Distinction of another type
July 15, 2011
Pakistani special athletes have won 56 medals – 17 gold, 25 silvers and 14 bronze – at the recently concluded Special Olympics Summer Games 2011 held at Athens. Some 75,000 athletes from 180 countries participated in the event manifested by high level of competition.
In Pakistan, the incumbent government seems to have devised a two-pronged strategy to frustrate the accountability drive of the apex court fuelled by media disclosures of corruption: It will neither allow the creation of an autonomous accountability institution nor permit any existing organization to independently investigate charges of graft or fraud. Secondly, it will continue abusing the due process of law that courts observe in order to delay and defeat the delivery of justice, and upon exhausting procedural impediments, politicise the issue to embroil judicial outcomes in public controversy.
“The Pakistani athletes came out with flying colours and made their country proud in the comity of nations.” This is, perhaps, the highest number of medals won by any Pakistani squad in an international moot. But the nation has failed to appropriately applaud the special athletes on their singular success in the Olympics.
Recently, Pakistan’s clever and crafty sons in the arena of statecraft have earned distinction of another type by plunging their country to the bottom as far as the rule of law, justice, transparency, protection of basic human rights and elimination of corruption is concerned. An international organization, “World Justice Project”, has reportedly placed Pakistan at the rock bottom in terms of rule of law and justice amongst 66 countries. However, according to it, Pakistan occupied 65th position amongst 66 countries in transparency, protection of basic human rights and efforts to curb corruption.
Regarding efforts to eliminate corruption, the country seems to be striving hard to get its rightful place – 66th position amongst 66 countries of the world. One feels impelled to make the conclusion from the way the authorities in this country are thwarting superior judiciary’s efforts to dispense justice. Yet, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani thinks “corruption charges and opposition parties pose no threat to the government.” In Pakistan, the executive and the administration can be seen openly protecting the corrupt, defying orders of even the superior judiciary to bring this vice under control. This is what one can conclude from the way scams after scams are emerging and the lukewarm attitude of the executive-administration combine to prosecute the cases before the courts.
Take the National Insurance Company Limited (NICL) scam, which started from the embezzlement of Rs.5 billion by a friend of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, but now has emerged as the binding force of PML-Q to stick to the government. A scandal that involved NICL Chairman Ayaz Niazi and his directors only, now has son of former chief minister of Punjab and federal commerce minister. Initially, there were reports that NICL management struck four deals of land purchase at higher rates, but over the time, the twists and turns in the scam have brought the incumbent government in a do or die situation of its survival. The suspension of courageous Zafar Qureshi, Additional Director General of FIA, who was investigating NICL scandal, is a direct challenge to the court’s authority. Qureshi’s suspension practically negates apex court’s earlier order that this officer should be brought back to take up the case again. The Supreme Court was impelled to pass these orders because the prosecution of the NICL case had been severely compromised by politics.
It was, however, obvious from the very beginning that the Chaudhrys of Gujrat had joined the government to save their scion Moonis Elahi, who was in imminent danger of being convicted. The fact that a powerful family could use its political bargaining power to escape from justice in a hideous crime was too much to bear and the apex court correctly responded. As a quid pro quo for joining the government, the PPP leadership assured the Chaudhrys that the NICL case would be torpedoed. As a first step, head of investigation, ADG FIA Zafar Qureshi, who successfully probed the NICL scam and got hold of concrete evidence against the accused persons, was transferred from FIA to Police Foundation. Later, the administration transferred four FIA officials, who were assisting Zafar Qureshi in investigating the NICL scam to different faraway places in a bid to prevent them from performing their duties honestly. However, to the bad luck of the ruling coalition facing a number of corruption charges, the apex court not only cancelled Zafar Qureshi’s transfer orders, but also directed the government to transfer back to FIA all the four officers: Deputy Director Dr. Javed Hussain, Assistant Directors Muhammad Ahmed and Khalid Anees and Inspector Muhammad Sarwar. But, to get rid of Zafar Qureshi, this time the government suspended Qureshi; and turned a deaf ear to the apex court’s order for the transfer of four other officers.
While making clear the court’s annoyance on Qureshi’s suspension, the apex court directed FIA, on July 7, to reverse the transfer of these four officials. However, instead of complying with the court orders, the Interior Ministry issued yet another explanation notice to the suspended Zafar Qureshi on July 9, seeking explanation for the interview that he gave to a news agency. The lengths to which the government has gone, and continues to go, to save Moonis Elahi openly undermine the Supreme Court, and as such throw the whole system into jeopardy. It is vital that justice be done, and means be found to retrieve the defrauded money and set an example for the future. NICL scam allegedly involves a fraud of Rs.5 billion, and so far only Rs.1.74 billion has been recovered. The accused have reportedly deposited the defrauded amount in banks outside Pakistan.
The force with which the executive-administration combine is trying to prevent any transparent investigation into the NICL scam gives rise to the suspicion that there is a lot of substance in the case, and if it is pursued honestly, some high and mighty might get convicted. The incumbent government has its hands full of scandals of graft and kickbacks, but we have not seen a single resignation or head rolling as yet. In India, a second Indian cabinet minister – Textile Minister Dayanidhi Maran -- resigned July 7 over allegations of corruption within the government after being named in a police court case report that suggested he abused his power in the 2006 sale of second-generation (2G) mobile phone licences when he was the telecom minister. Earlier, his successor at the telecom ministry, A. Raja, resigned last year over the alleged fraudulent sale of new 2G telecom spectrum in 2008. In Pakistan, the incumbent government seems to have devised a two-pronged strategy to frustrate the accountability drive of the apex court fuelled by media disclosures of corruption: It will neither allow the creation of an autonomous accountability institution nor permit any existing organization to independently investigate charges of graft or fraud. Secondly, it will continue abusing the due process of law that courts observe in order to delay and defeat the delivery of justice, and upon exhausting procedural impediments, politicise the issue to embroil judicial outcomes in public controversy.
Instead of taking measures to stop target killings in Karachi, bomb blasts and energy shortages across the country, and ever-soaring inflation and corruption, the executive-administration combine seems to be engaged in protecting the corrupt, creating bad feelings amongst a section of the population about the system of governance. They say that it is not democracy, but a worst form of oligarchy which has been imposed on to the hapless people in the guise of democracy. Given the situation, one cannot help pitying a government which had the misfortune to keep clinging to power with a pledge to get the son of a coalition partner acquitted in a mega scam involving five billion rupees. To redeem the pledge, the authority has chosen to use his executive powers to the hilt, ignoring all limits imposed by the Constitution and the common sense. Perhaps, the authorities have forgotten that crossing swords with the judiciary eventually resulted in despot Musharraf’s disgraceful exit from power despite the absolute powers that he wielded. And now that Musharraf’s successors have started openly defying the judiciary, even an ordinary man with a bit of intelligence can guess which side the people’s sympathy and support will take. Before that happens and people come on the streets, in its own interest, the government should let the law take its own course. Defying justice means defying the will of the people, which invariably emerges as the winner in such cases.