Saturday, 19 January 2013

Is only the PPP corrupt? (PO)

MD Nalapat

Friday, January 18, 2013 - Hillary Clinton does not believe in half-measures. When she backs aplayer in a geopolitical dispute, this is done with zest and endurance, while those whom she disliked get opposed with equal vehemence. It was no secret that Mrs Clinton was strongly in favour of the re-instatement of Chief Justice I M Choudhury to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, even though the distinguished jurist was - to put it mildly - no admirer of President Asif Ali Zardari and by extension, the Pakistan Peoples Party.

The perception in India is that the re-instatement of the CJP ( Chief Justice, Pakistan) took place because America and the Army favoured this, as did those political parties opposed to the PPP. Mrs Clinton, who shares with her husband a liking for NGOs and their sophisticated “do-gooder” office-bearers, must have been delighted when President Zardari gave way to pressure and withdrew his objections to Chief Justice Choudhury coming back to his powerful post. The events which have taken place since then have vindicated those (including this columnist) who warned that the re-instatement would create political turmoil in Pakistan that would gravely weaken the civilian government. The CJP has claimed the scalp of one Pakistan Prime Minister from the PPP and is enroute to ensuring the exit of the second. Hopefully, as she witnesses the turmoil within the polity of Pakistan, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton must be delighted at all that has been wrought by her unreserved backing for the dismissed CJP’s re-instatement over the objections of the civilian government of Pakistan

Certainly there is a fair amount of corruption in Pakistan, as indeed there is in India. However, to observers across the eastern borders of Pakistan, it would appear that the Pakistan Supreme Court sees corruption only within the PPP. There seems to be a selective targetting of that party, which has the impact of throwing the civilian government into confusion and weakening the PPP, a party which since the hanging of Z A Bhutto by General Zia-ul-Haq decades ago has had an uneasyrelationship with the Pakistan military. There have even been allegations of high-level complicity in the murder of Benazir Bhutto, although the circumstances of the crime indicate that it was the error made by the fiery, feisty leader ( of opening the roof of the vehicle in which she was travelling, there by giving an opportunity to the terrorist who took her precious life).

President Zardari, soon after he took office, had the moral courage to say that India and Pakistan were not enemies, and that terrorism was their common foe. This annoyed those who seek to use terrorists in order to score points and weaken geopolitical rivals. However, goaded on by NGO-type advisors, from the start Hillary Clinton adopted a stance which in effect was anti-Zardari. She gave backing to those elements out to weaken the democratically elected President of Pakistan, rather than helping him to assert civilian supremacy over the institutions of the state. While there are those who praise such a decision by the outgoing US Secretary of State, the reality is that an opportunity to establish civilian control over the military in Pakistan was lost when the Zardari-led administration was give a blow by the return of Justice I M Choudhury to his exalted post

President Zardari is correct. The only way that Pakistan and India can reach their economic and social potential is if the senseless fratricidal war that has bubbled and boiled between the two countries since 1947 is stopped and replaced with cooperation. However, and on both sides of the border, there are powerful forces and institutions that have fattened on India-Pakistan tensions, and who therefore wish to see this uneasy state continue into the indefinite future. Mian Nawaz Shariif too has many friends in India, especially within the previous Vajpayee government, and is known to accept the need for peace across the eastern borders of Pakistan. The view from India is that his party and the PPP have to set aside their differences and work together so as to institute civilian supremacy within the Pakistan state. Once this gets done, there may even form a stable two-party system, with the PML and the PPP alternating as the party of government.

The people of Pakistan deserve a clean and efficient government, but this far, they have got neither. In this respect, they are in the same situation as the people of India, who too endure the evils generated by corruption and misgovernance. However, such a trend is not reason enough to do away with democratic governance altogether, and to rely on mysterious individuals who claim to have a magic wand to abolish corruption. The Qadri phenonmenon is being watched with great interest in India, where the preacher has many followers because of his moderate views, and there are many across the border who wish him success in his bid to transform the polity of Pakistan. This columnist, however, does not share such a view. For the preacher is implicitly saying that onlypolitical parties are corrupt, when it is an obvious fact that several other - very powerful - institutions have within them corrupt individuals as well. The Qadri phenomenon is similar to India’s Anna phenomenon in focussing on corruotion. However, the Indian anti-corruption crusader believes that he has a magic bullet to wipe away corruption, which is the Jan Lokpal. This all-popwerful watchdog would examine and prosecute the entire machinery of government,a task which seems impossible, given that there are close to forty million people who would need to come under the scanner of a single organisation in some form or the other. India has experimented with a medley of laws and institutions supposedly designed to do away with corruption, and each have failed. There is no reason to suppose that the Jan Lokpal will be any different. The setting up of bureaucratic monstrosities is a trait of the British colonialists that has been eagerly adopted by their successors, when what India needs is less laws better enforced and less but more effective government.

By claiming that a miracle is possible and that corruption can be wiped out should the people of Pakistan follow the lead of the Canada-based preacher, those behind the Qadri phenomenon are raising expectations which cannot be fulfilled.Corruption in South Asia is pervasive and affects institutions and individuals across the board. A slow process of conscientizing of the public and generating transparency in governmental transactions will be needed if the problem is to be contained. There is no magic bullet, whether in India or in Pakistan. Just as there is corruption in Pakistan in a lot of places other than the PPP, which ought to be allowed to make history bycompleting a full term in office before facing the people at the polls.

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