turbaned Maulana on the streets of Karachi hours after his filthy TV tape on the Internet.

This has been selectively called a creeping coup or a takeover through remote control, but it is what is considered to be the most effective way to handle a situation which, under the purely political and democratic setup, will not and has not tried to correct its course from within.

Analysts who are writing long theories about coup lovers and creeping coups reluctantly admit that politicians have failed to govern but they want to continue using the same medicine although it is not working.

In a normal place this may be the best solution as democracy evolves and self-correction is the best way to improve. But when it is evident that the decline is so steep and the fall so fast that if this free fall is not checked now, there may be nothing left to salvage.

The Soviet Union was the best example of a politico-economic implosion. Despite its breakup into several countries, the states and people survived because of sheer size and resources available but not as the USSR.

Pakistan does not have this luxury. If the national debt is over $70 billion (which may balloon to $100 billion in two or three years) and when offshore accounts of Pakistanis, as per official information laid before the National Assembly by the finance minister, have over $200 billion, white-collar crime then becomes the number one security threat to the country.

Panama Papers has only acted as a catalyst to do something about this huge drain but for any effective plugging of this leaking spigot, the security establishment followed by the judicial and the political establishments will have to come to an understanding first, either through backdoor parleys or secret emissaries or any other means.

The media clamour and Imran Khan’s threats to launch dharnas or seeking PM’s resignation will only hasten the process of everyone putting their head together to find a consensus.