By: Amjad Malik, MA, LLM
I have been vehemently advocating the need to erect a system of accountability by invoking a new commission and an Act of Parliament to curb mal practice, plundering and looting whilst one is holding a public office. This new Commission can truly ensure compliance with the Clauses of Article 62 and 63 of the constitution too. We are witnessing many names in the list of beneficiaries of National Reconciliation Ordinance, and many names which are not in it, are either praying to be in it or cursing the said redemption order of the former military dictator who came to rid corruption on 12 October 99, and left giving this strange gift of ‘hypocrisy’ to the nation.
Mal practice, corruption and mal governance is a common phenomenon of the third world countries as wealth is confined to the elite and institutions are so weak that they do not get roots and are run on the dictat of personalities. Pakistan is amongst those few unfortunate countries where despite abundance of natural resources, talent, passion, capacity of self dependency in edible food products, the country is still rating higher in corruption, suffering from food, electricity, gas, sugar shortages. Who is to be blamed is a long short, and to me, all bear the collective responsibility to bring this country to a stage where each person of any possible public stature is not free from corruption charges, which I will call allegations.
Whether its fat cat great lawyers of the state getting notorious amounts of monies in Harris Steel Milles case currently sub judice, or NAB Swiss cases, or even in General Musharraf’s candidature challenge case, or our millionaire bureaucrat . If politicians are maligned in Swiss commission cases, then loan defaulters are not a few in the list. If Judges were sacked for coercively giving judgments, then there is no dearth of military commanders and or bureaucrat who have plundered and stored money abroad for their rainy days. And no single entity is without a dint of corruption allegations even the Prime Minister whose wife got her loans rescheduled or settled with the banks whilst her husband had taken oath as the first ever chief executive of the country with unanimity.
Opposition leaders palaces are also worthy of public attention which opens an argument of whether they are cutting their coat according to their clothes too when their party refers Caliph Omer of Islam on whole sale basis. An ordinary citizen feels intimidated by just passing through the roads to their main entrance after going through the thorough fare which is in a few miles, and Rai Wind is a symbol of Mughal construction and culture which in contrasts to 10 Downing Street seems magnanimous. Though the race should be towards the opposite looking at Iranian President’s life style. No harm in enjoying extravagancy if one is not aspiring public office of a country in over 50 billion debt, mostly due to its corrupt elite.
And on top of it Pakistani army Generals are not saints too. In Hamood ur Rehman commission, Rear Admiral M. Sharif who was the Flag Officer Commanding the Pakistan Navy in East Pakistan finely depicted the system’s weakness that while learning the art of politics in this newly assigned role, the army gradually abandoned their primary function of the art of soldiering, and started amassing wealth and usurping status. I think its an eye opener if we are truly interested to know the reasons of Fall of Dhaka, and when Soldiers get involved in estate agency then the martyrs of Swat, Waziristan and or GHQ or parade lane mosque question the propriety of their bosses whether getting involved in any money making businesses in a country which is in debt head over heels is proper or not. And good God, our judges if we leave the conviction of Barrister Zulfiqar Bhuttoo aside for a moment, we still have the 4 judgements of the superior courts where on the name of ‘law of necessity’ majority of the judicial class took oath of the loyalty of a dictator scrapping their original oath of allegiance to the state. Ironically like our political class not a single judge is untarnished without alleged breach of Article 6, and luckily due to ineffective mechanism, no corruption charges are found or framed against judiciary as the nexus of military and judiciary saved each other from any criticism and backlash.
Whether it was accountability of Saif Ur Rehman the redco guy, or Gen Musharraf, There is no doubt that such accountability may not be declared ‘just and fair’ when a particular person may have a vested interest and the said person no matter how pious lacks the capacity of adjudicating on the basis of impartiality. That is the reason hat in the past judges had to pick up ‘bias floating on the surface of the convictions.’
It is a state failure that no reliable mechanism of adjudicating corruption was ensued in the past. Once we make up our mind that system itself promotes corruption in each class and cadre, only then we can come to second question of finding a solution to it that how we will find prima facie allegation, investigation, adjudication and punishment fairly and properly where justice is seen to be done. No one judge and or politician including General is indispensible in the country, and only the state lives along with the institutions, and no one is above the law must be the message.
Though I am barred to comment on NRO case which is under scrutiny of the full court of the Supreme Court , but I envy the wisdom of Parliament and our political class which is shifting everything to Supreme Court abdicating their responsibility of a law making, giving policy making decisions and executive priorities. They themselves are throwing at the realms of judges, expecting some miracles of mercy from them.
I think new Commission must be set up forthwith in line with the Accountability process which had consensus of two major parties in Charter of democracy. In chapter B , para 13, it was agreed to that a Truth and Reconciliation Commission be established to acknowledge victims of torture, imprisonment, state-sponsored persecution, targeted legislation, and politically motivated accountability. In the same tone, in Para d) it was agreed to replace politically motivated NAB with an independent accountability commission, whose chairman shall be nominated by the prime minister in consultation with the leader of opposition and confirmed by a joint parliamentary committee with 50 per cent members from both treasury opposition parties through transparent public hearing like the one suggested for an appointment of a judge. It was also agreed that the confirmed nominee shall meet the standard of political impartiality, judicial propriety, moderate views expressed through his judgements.
Lesson of history is that we do not learn any lesson from it, and that’s what politicians did with ‘charter of Democracy’ what people do with history. Pakistan must start a mechanism of transparent accountability, then all allegations and cases must be diverted to that new body for fair assessment and or adjudication. Unless we initiate that process, and in the absence of a new body, either existing body will deal with it or the higher judiciary itself. He who alleges must prove it, must be the way forward and state must facilitate such process, and in order to clear a backlog Parliament may consider a policy of reconciliation by admission of guilt, seeking forgiveness from the public and state, and return of looted public money and redemption must be considered in line with ‘South African Style Truth and Reconciliation.’ We must get on with the job turning a new leaf, otherwise we will be running in circles forever and ever, and we will be fooled by those who initially hold accountability and then issue NRO in the end..
Amjad Malik is a Barrister at Law, an expert of human rights law and Chair of Association of Pakistani Lawyers: