Corruption has been alive and well in Pakistan for over 6 decades. Soon after the Quaid died and with Liaquat Ali Khan subsequently assassinated in 1951, a small coterie of bureaucrats and their businessmen friends gave it momentum. Even then it remained within what one optimistically calls “limits”. Over the last decade or so, starting with Musharraf’s politico-military regime in 2002, corruption went into overdrive, “no-limit corruption” reaching its zenith in the 5 years of Zardari misrule. What is really tragic is that the populace seems to have become apathetic towards the malfeasance force-multiplying and becoming institutionalized.
Bribery corrupts the legal system and prosecution is evaded by large-scale suborning of government officials, further cementing the hold of the corrupt in the corridors of power. The rule of law requires hard evidence in the face of laws of evidence being weak and/or indifferent. Do criminals leave evidence against them lying around to be found? And what happens to those who dare try to bear witness? In Pakistan generally, but more particularly in Sindh, violence is resorted to deliberately whenever necessary to achieve certain goals and protect “business” interests. Criminals functioning under the name of “democracy” in the name of the law and exercising absolute control of law enforcement agencies (LEAs), can “legally” use the machinery of the rule of law to do their dirty work. The blatant exploitation of this in Sindh is an enduring disgrace to the concept of democracy as well as our collective conscience as a nation.
Our elected representatives and their bureaucratic collaborators now tend to openly support criminals from being brought to justice. The attempted undermining of the investigation and prosecution thereof of Dr Asim Hussain is a case in point. By showing off their symbols of power (the number of police mobiles meant to measure their social standing), looted wealth is converted into assets, that in turn gains them social respectability. The Catch-22 danger is that given respectability and buttressed with unlimited financial means they can keep on purchasing elections while exercising power through a sham for a democracy in the future. “Democracy being the best revenge,” repeated by PPP’s leaders ad nauseum is in fact the most convenient camouflage for indulging in rampant loot and plunder. While Zardari-led regime has set new records of nepotism and corruption, majority of the public sector institutions being beggared almost beyond redemption, the murder and mayhem perpetrated by his henchman (and former friend?) Zulfikar Ali Mirza through Uzair Baloch beggars description.
Ineffective governance, mostly deliberately so, makes “Organized Crime” a symbiotic connection between corruption and terrorism. With powerful sections of the media compromised, the public remains largely unaware of and indifferent to their activities or their overall impact on society as a whole. And we have many hypocrites in our society who become their active collaborators at worst and at best condone this corruption. Becoming the State and enforcing their own diktat their capacity for malfeasance is force-multiplied in such a flawed democracy (and even a dictatorship).
Organized crime thrives with little or no terrorist activities in most developed countries, in most developing countries terrorism exists along with varying levels of organized criminal activity. “Organized Crime” provides arms and money, can “create” official documents, launders money, provides safe houses, transportation, smuggles drugs and human beings, etc bribe officials and/or intimidate them as necessary across the countries and regions. Separate and distinct threats, terror is motivated by ideology and organised crime by greed. Karachi best symbolizes their cooperation for mutual benefit.
Both terrorism and organised crime have common aims but different political and economic objectives, terrorism aims to viz (1) overthrow the existing government by altering the status quo while organized crime aims to control a parallel govt from behind the scenes while co-existing with the existing one and (2) terrorism primarily uses violent means, preferring non-violence organized crime has shown increasing tendency for belligerence to control recalcitrant citizens and (3) terrorism is driven purely by political objectives including exploitation of regional, national and religious sentiments to achieve their ends; conversely, economic objectives are the operational determinants of organized crime.
With criminals running governance, the reluctance of LEAs to engage in investigations and prosecutions is understandable. Notwithstanding Dr. Asim Hussain’s funding/linkages with terrorists and political leaders up the ladder, his providing medical succour for terrorists so that they could recover from their wounds and again carry out murder and mayhem makes him accessory to thousands of murders that they subsequently committed. And is anyone interested in how much taxes he has paid in the illegal assets that he acquired?
The civilized world believes that it can enforce the rule of law in a totally lawless environment, this cannot be done unless we bring integrity into governance by bringing the unthinkable, e.g. a law against cannibals eating human beings into the statute books. Civilized society can be strait-jacketed with limitations, but in questioning these limitations, one can always find likely answers?” Can intelligence agencies listening to private conversations of terrorists and drug dealers without official sanction, why not? If the sanctity of religious places of worship like churches, mosques or synagogues are compromised, serving as a terrorist hideouts or ammunition storage, can they be called sacred and off-limits to LEAs? Can we dismiss a government which openly protects the corrupt? To sustain the peace of mind of our citizens and prevent innocents from being murdered,why not?
Having dealt firmly with target killers, the subsequent operations to root out corruption has slowed down considerably despite loud claims to the contrary. Just talking and/or planning to take deterrent action does not solve the problem, the time has come to do something tangible or risk losing credibility. The pursuit of accountability is a zero-sum game, unfortunately political nuances and self-interest compromise its implementation. This must be a transparent process where except for the necessities of national security everything is open for detailed public scrutiny.
A moral obligation to the downtrodden and poverty stricken masses means those who can exercise power must face upto their moral and ethical responsibilities rather than those actually in power who have a vested interest in doing nothing. Allowing the unscrupulous to loot the till and kill its citizens “a la Peoples Amn Committee,” the Constitution is a meaningless piece of paper and must not be conveniently used as a figleaf. Without doing their fundamental duty, those conducting accountability are as much culpable as those involved in the corruption and are as accessories to the crimes they have investigated but fail to prosecute!
(Ikram Sehgal is a defense and security analyst).