NOT TO LOSE HOPE BUT TO STRIVE

In February 2009, in one of my articles I wrote, “One can presume that this time the powers that be, sitting at the back, may support the judiciary, riding a white horse of justice in a form and shape never seen in the history of Pakistan. The democracy, this time, will be linked to free and fair judiciary. Such a change will be a pleasant surprise for the civil society and vast majority of the public.” Nine months later, after passing through political turmoil that  has included Governor Rule in Punjab, the reinstatement of the Chief Justice, the revival of an independent higher judiciary and revitalising the dead and buried NRO; it is getting clearer that the presumption is changing into reality. Today, among the three conventional pillars of society, (though I consider there to be six–judiciary, executive, legislative, military, clergy and media) the judiciary has reformed and reconsolidated itself at the top. Recently, the top judiciary has focused itself on massive corruption cases. Let us hope the process of purgation will trickle down to the lowest judicial levels.

Corruption has four faces; financial, administrative, nepotism and irrational compromises. The top judiciary has concentrated on the first face as it is this corruption which, like cancer cells, has eaten away the very fabric of our society. It widened the gap between the haves and have-nots. The wealthy became the wealthiest and poor the poorest. The corrupt practices of the haves made policies which wrap the have-nots in an unending poverty cycle putting them against the wall and pushing them into corrupt practices. In this way, the financial corruption has surfaced as luxury-based for the haves and need-based for the have-nots. The former became the tool to fill the pockets of the greedy elites and the latter a conduit to fill the empty bellies of commoners. In the process, it destroyed the whole society at the individual and institutional levels. One of the main reasons why Madresas have flourished in the last two decades was the blatant poverty which hit the vast majority of the public. The poor sent their children to Madresas because of poverty they faced. Religious leanings were never the primary reason for such enrolments.

It is said that the Lord acts in mysterious ways. The way the cases of financial corruption reached the doors of the Supreme Court recently strengthens the statement. It all started with the 37 Ordinances promulgated by the then president Musharaf. Some good, some bad and some in between were all considered dead and buried by many legal wizards. Among the good ordinances was Ordinance No LII–The Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP), while NRO was linked with the bad ones. To give continuity to the good ones, their revival was necessary which was not possible in isolation. The SC asked the government to enact all of them within 120 days through parliament. Barring NRO, the majority of the public didn’t know much about the other Ordinances. NRO took the lead in the media and what happened to it in the parliament as a result is a part of history. The above-mentioned statement further gets strength when we note that Dogar kept it alive as a pressure tool for his personal security when he did not take up the appeals of Dr Mubasher and Mr. Roedad Khan who challenged its validity.

To make it more mysterious, somehow, the name of the prime minister’s wife was associated with the list of the NRO beneficiaries. The news shocked him. The angry looking PM fumed at the news media announcing his resignation if his spouse’s name turned out to be in the list. He told his legal state minister to make the list public which he did in a press conference. That was a mistake as till then, the government had no intention to do so. It let the cat come out of the bag spreading its paws in all directions.

The matter got complicated when it turned out that though his wife was not a beneficiary of NRO, she was a loan defaulter. This revelation opened a new Pandora box of corruption. Soon it became clear that over the years, the mighty ones had been taking hefty bank loans flouting legal requirements and later writing them off through default without due legal practices causing huge financial losses to the nation. Thus the corrupt beneficiaries of the ill-fated NRO found identical friends in bank loan defaulters. The talk-shows started dissecting the types of defaults and their corrupting fall outs. It turned out that some government functionaries used their influence and facilitated bank loans to those who did not deserve them, giving a hpw new dimension to corrupt practices. Not stopping there, they helped in the promulgation of SROs to benefit specific individuals, showing another face of corruption. It seems wherever one turns his face he finds corruption. This is just one aspect of financial corruption.  If all major sources of corruption in Pakistan are combined one finds the whole society is up to its neck in sleaze. How the poor country has survived so far is no less than a miracle.

As if the curse of corruption was not enough, Pakistan was hit by another curse-terrorism. Irrespective of how we got involved in the war against terrorism, it has become our war. The Swat operation brought a few things to the front;

·         Taliban cannot be trusted when it comes to honouring agreements

·         Public opinion shifted against Taliban

·         Pak army restored its fallen grace

·         The nation can absorb the shock of massive internal migration.  

Today, Pakistan faces two major threats; corruption and terrorism. The former is the brainchild of sixty years old corrupt civilian and military governments. The latter is thrown into the lap of a military dictator by foreign forces nine years ago. It is clear that the country cannot progress unless these two are tackled. Democracy alone is not an answer to eliminate either one of them. The public on the streets have been desensitised to the shallow slogans of the merits of democracy or demerits of military rule. They don’t care who sits in the power chair. They have seen civilian and military governments snatching their fundamental needs of living leaving them to the misery of poverty routed through blatant corruption; a trait left behind both by the democrats and military men. To make the situation more despondent, they have to face the fear of an unexpected horrendous death at the hands of the terrorists.

In a situation like this, could anyone blame them for looking up to the newly revived superior judiciary in curbing corruption at the top level of society? Or shouldn’t they put their hope in the military actions against the terrorists? How could they forget that in the last sixty years, they found their protesting voices fell on the deaf ears of leaders and their wretched images were unnoticed by the blind eyes of the powerful? Still we expect them to praise democracy and vote for those who regularly disappointed them? Yes democracy is good; if it could eliminate poverty; if it could dispense justice; if it could give peace of mind in day to day life; and if it could protect the public from terrorism. But has the public seen these things happening? No, not at all.

All they see in today’s democracy is that the parliament is hopelessly incapable; the executive is potently shady; and the corrupt government is practically inapt. To fill the vacuum, the independent electronic media took an odd responsibility and became the eyes and ears of the public, through which they see the judiciary taking steps to curb corruption and observe the military fight terrorism. If the judicial activism and the military action fail them as successive governments have in the past, there will be unprecedented repercussions of a type never seen before. A flood akin to the predictions of Biblical Wiseman Umapushkin or Prophet Noah will erupt with a difference that this time there won’t be an Ark to save the juggler saviours of fake democracy. Only these two can act as Noah’s Ark to save people from an erupting storm and revive true democracy in Pakistan.

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