As a political activist, I could never imagine that one day political resistance would intermingle with corruption. In the Ayub era, the political ‘dark ages’, democratic minds challenged the autocratic rule. Courts came to the rescue of such freedom-loving individuals like Ghulam Jilani Khan, father of Asma Jahangir, Habib Jalib, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Safdar Siddiqui, C R Aslam, Wali Khan, Ajmal Khattak, Qayyum Khan, Tariq Ali Khan, Shaukat Hayat Khan, Sikandar Hayat Khan, Aftab Gul and Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, to name a few. Corruption was never an issue as they were clean individuals fighting for civil rights and democracy.
The 1970 free and fair elections knocked out corrupt politicians in both wings of the country. Ideology made serious headway. In East Pakistan, it was provincial autonomy and in the West social equality. Zia, the third dictator, brought back the contaminants into the system to extend his misrule. The 1985 partyless elections which were boycotted by the only national party of Pakistan, headed by Benazir Bhutto proved to be disastrous as all the rogues made their way into parliament. Since then, the political purity of the land of the pure has been lost, recovery from this pandemic has become an uphill task.
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Drama unfurled at the Lahore High Court (LHC) on June 3, 2020 when Shehbaz Sharif appeared from hiding to seek bail for corruption charges filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). It has nothing to do with politics, it is a case of assets beyond means. All Mr Sharif has to do is to provide sources of his income. If they do not tread on the political pathways of power, then he has nothing to be afraid of. Delays through expensive lawyers is only a short-term defence.
When it comes to white collar corruption, unfortunately, the revered and widely practised common law fails, as there are no trails and witnesses. Al Capone avoided conviction in all the cases against him as both the witnesses and judges were gunned down. Finally, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) got him on tax evasion. Once in prison, his powerful empire crumbled, he died after a few years in captivity. There was a sigh of relief in the city of Chicago. A similar sigh was seen in Karachi after the MQM clean-up. Now Lahore needs a similar cleansing operation to dismantle the infamous Takht-e-Lahore.
A recent picture of Nawaz Sharif is making the rounds on the social media these days. If leaked by party circles, it is indeed a very skilful act by their media cell. On one hand, it delivers a message of defiance saying, “Catch me if you can” while on the other, it reinforces the belief that the leader is hail and hearty to lead again. Ferdinand Marcos, the ousted dictator of Philippines wanted to instill fright in his opponents by posting his exercise videos a few days before his demise.
Does anyone know the current platelet count of Nawaz Sharif? Is his condition as serious as it was in Pakistan when his count was fearfully low? Has he recovered from his ailment? Is his life still under threat? We will never get these answers. The counter attack will be that he was checked by the Chief Executive of Shaukat Khanum Hospital, though his visit was for common courtesy, not for evaluation of the patient.
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Bhutto’s People’s Party was based on ideology and not personal profit. Zardari was always inspired by the approach of the Sharifs who were able to build an empire. Initially he was known as Mr 10 percent. PPP-Zardari is a disgrace to the legacy of Quaid-e-Awam. Once this hijacking of the party comes to an end, the real PPP will emerge, either with or without Bilawal Zardari; there are other Bhuttos waiting in the wings. After the creation of Pakistan, only two real national political parties entered the arena (PPP in 1967 and PTI 1996), the rest have been backdoor entrants to power who have not served democracy.
With its entire senior leadership on the NAB radar, PML-N is now fighting a battle for survival. Bail does not mean vindication, once the convictions start, the celebrations will come to an end. The LHC has instructed Shehbaz Sharif to appear before the investigators as required; there is no running away.
A reference is about to be filed against him for the corruption trial to start. In case of Bhutto, as there were no charges of corruption, a murder case was framed against him by the regime. Despite the seriousness of the matter he was allowed bail by LHC, he was then arrested under martial law. The bias of the trail court was evident in his case that is why it was rightly termed as a judicial murder. Now the Sharifs have been charged for massive corruption.
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They have to come clean by producing the relevant records, they cannot avoid conviction by calling in their workers or attacking the courts as they have done in the past. It seems the separation of politics and corruption is finally in the making after over four decades of confusion. Political corruption is an insult to activism which has been practised in the land of the pure for decades, it must continue for the sake of purity.
Dr. Farid A.Malik is the Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation. He was a Shadow Minister PTI and Co-Ordinator of the PTI Think Tank where the framework of the Welfare State was developed. The article was first published in The Nation and has been republished here with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.