By SYED SHAHID HUSAIN
(November 13 2009): Politicians are all corrupt, civilians are all bloody and useless and the mess the country is in has been created by both. This is the conventional wisdom assiduously instilled in the minds of the people of our proudly independent nuclear armed country.
With the arrival on the scene of private TV channels almost the entire population is particularly conscious of whatever is going on all around us and even a child now understands a rudimentary bit of NRO. In the minds of the people NRO is to be equated with the persona of the President. People love to hate Zardari, primarily for his name, which sounds so much different from what they are used to hear and are firmly of the view that he is very corrupt and therefore unfit to be our president.
They forget that he is a constitutionally elected legitimate leader as against Musharraf and his ilk, who are in breach of Article 6 of the Constitution that prescribes capital punishment, who strike in the shadows of darkness. One also misses the point that the beneficiaries are numberless former civil servants and a naval chief some of whom are enjoying the fruits of ill-gotten wealth in great comfort of their twilight years.
Defending the President is a hazardous undertaking. Every one has presumed him guilty from the day he was arrested couple of decades ago. Chattering classes begin their discussion of the emerging political scenario strongly eager to elicit a confirmation of their belief that Asif Zardari, is the root cause of all our misfortunes and once he is removed, things will be hunky dory. Why? Because he is very corrupt and with the de-legalisation of NRO by the highest court he ought to be in the jug.
When General Musharraf had put Asif Zardari virtually under house arrest when he returned after his long imprisonment and a brief stay abroad. Even PML-N’s Khwaja Asif had to make a very startling disclosure on the floor of the Assembly that cases against his namesake had been concocted. That is why no case could be proved against Zardari in spite of his eight years in jail.
It is easy to blame all the mess and corruption on the politicians because it is otherwise a risky enterprise for the politicians during their brief sojourn in power to expose the crimes of real power wielders. One typical instance is a news report (BR 11.11.09) headlined: Submarine deal, Zardari accused of receiving dollar 4.3m in kickbacks.
If one took the time to read the report one could easily see that according to DCN (French Naval Defence Company) the deal involved kickbacks amounting to 10 percent of the purchase price. Lion’s share that is 60 percent was to go to the military and 40 percent to political circles and that too not entirely to Zardari. The slanted headline should have said something else.
Another instance is the recent article by Seymour Hersh followed by an interview in which he clarified that he had evidence the US administration had been working on “highly sensitive understanding” with Pakistan military on providing “added security for the Pakistani (nuclear) arsenal”. Obviously our sovereignty remains intact unlike in the case of Kerry-Lugar bill when the whole army brass was up in arms and went public with its complaint.
All that the bill stipulated was that our army will stay answerable to the civil authority. Obama administration has realised that the Americans have been too cozy too long with our military thereby hurting both the countries. But that is not how it goes. You give dog a bad name and hang him. One is not saying that Zardari who has acquired a very unsavoury reputation most of it undeserved is the only one with his hands in the till.
Zardari has been in jail for over a decade and no case has been proved against him including in the Swiss courts. His detractors say that it was Zardari who is responsible for escaping his conviction by delaying the judicial process and asking frequent adjournments but then why did your courts oblige him? Then there are those who claim that the facilities that Zardari enjoyed in the jail were no less than 5-star hotels.
Question is who permitted these facilities to a prisoner? The governments in power of course. One could ask such people would they like to go to such jail? Zardari has spent so much time in jail that had he been convicted the time spent by him in jail should have sufficed towards his punishment.
Muhammad Akram Sheikh, the leading lawyer of the land, has summed up all the cases, in a two-part article carried by The News. Zardari has used the same courts where benefit of NRO could not be claimed to have himself acquitted at electronic speed. And the same courts did not move even at snail’s pace when he was incarcerated to grant him temporary relief like bail? He had to bargain his way out.
The defence forces take away the major chunk of the national budget in the absence of any discussion in the Assembly. They are accused of not allowing even an audit to take place. It is also alleged that Financial Adviser for Defence who is supposed to pre-audit their expenditure is appointed after he is duly vetted by them; and is removed if he is not sufficiently pliable.
Unlike our judicial system, which is creaky and doesn’t hold any surprises, the French magistrates are a different matter and are indeed looking at the possibility that the murder of 11 French nationals was not the work of al Qaeda but was carried out by Pakistanis, either because only 85 percent of the agreed kickbacks had been paid or because of negotiations being carried out by the French to sell submarines to India.
French Parliamentarians not to be left behind are demanding to be allowed to look into how the submarine contract with Pakistan was negotiated. One hopes that facts will emerge to convince the Pakistanis that the politicians or civilians alone don’t have the monopoly over corruption, contrary to the NAB philosophy that underlay their ordinance.
The ‘law’ presupposed that corruption began on 1st January 1986, because that was the time when Junejo had entered into office of the Prime Minister with some limited powers ‘voluntarily’ transferred by Zia-ul-Haq. That is typical of our overlords. In a recently launched book a retired brigadier’s research has yielded the startling finding that proliferation by A.Q. Khan took place between 1988 and 1999.
Surprisingly they are the years when the overlords had allowed some form of democracy without permitting any government to complete its constitutional term. It is widely believed that about 12 billion dollars that the US gave to Musharraf for his services have mostly been eaten up. One knows from personal knowledge the massive institutionalised corruption benignly overseen by Musharraf.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2009