The features of corruption and nepotism that the Quaid-e-Azam had warned against has been going on unabated for decades, over time these methods have acquired a kind of legality and rightfulness. Everybody today seems to accept the fact that sitting in a position of power makes one entitled to take payment for favours. The weak presence of accountability in all sectors of administration and business over the years created a kind of psyche among the people that takes corruption for granted and demands more. Undermining the existing rules and laws made their enforcement almost impossible because those meant to enforce and implement them had the same evil attitude to make money whenever possible, to the detriment of rule of law and discipline. Consider the low tax collection has forced the Pakistani state forced to ask for loans or even gifts since it is not able to meet its expenses from the tax income.
Corruption has by now has grown to such dimensions that the very viability of the state has come into question – and that is a national security issue. Attempts have been made over the last about twenty years to implement accountability. Imran Khan’s PTI government is the first making a credible effort to turn things around. With the economy slowing down to unprecedented level, a real break-through can only be achieved when the vicious circle of mismanagement, corruption and blackmail dominating the economy is broken.
Most people in the world don’t like paying taxes but they do understand that how can any country and the society survive without revenues? So in most countries they do pay taxes needed to pay for healthcare, education, social security, to create jobs – in one word to run the country. Not so in Pakistan! Without enough taxes being collected the state has to borrow money to run its affairs. That is why half or more than half of the GDP goes for paying off debts. There are filthy rich people in this country who have paid no taxes or a couple of hundreds of rupees only instead of hundreds of thousands in the name of tax. Or they threaten and blackmail judges to get a certain judgement and if not they will destroy their reputation.
Accountability Judge Arshad Malik claimed in an affidavit that he was offered a Rs500 million cash bribe by the son of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Hussain Nawaz, who demanded that the judge resign on the grounds that he “could no longer deal with the guilt of having convicted” Nawaz under duress in the Al-Azizia/Hill Metal Establishment reference in December 2018. Apart from money offered Justice Malik was blackmailed with videos taken secretly, it was threatened they would be made public unless his judgement would relieve Nawaz Sharif. These acts of blackmail are as criminal as the corruption and money-laundering for which the former PM is in the dock but nobody has ever been taken to task for it. What kind of ‘national partnership leadership’ is this that relies on defamation to damage the judiciary of the country? While Mian Sahib has every right to refute the evidence against him, what example does the blackmail or attempted blackmail make in making videos that can damage reputation and the effectiveness of the judiciary of the country? Is making videos and using them for blackmail legal? Subverting justice by rank blackmail is? Such tactics are frequently used by the crooked to protect their billions of money laundering stashed abroad, the PM said recently.
Perjury or giving false statements in court is another criminal act that is common in Pakistan. It is an especially dangerous criminal offence because it undermines the very purpose of the court, the laws of the country and the judiciary system at large: to bring justice to the people and society. Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khan Khosa had made the fight against perjury a central point of his tenure and the laws in place to punish perjury have been utilized by him after they was lying idle for many years. I am a great fan of the CJ, has he sent anyone high profile to jail for perjury? If Maryam repeats her lies about the Calibri Font in the UK, she would be sued to High Heaven by the UK entity that did the enquiry.
One example in Karachi is the case of, internet cables on electric poles. Nowhere in the world are internet cables allowed on electric poles. This is not only illegal but dangerous. When these led to electrocutions during the rainy period and the authorities tried to remove the illegal cables, the cable operators threatened to close down TV and internet in the whole country. The authorities, even in DHA areas, bowed down to this threat. This version of the Pakistani mafia, be it sand mafia, water mafia, transport mafia, internet cable mafia, kunda mafia, etc uses tactics of bribe, threat, blackmail and begging to pressurise state institutions and judiciary. Consider the attempt at mutiny by senior bureaucrats in the Punjab when Ahad Cheema was arrested by NAB? And what do you attribute the present go slow tactics to?
Many more examples could be given about how irresponsible and even criminal behaviour that is the result of missing business ethics among large parts of the population. Sometimes such criminal negligence even acquires international dimensions. In a recent encounter with a representative of the Karachi business community the Chinese Ambassador mentioned that the different data for trade between Pakistan and China result from the Pakistani business habit to under-invoice the traded goods so that a different value is recorded on the Chinese and Pakistani sides -a fact that seriously impedes trade and human relations between the two countries. The reason for under-invoicing of course is not to have to pay the full amount of taxes that would have been due.
Take the example of the top businessmen of the country complaining to the COAS about NAB investigating them for tax-evasion and bad loans. While NAB came into being, the maximum money they recovered was from these businessmen, industrialists, politicians, etc who were not returning the loans they had obtained, in any case obtained mostly on fake documents, from financial institutions. The next major amount recovered was from taxes not paid by the commercial elite, etc are we now going to accept going back to the bad old days? While the NAB Chief has now stated NAB will not pursue businessmen with these, is our existing machinery effective in coping with white-collar crimes, and why are they making the COAS inadvertently complicit in scuttling the accountability process so that they can continue with the free-for-all environment for looting the State? Incidentally three of those businessmen/industrialists complaining the loudest had recently written letters to NAB praising the institution.
By depriving the state of parts of its income the criminal practice of black mail is contributing to Pakistan’s economic, political and moral destabilization. This undermines our country, its economy and our morality including that of the next generation. Even national security issues could be involved when we think about power and internet outages. There is a dire need to change individual behaviour of people in positions of influence, be they businessmen, administrators, traders, workmen and others. Articles 62and 63 stipulate that a person in a public office should be Sadiq and Ameen. Shouldn’t the rest of us be the same?
The writer is a defence and security analyst.