Being in power, directly or indirectly, for the last 30 years, the establishment has been endorsing legal and illegal methods of accumulating wealth. Whether in India or the US, military men do not retire as millionaires!
It appears that Pakistan’s ruling class knows something that we do not about the judiciary’s promise to treat every citizen equally and punish everyone violating the laws of the country. Along with the Taliban’s murderous suicide attacks, Pakistanis are bombed everyday by price hikes, hoarding, load-shedding, cheating by every influential person — political or otherwise — and the list goes on. It is evident that either the ruling classes believe that the judiciary and other state agencies working for accountability are mere show casings, or that they have been reined in.
Last week, Lahore witnessed the worst kind of suicide attacks and multiple bomb blasts. However, while the bodies of the innocent people were being buried in Lahore, Karachi, and many other places, we learnt that two high officials of an intelligence agency made two dacoits disappear from police custody. The DSP who had nabbed them despite the discouraging attitude of the higher ups, had refused to release them. The DSP was rewarded with an undesirable suspension for catching the dacoit and his mafia head. The incident was so brazenly unlawful that the people of that area staged demonstrations in support of the DSP — a rare show in favour of a policewala.
This week we learnt that officials were involved in the theft of natural gas, costing the nation billions of rupees. We also learnt that the prime minister has ordered the reorganisation of eight national institutions like PIA, the railways, WAPDA, etc, which are sustaining losses of billions of dollars. Who is going to reorganise the biggest money losers? Is it going to be the political leadership, which does not pay taxes on their own real income, costing the national exchequer an unknown huge amount, or the same officials who have been plundering every national institution? Probably, the same old set of officials sitting in the eight money losers will be rotated.
The prime minister and chief ministers keenly rush to the places of tragic happenings to announce monetary compensation for the victims. Records show that the prime minister has paid zero tax while the chief ministers — all four being billionaires — have paid nominal or no taxes. These powerful heads of the state and provinces do not pause to think for a moment whose money they are distributing. It is clear that this is not their money!
The prime minister and chief ministers belong to different parties but, as a class, their behaviour is identical. Therefore, it is clear that replacing one individual/party with the other will not change anything.
Repealing of the 17th Amendment or ousting President Zardari is also not going to change much. Therefore, the proponents of minus-one or minus-two formulas are just treating the symptoms and not the disease. The problem is that the healers are part of the problem.
Public figures advocating the minus-one formula believe that the establishment is determined to have these formulas implemented because they believe that the system cannot be corrected otherwise. But the question is how the establishment can correct this system without self-correction? How can they bring rationality into the system if their own share in the national wealth remains at the irrational level? If a clean democratic system is to be established for the sake of good governance and economic growth, then the share of the most powerful in the establishment has to be brought down to the level of other democratic societies. Whether in India or the US, military men do not retire as millionaires!
The all-powerful establishment in Pakistan has been claiming an unprecedented share in the national wealth. They may have legalised their methods of appropriating this wealth, but it has encouraged the other powerful sections of society to use the means at their disposal to get even. Being in power, directly or indirectly, for the last 30 years, the establishment has been endorsing legal and illegal methods of accumulating wealth. Most national institutions, from universities to money-losing state corporations — which are being reorganised now — were run by military men during the Musharraf regime. Therefore, the establishment cannot claim innocence regarding the misappropriation of wealth.
The establishment cannot expect governance to improve if it projects itself to be above accountability and keeps claiming irrational levels of national income as compared to other democracies. The ruling class knows it very well, feels secure, and this is what they know and we do not.
It means that none of the players, political formations or the establishment can reform the system in Pakistan. A new political force, with grassroots support, like the Pakistan People’s Party of the1970s, is required to correct the entire system. An independent judiciary cannot reform every institution without the backing of a political force in place. Therefore, a lot will happen before we see a reformed Pakistan.
The writer can be reached at email@example.com
March 23rd, 2010