The return of corruption

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Durdana Najam

It has been a no-win situation for both the parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. It was neither a game of thrones nor a bold and beautiful soap. It was a mere show of strength, an opportunity to manifest the political muscle. In the meantime, what did the nation achieve? Prices of petroleum products were not increased, and thus the prime minister already under wrath is saved from further condemnation.
The brinkmanship remained a power game with the government taking the lead for no other reason than its ability to use coercive authority in a legitimate and wholesome way. To many, government’s return from the brink has been the success of democracy. To many more it was Imran Khan’s bad judgment that led him to become a pawn in the hands of the ‘unseen forces’ to be used once again for whatever purposes. Some believe that Khan has shown political maturity by calling off the dharna (sit-in), and putting the burden on the Supreme Court.
The question is if it was the judicial commission that had to decide the fate of the issue of the Panama leaks then whose success was the nation trying to celebrate and for what? Those who think it has been the success of democracy needs to reflect on what democracy hold. If democracy is saving a corrupt government, and getting it elected through a farce ballot, then not allowing Khan to lock down Islamabad was indeed the step in the right direction.
Those who believe that Khan had been used again by the agencies, so to say, need to reflect on their judgment. A government that could be cut down to size through a show of force of a few thousand people may have already lost its claim to rule. Those who feel that Khan has finally achieved political maturity having agreed to Supreme Court’s decision to let a commission decide the fate of the Panama leaks need to revisit the history of commissions made in the recent history of Pakistan.
The joy emanating from all these three reasons are, in fact, dark to the core, in addition to its inability to add any value to country’s prosperity. So where do we stand now? On the crossroads of democracy, in the shadow of dictatorship, under the banner of a corrupt government that has a billion ways to wriggle out of its shady acts, or maybe nowhere.
Pakistan has been in the throes of mismanagement largely because the leadership has been corrupt to the core. Though we clamour that India wants to see Pakistan dismantled, what have the leaders of the country done to save it from becoming a house of cards? This new tacit alliance among political parties to protect each other’s skin is a ploy to keep the army out of the helm. This strategy has, in fact, perpetuated corruption. In the name of saving democracy, rule of law and governance have been sacrificed. In the last tenure, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government had been utterly disengaged from the problems the country faced. Asif Ali Zardari, allegedly, ruled Pakistan through a handful of cronies.
The funny part was that the PPP rehabilitated the stature of parliament, and the then prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gillani, would regularly come to the National Assembly. The 18th amendment was orchestrated to revive the power of the prime minister. Parliamentary committees were enlivened, and the whole gamut of parliamentary system of governance was put in place. The PPP government takes pride in getting the army and the ISI chief to come to parliament to answer the reasons of their professional ignorance in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s capture/killing in a raid conducted by the US in Abbottabad.
All these developments in strengthening parliament went to waste when seen in the backdrop of governance that nose-dived during Zardari’s reign. From energy to law and order to the rule of law, everything was in doldrums. Government filed to curtail terrorism. Bomb blasts would wrack the country every second day. The so-called representatives of the people were busy strengthening parliament without giving any relief to the masses.
It was a sheer joke that went on until the PML-N government came to power, and parliament once again took a back seat. It is business as usual. Parliament or no parliament, the game of corruption has been in full swing.
To eradicate corruption, the country does not need a street protest. It requires a mechanism of accountability that would ensure eradication of corrupt politicians and their cronies from the political system. Will that happen without any revolutionary leadership, which the country utterly lacks? It is indeed a no-win situation. Neither democracy has won nor the so-called third force. It is, in fact, the return of corruption, while the loss goes to the masses.