An All Too Familiar Face of Accountability

Source: BBC Urdu

Pakistan is a unique country in terms of governance and politics. Not everything is as it seems and you can often have a hard time discerning who is really at the helm of policy. The case with accountability is not any different. It is often used as a moralizing political tool than a dispenser of justice.

Ever since the office of the Prime Minister was created in Pakistan, the civil and military bureaucrats have been busy inventing excuses to dismiss it. And whether they have not been creative enough in coming up with those excuses, they most certainly have been effective in the ultimate objective.

Ever since General Pervez Musharraf resigned as President, it seems that the coup-ready military of Pakistan has changed its decades-old strategy. It apparently has realized that explicitly taking over the government in Pakistan is either not good for its image internationally or does not garner enough support at home. So now they prefer to move the strings from behind the curtain.

The Pakistani people have been fed a singular dimension of accountability. That the elected office holders or the politicians are the embodiment of all the corruption in the government, while the civil and military bureaucracy is the most efficient machinery in existence. Not only that, they are also the most suitable entities to hold the politicians accountable.

Ever since the revelation of the Panama Papers with the mention of the offshore companies of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, we are seeing the familiar face of accountability surface. As it came as a welcome relief after the drama around electoral rigging died out. And as before, when the military lies dormant, the judiciary plays its part to be the entity ready to stage a soft coup as in the case of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani. The very tone used by judges, in this case, speaks volumes of their intent. It may or may not materialize, but the way the wind has been blowing is unmistakable.

At least for moral reasons, there have been calls for the Prime Minister to step down. Apart from not qualifying on the mystical constitutional standards of “Sadiq” and “Amin”, there is hardly any reason to until a definite proof of money laundering is produced on his person, as opposed to the conjectures listed by the JIT. But if the Prime Minister does not step down, it would be interesting to see how far his opponents go to bring about his demise. In that case, it is probably better for his purpose to play the victimization card.

However, where his governing achievement surpasses most other parties, his poor political leadership is costing him dearly. The problem with the PML-N has always been that it mistakes its heavy mandate as a carte blanche to alienate political stakeholders around the country. Of course, the incurably cynical PTI is on a saboteur mission to take democracy down with themselves but the rest of the parties can at least listen to the majority party and come to its rescue in case of bureaucratic threats.

What the PML-N does not realize is that its overwhelming majority that it takes for its strength is its greatest weakness. Because it has always been targeted by the bureaucratic establishment for such powerful popular support that no other party has enjoyed over three decades. The way it has been targeted is evident from all three terms of Prime Minister Sharif.

Unfortunately, there are elements in our civil and military bureaucracy, as well as the intelligence community, who do not want democracy to flourish in Pakistan. Not only do they not believe in democracy as a system of government, they strongly resent any hint of power in the hands of the public. The bureaucratic rule has been presented as a solution for the Pakistani people since independence and sadly, a good number of people buy into this narrative surviving since colonial times. And who better to hold the politicians accountable than bureaucrats, as evident from the JIT, which has now rendered military intelligence as an extension of the judicial branch.

Nobody has bothered questioning why the JIT has officially become an extension of the Supreme Court. Nobody has bothered questioning why the range of investigation has been extended beyond the revelations of the papers. Nobody has bothered asking why military intelligence officials are investigating the first family. And above all, nobody has bothered questioning why in Pakistan a panel of judges can undo the mandate of the people instead of impeachment by elected officials.

Of course, accountability should be a part of a strong democratic system. And a fragile democracy is hardly any excuse to forego the crimes of the political class. However, it would have been far easier to trust the high office of judiciary and bureaucracy in Pakistan had they enjoyed a cleaner political track record.

So, who is going to hold who accountable?

Well, let’s start from the politicians again. Now and forever.

 

The post was originally published in the Dunya Blogs.
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Humiliating for a Living

Source: Dawn

Source: Dawn

There is sufficient evidence to suggest that human beings, as a species (for the sake of emphasis), take great pleasure in humiliating their fellow beings. Evidence so overwhelming that it hardly needs a demonstation for a proof, as it almost defines our lifestyle.

There is no greater dimension of social life to demonstrate this fact than politics. While there is no culture in the world, from the United States to India, where people would not have bitter resentment for their political rivals to the point of seeing them grovel, but in Pakistan, we have invented new fabulous ways for it which were never heard of before.

The newest innovation in this regard has been the qualification check or “scrutiny” from the election commission’s returning officers receiving the nomination papers based on the Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

While in another country, they would be asking the candidates about their understanding of the law and the constitution, the Pakistani returning officer is interested in everything about the married life of the candidate to his or her knowledge of the religous rituals, funeral rites and of Islam. I wounder if they have asked them about their circumcised penises as well.

Basically, the idea is that these officials are verifying if the morality of the candidates is in line with the religious, traditional and conservative values of the culture. As a matter of fact, the eloquent PML-N MP Ayaz Amir was recently declared disqualified, only later to be declared qualified, on the basis of his column questioning the ideology of Pakistan. So much for freedom of speech.

Source: Dawn

Source: Dawn

But one thing is for sure. These returning officers seem to be biased in favor of religious parties because if these questions are asked to their candidates, they would, or are supposed to have answers memorized like the back of their hands.

But obviously, this piece of news was a great source of entertainment for the Pakistani media, because incidentally a lot of candidates failed to dodge the loaded questions of the returning officers. Questions which ranged from the demand of recital of the funeral prayer to enquiring about the reason for marrying a second time.

Here I am not implying that any such idiocy be banned, which many often conclude when you voice such criticism. But nevertheless, it is an embarrassing state of affairs. Even the Lahore High Court, known for its youtube moralism, was embarrassed and condemned it.

Musarrat Shaheen - Source: journalismpakistan.com

Mussarat Shaheen – Source: journalismpakistan.com

But come on, it did put up a great show. Entertained the nation for a week or two.

For example, the sheer delight of Mussarat Shaheen, a Dera Ismail Khan dancer-actress turned politician candidate who I publicly and shamelessly support by the way (the more women in the parliament, the better for their own good. Besides she kicks Maulana’s ass), reciting Ayat-ul-Kursi or Verse of the Chair or Throne (2:255) from the second chapter of the Koran. (A Koranic mantra usually chanted to ward off evil spirits)

And the ecstasy of watching an older-than-middle-age woman shedding tears on the TV screen for being unable to recall some nonsense from Islamic or Pakistan Studies teachings.

Not long ago, the media came up with a clip which showed Senator Rehman Malik being unable to fluently recite in Arabic, which is by no maens his first language, the Sura-e-Ikhlaas  or the 114th chapter of the Koran, which is certainly a matter to be laughed at.

As if being able to recite the Koranic verses is imperative to qualify you not only for public office, but for public respect. And vice versa.

Source: CNBC Pakistan

Source: CNBC Pakistan

But apparently it is. And despite Rehman Malik’s apologies to the nation for the failure of the parliament to remove Articles 62 and 63 from the constitution, it was his party and none else who laid the foundation for that fanatic madness.

Though I consider his statement about Sadiqs and Ameens pretty heroic and very wise in the end. He said that only people named Sadiq and Ameen are the ones who are Sadiq and Ameen in Pakistan, clarifying the actual status of these Arab adjective-names taken for holy characteristics of the ideal Muslim. A lot of people mock him for his stupidity, but they would not have half the courage to utter this undeniable fact.

Source: International Islamic University Islamabad

Source: International Islamic University Islamabad

This rather reminds me of my days in the International Islamic University Islamabad, where you could not earn the degree without reciting one of the verses from the last 40 chapters of the Koran, whichever asked.

I, despite putting up with this ridiculous regulation, was openly against it. However, my classmates, without any exceptions whatsoever, all of them devout and pious Sunni and Shia Muslims, saw nothing wrong with it. They were pretty cheerful about it actually, making me doubt my motives as I was pretty bad at it.

Of course, what could possibly be more charming than being able to recite the good Word of God at a minute’s notice. Sadly, many a fanatic Muslims destroy and abuse the childhood years of their offspring who guarantee paradise for their seven ancestors through this glorious virtue.

What more could you possibly ask for?

But coming back to the most necessary provision of Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and why criticizing which does not amount to treason, I fail to comprehend.

However, these provisions simply send out a message to the Christians, Hinuds, Sikhs, Parsis and other religious minorities of Pakistan that they do not have any business living and flourishing in this country.

Oh wait, I got it wrong. They have their rights as provided by the constitution.

It actually suggests that any one who is non-religious and supports secularism has no business living in this country, let alone take part in the public affairs.

As for the humiliation part, why complain?

That is probably all that our species derives its entertainment from.

Why not make a living out of it?