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Accountability spell

Currently Pakistan is once again in the grip of accountability spell that accentuates a familiar dotted line with the same goals and objectives crafted since 1960s but with the addition of some new tools and procedures. No doubt the political system as a whole as well as the society is infected by corruption but it was never meant to eradicate the menace. Instead since the very beginning it was used against a certain political behaviour to impose a desirable political change by the power that be.
If a politician toes a certain political line, he or she will have access to the spoils. In case of deviation or trying to transgress the red lines laid down by the virtual power centres, he or she is destined to fall on the altar of corruption. Charges of corruption and treason are time tested used largely to club the recalcitrant politicians by those who want to rule without responsibility, accountability and peoples’ consent.
Corruption is a much used and abused term in the land of the pure. It is used as an incentive to buy legitimacy for the illegitimate political acts and dispensations as well a deterrent in case of disobedience.
Presently, politicians, particularly belonging to the two major opposition parties, are in the cross hairs of an anti-corruption campaign. And the length of the list of the alleged corrupt depends on the number of those who do not fall in the line.
The timing of charges of corruption emanates not from the acts of corruption or corrupt practices but from the political stance of the accused. Thus, the noise of corruption is a barometer showing the state of political abnormality, that is, the higher the noise of corruption, more extreme is the political abnormality.
In contrast to the past, this time we are experiencing political abnormality as a new normal. In the past, an orchestrated squabbling among the politicos would be interpreted and presented by the powers to be as the collapse of constitutional and administrative order. Therefore to preserve the state and restore order they would welcome themselves in the centre stage.
Political parties and political activities withstood ban imposed through martial law order and went behind bars mostly in the name of protective orders. Later on, search for appropriate charges would begin against those who refused to behave accordingly. On the grounds of ‘theory of necessity’, the judiciary would provide legitimacy and subsequently, a political cover would be tailored but would not be part of the initiation. The coup makers would retreat behind the fortification made out of political sand bags.
This time things are happening in reverse order. The established politicos who bore the brunt of past machinations learnt the lesson of not to be part of the orchestrated squabbles or lend their shoulders to the proverbial third force. Unlike in the past, non-favorable international situation and ensuing image issue also made the direct intervention costly if not impossible.
Therefore, the preparation of an alternative began from October 2011 but that was not strong enough to cause a total collapse of the elected parliament and government. So the legal rigmarole and mantra of corruption came handy. Like diamond cuts a diamond, legitimacy needs to be cut with the machete of morality and legality. The target was softened through the media trial onslaught while the fatal blow was delivered by the judiciary by leading and supervising the campaign.
Apparently, the current situation is not ideal for the politicos but so is also for the power to be. Politicos are bruised facing a media trial and entangled in the web of arbitrary laws while facing the wrath of the permanent institutions of the state. However, the situation of the powers to be is also not envious.
The judiciary has already over drafted its account and beyond this point may face a total default situation while the freshly tailored political sand bags are unable to provide the required cover and fortification because this time the politicos are proving more stubborn as compared to the past.
The NAB, the so called anti-graft watchdog failed to establish its credentials of an impartial entity and earned a reputation of a repressive instrument of political persecution and victimisation by conducting selected accountability. The recent arrest of university professors and presenting them handcuffed in the court, the demise of a CEO of a private university in Sargodha and the image of wearing handcuffs after death in custody further entrenched these perceptions. Neither does the previous role of its current chairman as head of the Abbottabad and Missing Persons Commissions place him in a position above board.
Circumstantial evidence indicates a fresh post-election move might be underway to further decapitate political parties and more leaders will go behind bars to niche forward blocs and groups.
After nearly controlling the mainstream media, the next target is social media. For that purpose perceptions are being formulating by declaring, it as an instrument of hybrid and fifth generation warfare in the hands of enemies of the state.
But so far, there is a subtle but silent resistance against this seemingly new normal which has the possibility of going virulent, if not soon but not too late either. The poor performance, particularly the financial crunch, cutting subsidies from the social sectors and diverting the already meager resources from Public Sector Development Programes (PSDP) to defense may further increase public unrest. In such circumstances what would be the next move of the powers that be? Would they shed the cover of invisibility and come out in the open? If so, what would be its next alternate cover to retreat? In way, happy new year.



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