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March 7, 2018

How politics got corrupt?


March 7, 2018

If all major political parties suspect a foul play in the recently-held Senate elections, from PML-N to PTI to MQM, the very process lost its credibility. The ECP can declare such elections null and void provided all agreed or if it also has evidence. But it would not cleanse the system until its being reformed.

Corrupt practices, which by and large exist in the society at all level, have now become part of our political culture. It requires a strong will to extract corruption from politics, which may not be possible merely by introducing a few laws in the Constitution.

It is important to know the root cause as to why politics could not grow in Pakistan. As a result, only two or three political parties could emerge as national entities but they too are being marginalised.

Democracy in Pakistan is more a myth because it was never allowed to grow in its true spirit since independence. With the passage of time, civil and military bureaucracy tightened its grip on decision making and in political matters.

They not only created parties but many leaders were also their product. Whenever any party leader or party become too popular, it faced a split and groups. In the process, the whole political culture was polluted and corrupted.

It all started with one experiment after another and the so-called democracy progressed under the umbrella of martial law. They also used judiciary as well as media, with a result of both becoming part and parcel of the system. Judiciary provided legal cover to unconstitutional rule while media portrayed dictators as saviours. Yes, there were voices of dissent against the system, both within judiciary and media, and they faced hardships.

This class also introduced systems like, Basic Democracy of Ayub Khan, Majlis-e-Shura and non-party elections of Ziaul Haq, and Musharraf’s self-imposed government of a chief executive. All these dictators considered Constitution just a piece of paper.

Constitutional rule became the major casualty and majority of those who came in politics remained part of one dictator or the other and were the product of unconstitutional rule. Those who tried to challenge this culture and struggle for a true Constitutional rule faced prison, charges like high treason, death by torture and were banned. Only yesterday, one of the prominent let-wing politicians Jam Saqi died. Irrespective of his political ideology, even his worst rival from any right-wing party would not accuse him of indulging in any corrupt practices.

This corrupt class first discredits national and ideological parties, starting from the mother party of Pakistan – Pakistan Muslim League. PML could not remained united even for first two years after the death of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, while the major attack came on the left wing, starting with the ban on communist. Later, even the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami Maulana Maudoodi also faced death sentence, so was Sheikh Mujibur Rehman.

Even the sister of Quaid-e-Azam, Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah was not acceptable. Same was case with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. If we just check Pakistan's politics in the first 25 years, it would not be difficult to find out why democracy could not flourish or not had been allowed to thrive and as a result we lost East Pakistan, the majority province, because we never accepted will of the majority or national politics.

Bhutto was a popular leader and could have set politics in the right direction, but due to some of his feudal instincts, he killed the voice of dissent, both within his own party and in the opposition. PPP's co-founders like JA Rahim or Dr Mubashir Hasan believed in ideological politics.

But it is also true that politics had not been as discredited as it is today. Whether it was the PPP government in the Centre and in Sindh or the NAP and JUI government in the then NWFP and Balochistan, they never faced accusations like horse-trading. Even under Zia, Bhutto never been accused of massive corruption.

What an irony that it was Zia’s martial law in which amendments had been made in Article 62 and 63, supposedly to ensure that clean people entered the Parliament, but it was during his 11 years, politics got most corrupt through hand-picked systems like Majlis-e-Shura and non-party system.

It would be wrong to blame only Zia for Bhutto's execution. Pakistan's leading politicians from both right and left wings gave a silent support and it is also an admitted fact that Zia had postponed the Oct 1977 elections on the advice of a group of seasoned journalists and editors. The role of judiciary in the trial remains our darkest chapter.

The present breed of politicians, including former premier Nawaz Sharif, is a product of post-Bhutto politics. It is a historical fact that the Sharifs did not come into politics by choice, as they had been convinced. One of the arguments given to late Mian Sharif by Zia and Gen Jilani as quoted by one senior PML-N leader was, “Mian Sahib! Bhutto had nationalised your industries but you could now protect you business by joining politics.”

Zia encouraged a politics based on ethnic, sectarian and caste, As a result, the national and ideological parties were marginalised and politics got violent as well as corrupt.

In the last 40 years, we have been hearing slogans like 'first accountability then elections' and had witnessed different forms of anti-corruption drive, which were often uses against politicians for political purposes – Zia used it, Sharifs used it through Ehtesab Bureau, Musharraf used it through National Accountability Bureau.

For the first time, we are witnessing continuity of whatever democracy we have conceived. This is the most crucial phase as general elections will be held we in July and we may see another transfer of power.

One only has to wait and see the transparency in the accountability process. It is not only a test for the independent judiciary but also for the particular class which in the past created hurdles. Whether the Sharifs are convicted or acquitted, it has yet to be established that accountability would be across the board and not person or party-specific.

Politics cannot be cleaned if we don't want to do it. Let all parties sack all their MNAs and MPAs who were involved in buying or selling their votes. It can be a good beginning towards a better politics, although there is still a long way to go.

The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of GEO, The News and Jang.

Twitter: @MazharAbbasGEO

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