Dr. Asim’s recent arrest has drawn unprecedented applause from a huge cross section of the people of Pakistan. Whether this applause is the result of analysis, or an instinctive reaction of the people, it goes to show that the people of Pakistan recognize massive corruption as lethal for the health of their country, as terrorism itself. They see a nexus between the two, as there doubtless is. This nexus is at two levels i.e either masses of dirty money gathered through plunder is directly invested in propping up terrorism to destabilize Pakistan, or run-away corruption leads directly to injustice, absence of governance,chaos, social breakdown, and insecurity.
And this in turn creates recruits which feed the ranks of the terrorists. And this applause is directed specifically towards the Army, Gen Raheel Sharif, and his generals, not towards the government. That the government could have initiated action against corruption, being so thoroughly drenched in it itself, is something that no one finds credible. The great hope now is that this arrest marks the start of an operation against the A team of the bandits whose vanguard is comprised of politicians, and whose enablers are the bureaucracy, the police, and the judiciary. For the first time in memory the people of Pakistan are standing so firmly behind their army that they are unwilling to hear a word spoken against it.
The present system of government, euphemistically, and might one say criminally, labelled as democracy, cannot be expected to be anything but corrupt. It is quite simply a system in which one requires a large investment to get elected. And once elected, the expenses incurred during the exercise have to be recouped by a return on investment which was always expected to be handsome, but over the last seven years these expectations have risen so high that now there are no limits to them. With the withdrawal of these limits nothing falling under the definition of national interest is sacred any more, and nothing decent can survive the system.
This degeneration was not attained through a sudden fall. This achievement was made possible over a period of years by the efforts of a sodden elite, to which the politicians, the army, the judiciary, the police, the bureaucracy the businessman and the “intellectuals” all contributed. The clearly delineated benchmarks of this fall were the following:
– Musharraf’s NRO, the most shameful legal expedient which this man stooped to, to keep himself in power and thus gave both respectability and legitimacy to theft, and flooded the political playing field with criminals.
– The Charter of Democracy, which was basically a declaration of a partnership in criminality and corruption among the politicians of Pakistan which guaranteed immunity against accountability and prosecution for high crimes and misdemeanors, and strengthened this arrangement by introducing the concept of a “friendly opposition” to our “democracy”. In a democracy when the opposition becomes “friendly” there is a very apt Punjabi quotation to describe this arrangement i.e “kutti ral gayee choran naal” !
– A Constitutional Amendment which emasculated the Presidency, and so constituted the Election Commission as to facilitate the rigging of elections, to endlessly perpetuate the rule of a whoredom gone berserk.
– The Iftikhar Chaudhary judiciary, hypocritically activist, thoroughly venal, and blatantly biased against the army, which went to the extent of excising the principle of necessity off the rule book to give ultimate immunity to the politicians against the only institution whose fear lent at least a semblance of balance to the political equation in the land. For a judge to make illegal a judicial principle like the principle of necessity, is akin to ruling illegal the principle of self defense, or the principle of doing the least harm–all of which are principles whose legality is judged ex post facto.
The cumulative effect of all of the above has been to take the country to the very edge of catastrophe–murder, torture, mayhem, extortion, plunder, and the complete breakdown of every institution of the country. The Army is the only institution left standing. Any wonder then that the people of Pakistan should be looking towards the army to redeem their lot? And to the great chagrin and utter discomfiture of the politicians, for the first time in memory, this army has yet to put a foot wrong! And thus it is that where ever both Nawaz Sharif and Gen Raheel Shareef are seen together in public, it is the General who hogs all the applause, while the PM sinks into embarrassed insignificance.
Be this as it may, what is agitating the minds of the people is whether the army will take its war against the terrorists as well as the operation clean-up to its natural conclusion, or will it be abandoned midway? Should the army stop short of bringing all the high ranking thugs to the book, it will be viewed as betrayal by the people of Pakistan who are standing firmly behind their army, and as firmly against the political establishment which has thoroughly wrecked the country. Their hope is to see that the severest punishment will at last be meted out to those who were elected to serve them, but who have robbed them of everything, including hope.
Whether it is the people of Pakistan, or the rank and file of the army, their thinking is entirely in consonance on the following:
– the only thing which distinguishes the Pakistan of today from Iraq is that we still have a disciplined army. Imagine, if you dare, a Pakistan without the army! But for intervention by the army, the political establishment would by now have pushed the country over the cliff. If doomsday appears to have been averted for the present, it is only because of the army. And let no one have any doubt, that the moment the army pulls itself back and stops short of going the whole hog,the political leadership will immediately go to work on the country, and start precisely from the point where their efforts were interrupted.
–- this political leadership is united on only one issue i.e Pakistan is its bunny, and screwing it with impunity is their right. After all that is daily being unearthed and carried in the media only those will not admit of the existence of this unholy partnership, who are its beneficiaries, Such leadership must be brought to the book.
– the single most important development which Pakistan must immediately prepare for is a concerted effort by many countries to destabilize it. China is being sought to be contained. And Pakistan is in the forefront of giving to China a very important escape hatch, and in the process of doing so, is giving itself a second chance. No country can be allowed to get away with this, least of all a tottering, hollowed out third world country, ruled by a class of people for whom there is nothing sacred, and who will sell off their grannies for a pittance.
–- a system of government called “democracy” as we have experienced it, which is basically grounded in, and driven by, viewing election expenses as an investment on which it is right to make a limitless return without being held to account, can only guarantee corruption; and sanctified corruption can only guarantee a government by the pimps, for the pimps of the pimps. No course correction is possible in a system which is driven by theft. And the only direction theft with impunity can take is to more theft, and yet more theft. To expect otherwise is to expect that fairies will issue forth each time a mule breaks wind.
Hope is the only right not guaranteed in any constitution, but it is something people live by. A right which they give to themselves. This hope the people have invested in the army. One wonders though if this is yet again a triumph of hope over experience, or is the present generalship of the army sufficiently different to its predecessors who only flattered to deceive? Are we actually experiencing a miracle where those wielding the most power in the country, are also most firmly committed to the highest national interest?
If indeed the army is driven by its commitment to higher national interest it must re-institute the rule of law. And the arms of this law should be long enough to bring to justice those who have with impunity subverted this law, and instead of serving their people and their country have plundered them.
In the roster of crimes that form an existential threat to the state of Pakistan, Terrorism and mega corruption should be seen as two pincers of the same assault on the country. Towards this end the following should be done:
– Mega corruption needs to be formally cited as a national security imperative. – Mega corruption should be renamed as economic terrorism so as to bring it within the larger rubric of terrorism.
– Once redefined as economic terrorism cases of mega corruption should be tried in military courts.
– In the case of economic terrorism the burden of proof of innocence should be shifted on the defendant i.e he should be considered guilty unless he can prove himself innocent. If there is no proportionality between a person’s wealth, and the taxes he pays, he should be considered guilty; similarly if there is no proportionality between his wealth and declared earning, he should be considered guilty. This is more or less the principle on which the Internal Revenue Service of America functions. And unless we enact a similar law, all our champion bandits will go free, but if such a law were to be enacted, they would all be in jail. And because of its very simplicity, it would be within the competence of any military court to try.
The eventual question which naturally follows is how does the army empower itself to do the above
This is very simple assuming that the army has both the courage and commitment to do what is necessary to salvage the country. As the situation now stands it is already exercising de facto power, and enjoys unprecedented support among the people of Pakistan.
To convert this de facto power into de jure, it needs to proceed in the exact opposite direction to the road taken by the politicians to empower themselves with total immunity against the lawlessness perpetrated by them.
The army will have to get the 18th amendment nullified.
To do this it must put in place a national government who will do this by Ordinance.
To do this it will have to intervene to get rid of the present set-up.
To do this it will need to first protect itself. For this it will be essential that EVERY general signs a resolution that the state of national security was such that it became inevitable to remove and take to trial criminals who had brought the present situation about.
As the national government is formed, the judges in the higher judiciary should be given new oaths to take under the new dispensation. For each one who refuses to take this oath, there will be ten, who will rush in to take it, for it should be taken as a given that there is little that is “high” in our higher judiciary. Most of them are Iftikhar Chaudhary’s legal progeny, and angels are seldom born to sluts. Most of the “me-lords” are as corrupt as the criminal political hierarchies they have afforded protection to.
The national government should then give the Army Chief an extension, and the Chief should ensure that every officer promoted to the rank of general
should take a signed oath validating the recent army intervention.
Pakistan cannot be salvaged unless the present operations are taken to their natural conclusion. And this conclusion cannot be reached unless the above steps are first taken. But if the one extra step of a direct army take-over is taken, the whole thing will go up in smoke. Within six months of such take over the army will find itself occupying the same slot in the esteem of the people of Pakistan which Nawaz Sharif and Zardari occupy today.
Courtesy South Asian Pulse