Why Public Office holders must defend themselves in public?

Politicians in Pakistan have successfully sold an argument to media and public that "the court will decide" This must change! Courts cannot decide these matters, public office holders must prove to the public that accusations are not true!

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Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Accountability Shahzad Akbar held a press conference on Thursday and alleged Shehbaz Sharif, opposition leader in the National Assembly and President of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), of large-scale corruption and money laundering. “The assets of the Sharif family have increased exponentially over the span of ten years,” he said.

Mr. Akbar, who was responding to Shehbaz Sharif’s presser which he held a day earlier in London, explained that the corruption was carried out during Shehbaz’s tenure as Punjab chief minister. Aided by charts, he explained that their entire fortune has been built by funneling money from kickbacks into their personal accounts, before injecting them into their own companies to mimic sales. “During this period, Shehbaz’s assets rose by 70 percent while his son Salman’s rose by 8,000pc,” he said.

Moreover, while mentioning the article published in The Mail, which alleged that Shehbaz had embezzled funds provided by UK’s Department for International Development, he said that the former chief minister was surprisingly mum on the issue despite his initial response.

Political commentators, opinion makers, and experts have reacted to the development and offered interesting insights. Dr. Moeed Pirzada, a prominent anchorperson and political commentator, talked about the SAPM’s press conference and highlighted several key points related to democracy and accountability.

There is a popular political argument in this country that politicians be it from the opposition or treasury they will respond to these corruption allegations saying “go to the court and prove it if you have any evidence”, noted Dr. Pirzada. We all know, he continued, these cases are already in the courts and some people have been arrested (Salman Shehbaz declared proclaimed absconder and Hamza Shehbaz is in the custody of the NAB) but their politics is going on in an uninterrupted way. This is dangerous and demands immediate attention.

Pakistan’s criminal justice system (police, investigation teams, laws and courts) are not capable enough to convict any politically influential men in the country. Historically, there has been no such precedent where the criminal justice system might have convicted a person on solid grounds. “In this system, the powerful have money and other resources to hire top-class lawyers and get out of the situation on the basis of legal technicalities and loopholes,” he said.

Read more: Shehbaz Sharif worth 200 million pounds? David Rose stands by his story

Notably, democracy is a system of governance that assumes and attempts to foster, an objective idea of self-accountability. In a democracy, leaders are expected to be accountable before the people, not before the courts. However, in the case of Pakistan, observes Dr. Pirzada, media does not play an effective role and political culture promotes nepotism. Consequently, Pakistan as democracy did not evolve up to a point where the public office holder considers themselves to be answerable before the public.

Furthermore, Dr. Pirzada explained that a public office holder, who comes into power after seeking public support and votes, is different from an ordinary person or a businessman. “A public office holder is someone who gets votes and assumes the office with a promise to safeguard the interests of an entire community. He also promises not to work for his own family or loved ones while being in the office,” he said.

A public office holder, chief minister or prime minister, through his policies and decisions, controls the fate of the entire community, therefore, he is morally responsible to explain his position if there are some questions about his professional integrity.

Dr. Pirzada further said that to evaluate the performance of a public office holder we do not have to look at his personal life like what does he eat or wear rather there needs to be a focus on what does he do? Who is being facilitated under his nose? His own family and loved ones? Or the society at large is being upgraded? This is the simplest and easiest measure to access the performance and integrity of any public office holder.

Read more: Pakistan and Corruption: Hazards of Fighting Political Corruption

In the case of Shehbaz Sharif, SAPM has leveled some serious allegations against a former chief minister of the country’s largest province; therefore, he along with his sons must appear before media and explain his position with facts and prove that the premier’s special assistant was wrong. The public has a right to know the truth about the claim that Shehbaz’s assets rose by 70 percent while his son Salman’s rose by 8,000pc during the time he was the chief minister of Punjab.

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