Pakistani Politicians – The Tribe of Hypocrites

Hypocrisy on a grand scale is the basis of Pakistani politics. Parliament, the government and its institutions – all have their share of hypocrisy. No wonder politicians and bureaucrats have finessed the art of seldom practicing what they preach. How otherwise would it be possible to observe the wheeling and dealing before the upcoming no-confidence vote?

By Ikram Sehgal
Opposition leaders addressing a news conference in Islamabad on March 8. (SCREENGRAB)
Most Pakistanis of any consequence are rank hypocrites, what does one expect from their wealth and/or influence if the children live in an environment where their elders blatantly do not conform to their expressed moral rules and principles?  The British perfected hypocrisy in South Asia to strengthen their hold over India, ironically the British have now become a nation of consummate hypocrites themselves.

Over the past few years, many Pakistanis have been badly exposed by international whistleblowers, the latest being the “Credit Suisse”. Nevertheless, some of them cannot avoid a blatant display of their ill-gotten wealth, the fashion statement is to flaunt their wealth publicly in London, the world’s capital for depositing the dirty cash of the world. The world’s most corrupt live in apartments around or close to Hyde Park.  After the UK left the EU their financial market regulations did not count anymore. The British expanded their capacity for dirty cash by further cutting taxes for the rich thus enhancing their safe-haven status. The recent sanctions against Russia have seen the EU (and hypocritically the British) go after the Russian oligarch poster boys (like Roman Abramovich) and their opulent lifestyle – never questioned till now because they brought in tons of money to shore up the British economy. Their fabulous yachts are now leaving ports for safer havens to avoid seizure. Roman Abramovich has not only been deprived of control of the Chelsea Football Club, but BBC has also suddenly “discovered” much evidence of “corrupt wrongdoing” in his commercial dealings.

Pakistan’s banking system facilitates our hypocrisy. What has the State Bank of Pakistan done to prevent fake accounts and to punish the banks (and the conniving bankers) facilitating up the line hiding their money in fake accounts? If they have been held accountable it must be a state secret!

Incidentally, several hundred million UK pounds came back to Pakistan from the UK when (property tycoon) Malik Riaz and his son got their British visas canceled, where is the money and how did it get to UK in the first place? Has anyone bothered to ask? Have our holier-than-thou media celebrities dared to investigate them on any TV channel, or the print media? A “Muhammad Javed” has been discovered living in the slums in Lahore in absolute poverty but having the equivalent of Rs 4 billion in his bank account in “Credit Suisse” opened in 2003 without his knowing about it.

Why did Lt Gen Akhtar Abdul Rahman (my Company Commander in PMA whom I respected very much) put millions into his sons’ accounts in Switzerland when he was DG ISI as far back as 1985? The SBP could simply be avoiding targetting those involved because of their political and/or administrative clout. That Pakistan has been on the FATF black/grey list for years is because of this negligence to hold people accountable. And despite the public counting of how many FATF points have already been done away with, “fake accounts” and money laundering is certainly one reason why Pakistan has still been kept in the list? Incidentally western countries applying the FATF on us are also rank hypocrites, why does the UK look the other way at the tainted money flowing into their economy?

Hypocrisy on a grand scale is the basis of Pakistani politics. Parliament, the government and its institutions – all have their share of hypocrisy. No wonder politicians and bureaucrats have finessed the art of seldom practicing what they preach. How otherwise would it be possible to observe the wheeling and dealing before the upcoming no-confidence vote? The same vote-buying can be watched before and during elections, national elections, provincial elections, senate elections, even elections of governing bodies of institutions. Nobody is surprised, almost all votes have a price tag. How can any political system, even camouflaged as a democracy, survive or function under these circumstances? And with such people in power, can any nation survive?

Imran Khan has tried to clean the system and to bring justice to the deprived parts of society, what happened when he tried to cleanse his own stables?  They turned against him en masse! Aleem Khan was on top of the NAB list to be prosecuted, while being investigated by NAB, to “launder” his blatant corruption he managed to purchase a TV channel.

There are few honest people left in society but very fair honest people seldom get rich! Those who have no money have no clout because they can neither afford expensive lawyers nor buy corrupt judges. In order to win an election in a perverted democracy like Pakistan, you need “electables” in your party: those who own big chunks of land and the poor population inhabiting it. The money spent for the party during the elections is our “democracy” by evading taxes and other means disregarding the laws and regulations.

One can blame all and sundry for hypocrisy, but does one change the system when the people sitting in the parliament are beneficiaries of the prevalent corruption and thus not interested in electoral reforms?  How does one change the system when the bureaucracy meant for governance refuses to be reformed because it would endanger their own position of some becoming rich beyond compare? When most people in power think that they are so special that law does not apply to them?

The telling of lies has become almost a reflex behavior; because of blatant hypocrisy, people lie about anything everywhere even when no lie is actually required. This also fosters and sustains misplaced loyalty. While loyalty is certainly a positive value, many a time there are several options who to or what to be loyal? Unfortunately, Pakistan has a distinct tradition of loyalty to be given to the person who has done or is expected to do me a favor. The idea of the “greater good” for the people at large or the national interest is not a very popular idea. More often than not national interest is mixed with one’s personal interest and loyalty transcends loyalty to the State.

To quote my article “morality and misplaced loyalty” of 4 Aug 2017, “unfortunately, even in institutions as trustworthy and respected as the Army, loyalty is for the individual rather than to the institution. Shielding someone corrupt because of having served under or with him is pure cronyism but to eulogize him is criminal behavior.  Those guilty of doing so are accessories and complicit in the crimes of those whom they protect. Given the faultlines manifest in their own “comradeship” syndrome, why should the military hierarchy be surprised that loyalty to the individual superseding that to the country is alive and well with elected representatives ignoring their obligations to the state and its people? Given such misplaced loyalties where is the morality in allowing such people to occupy positions of power and deal with matters of national security? unquote

Let me put it bluntly to all, whether in or out of uniform (and these include individuals who know I respect them), those who gives space to the hypocrites and crooks return back to power on the strength of their ill-gotten gains risk being labeled as hypocrites and disloyal to the State.

A defense and security analyst, the writer is Chairman Pathfinder Group and KCFR, as also Vice Chairman Board of Management Institute of Nation Building (Quaid-e-Azam House Museum).

This article first appeared on Bol News website. Click here to go to the original.

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