Handlers of democracy are corrupt to the core
By Brig Asif Haroon Raja
Notwithstanding the long list of failings of political and military regimes, there were good points to brag about as well. It is unfortunate that the last coalition government had nothing to show and feel proud of. The period from March 2008 to March 16, 2013 will be remembered as the darkest periods of Pakistan’s chequered history. The last government is busy highlighting its so-called achievements through page-size ads in newspapers. It is however quiet on its loot and plunder which continued till its last day in power. As if five years of loot was insufficient to rob this poor nation, the outgoing looters passed laws authorizing the PM, Speaker National Assembly, Chairman Senate, Sindh Chief Minister and Speaker lifetime security and perks and privileges.
On the last day of its tenure, the outgoing government issued 70 CNG licenses; Speaker Fehmida approved 100% increase in benefits and allowances of all members of National Assembly; income of Speaker, Deputy Speaker, ministers and special assistants increased by 40%; entire staff of Ministry of Information given foreign postings; billions of rupees dished out and banks remained open to ensure transaction. It gives a glimpse of the lust and greed of parasitic rulers.
Handing over Gawadar Port to China and going ahead with Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project are the only two initiatives for which this government can be given credit, but these came at the sunset of its five-year tenure. Onus of fruition of the two vital projects would rest on the shoulders of next government. These vitally important projects upon which the prosperity of the nation hinged should have been undertaken expeditiously sometime in 2008/09 instead of diverting state resources towards fighting war on terror. Had it been done, Pakistan would have avoided prolonged load shedding of gas and electricity and averted energy crisis and thus saved the industry from getting enfeebled. Industrialists would not have shifted to other countries, inflation and price hike would have remained within limits and unemployment situation wouldn’t have become so bleak. Even the value of Rupee would not have plunged so rapidly.
[box] On the last day of its tenure, the outgoing government issued 70 CNG licenses; Speaker Fehmida approved 100% increase in benefits and allowances of all members of National Assembly; income of Speaker, Deputy Speaker, ministers and special assistants increased by 40%; entire staff of Ministry of Information given foreign postings; billions of rupees dished out and banks remained open to ensure transaction. It gives a glimpse of the lust and greed of parasitic rulers. [/box]
GDP would not have crashed to an all time low 2.8% and budget deficit gone out of hand. So would have been the case of foreign exchange reserve which today stand at less than $ 7 billion. Macroeconomic indicators which remained in positive till end 2007 would have continued to remain positive and poverty level kept within limits. It in turn would have helped in curbing religious extremism and terrorism. Had the greedy legislators kept their greed in control and concentrated more on governance and adopted honest and austere living instead of indulging in mega scandals and extravaganza, Pakistan would not have lost Rupees 8 billion daily in corruption. Thus economy would not have reached the brink of collapse. Since all those who mattered had no regard for the country and its people, they preferred only those schemes which gave kickbacks. They misused the profit earning state corporations to fill their pockets rather than fortifying the institutions. Bureaucracy connived with the ruling politicians in money making projects.
The PPP-ANP-MQM trio not tiring of speaking about the virtues of reconciliation could have washed its sins had it built Kalabagh dam after achieving consensus. Rather, it put this vital project in a cold freezer at the very outset of its tenure and chose Rental Power Plant to make quick money and plunge the country into darkness. The champions of democracy hypocritically pretending to be in love with democracy inflicted such deadly blows to the democracy that the people have started hating democracy as well as the politicians.
Pakistan was worst affected by terrorism but the outgoing government failed to chalk out comprehensive counter terrorism policy. Neither the government nor the judiciary remained in step with the Army whenever it conducted highly challenging operations against the terrorists. As a consequence, when the Army completed its difficult tasks of attacking, capturing, consolidating, holding and maintaining peaceful and secured environments in the captured areas, the government remained in a state of limbo. It showed no desire to install civil administration and commence socio-politico-economic programs to address the grievances of the people and win their hearts and minds.
The Army had to perforce perform dual jobs of holding the area as well as carrying out rehabilitation, reconstruction and development works. Thousands of terrorists nabbed in the firefight were handed over to the police but were let off by the courts on account of insufficient evidence collected by the investigating agencies and also because of the lack of will of the judges on account of threats received from the militants. Consequently, the Army had to once again face the released terrorists. The Army also had to take on the extra burden of holding on to the indicted terrorists under trial for long duration because of indecision of courts. Likewise, the civilian intelligence and investigation agencies have left everything to ISI and MI whereas the internal security should be their baby and none else.
But for the poor governance, massive corruption, insensitivity of ruling regime and its subservience to Washington, neither the US could have spread its perverse influence in the society nor could the anti-state extremist groups play havoc. Breakdown of law and order in FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Karachi, which has made the state fragile, facilitated entry of foreign agents to fish in troubled waters and deepen the chaos.
Frustration of the people became so acute that foreign based Tahirul Qadri managed to hold biggest rally in Lahore and then carryout largest long march and sit-in in Islamabad to force the government to negotiate with him. Although Imran’s Tsunami has lost its initial fervor and Qadri and Musharraf’s balloons have busted, but the political temperature has reached a boiling point and things have become utterly confusing because of security threats posed by TTP. Many doubt whether elections will be held on time and that too peacefully. Others say that even if elections are held, the same lot of crooks will again enter the corridors of power and the cycle of loot and plunder will recommence with fresh vigor. They are convinced that without electoral reforms and refurbishment of Election Commission (EC), the entry of undesirables cannot be blocked.
While the political system and democracy may be good, the handlers of the system are immoral and corrupt to the core. Unless the fraudsters, cheaters, tax dodgers, loan defaulters, profiteers, hoarders, law breakers, graft takers, fake degree holders, dual nationality holders and soul sellers are weeded out and replaced with fresh faces, no change can come in the decayed system. Had the EC ensured screening of candidates strictly in accordance with Articles 62 and 63 of the constitution, 95% of electable would have got disqualified in the preliminary round.
Great majority of urban youth has got disillusioned by the sham democracy and is yearning for a healthy change. The young ones are so charged up that they will refuse to accept the polling results if parasitic leaders re-enter the legislature. The blame will be put on the EC and the caretakers. The EC is already under intense pressure for not doing enough to stop pre-poll rigging and for not carrying out screening of candidates ruthlessly. While the EC has cleared almost all aspirants for unknown reasons, FBR, State Bank and FIA have failed to provide details of wrongdoings of the contestants to the EC. Undoubtedly the EC has disappointed the people in the pre-poll phase; one wishes the EC works as diligently and sternly as the higher judiciary to ensure fair and free polls on the polling day. If 11 May experiment fails, people will demand military takeover or democracy based on Sharia.