Wednesday April 24, 2024

Overwhelmed by corruption

By Shireen M Mazari
October 27, 2016

Corruption revealed weakens those who stand exposed, which is why the Panama Papers have seen leaders either defend themselves against the revelations made or resign from office. Corruption is a cancer that eats away at the very fabric of society, killing people’s initiative and sense of purpose while pushing forward mediocrity, dishonesty and demise of rule of law.

Today, in Pakistan we are seeing a government adrift as the PM refuses to address the serious issues relating to revelations about his family’s offshore companies and properties abroad. It is not that corruption has only come with Nawaz Sharif – it has been plaguing the state since its inception. But today the Panama Papers have provided proof that compels investigation and punishment. Today, a government that has been diverted to defending the PM’s person rather than formulating national policies to deal with multiple issues confronting Pakistan is leaving the country directionless and vulnerable.

This vulnerability came to the fore in the horrific terrorist attack on the Police Training Centre in Quetta late Monday night, raising serious issues of intelligence and security. It also revived the looming question mark as to why at the UNGA PM Sharif failed to utter a single word on Indian involvement in Balochistan and specifically the revelations made by RAW officer Kulbhushan Yadav who had been arrested in Balochistan earlier this year.

In fact, there has been an increasingly questionable silence on the part of PM Nawaz Sharif with regard to security-related issues, especially with multiple developments all being linked together under the overarching outbreak of a new cycle of Indian military violence in Indian Occupied Kashmir to put down a new wave of Kashmiri protests against Indian Occupation. As the Kashmiris protest has gained momentum and greater international attention, India has sought to divert attention with daily attacks along the LoC and the Working Boundary (WB). The rhetoric from Indian PM Modi also spirals upwards in it aggressive tenor and tone. The Uri attack provided India with added momentum to target Pakistan and that was done with a threat to suspend the Indus Waters Treaty unilaterally.

Post-Uri, at every diplomatic level India has created impediments against Pakistan – even on issues like climate change and water management. The attempt to draw in the BRICS members’ into its anti-Pakistan designs may have failed but that has not deterred India. In any case, the US, as usual, has aided the anti-Pakistan Indian agenda by giving a statement against ISI in the context of terrorism during this period of heightened Pakistan-India tensions.

For Pakistan, the external situation has been further aggravated by the growing Indo-Afghan nexus, which has allowed the Afghan government to also increase its bellicose tone against Pakistan while the US continues to blame Pakistan for its military failures in Afghanistan. Through all these developments, Pakistan’s responses have been noticeable for all the wrong reasons. There was the complete silence of the PM on the Indian role in Balochistan on his trip to the UN; as well as the government’s muted and delayed response to events in IOK. Strong statements condemning Indian designs have emanated less from the PM and more from the military leadership.

Then there has been the confused response on the issue of the Indus Water Treaty with Sartaj Aziz giving a false statement in the National Assembly that the World Bank was a guarantor of the treaty – a statement he had to retract almost immediately. A marked feature during this crisis period has been the muted tone of the PM on India and his government’s failure to provide a resolute direction to Pakistan’s policy in the region and the fissures that have appeared in the civil-military relationship.

These fissures came to the fore in the controversy of a sensitive leak from a security meeting which was clearly intended to target the Pakistan Army and which was subsequently declared as being totally fabricated. Increasingly it seemed that the disinformation had deliberately been ‘fed’ to the media not ‘leaked’ – the distinction being important within the context of mala fide intent. Nevertheless, other than targeting a journalist, the person who actually leaked the information has neither been publicly identified nor proceeded against – adding to the growing civil-military disconnect.

So the two questions confronting the nation are: one, is there a conflict of interest between the PM’s business interests in India and Pakistan’s security interests’ imperatives in the face of the overwhelming Indian attack on Pakistan at multiple levels with the support of the US? This question is gaining momentum because when timelines are examined relating to increasing Indian violations across the LoC/WB for the year 2014 and 2016 and to heightened domestic political challenges to the PM, there is an uncanny coincidence between the two.

Add to that the personal ties between Modi and the Sharif family; the fact that PM Sharif was the first Pakistani PM who did not meet the APHC leadership in New Delhi when he went on an official visit, for PM Modi’s inaugural; the secret meeting arranged in Nepal by an Indian businessman between Modi and Sharif to cite a few examples, and the question has growing validity.

Two, have the Panama Papers revelations, lending credence to corruption charges, diverted the PM and reduced his ability to provide resolute policies to deal with the multiple crises confronting the nation? As his ministers and loyalists focus on defending his person, there is a vacuum of policy to deal with critical developments within the country and external threats.

Diplomacy on important issues has been reduced to reliance almost solely on support from China – which continues to show its commitment to the Pakistan unlike our imagined allies like the US. The Nuclear Suppliers’ Group membership has seen no proactive Pakistani diplomacy to present our case – strong as it is – in world capitals and influential think tanks. A few free trips for retired civil and military bureaucrats are hardly a solution!

The National Action Plan still seeks implementation holistically and the sunset clause for military courts is about to set in with no reform of the criminal judicial system in sight. The madressah reforms and registration process is muddied and the formulation of a counter narrative has yet to move forward. Fata reforms have only reached discussion stage. But the most disturbing issue is the lack of action being taken against proscribed organisations and militancy. While Operation Zarb-e-Azb reflects military successes against terrorism, the political and economic follow ups are not in place and terrorism cannot be defeated purely through military means.

The government is adrift as the shadow of corruption overwhelms its leadership. Without strong governance, terrorism and militancy will continue to find space despite the sacrifices of the people and the security personnel. How many innocent Pakistanis, from schoolchildren to lawyers to women to minorities to cadets, must die because the government is adrift and has failed to implement its National Action Plan to deal with terrorism holistically – a plan that had national political consensus? The malaise of corruption is eating at our core and the cure has to begin from the top.


The writer is DG SSII and a PTI MNA. The views expressed are her own.