Once again call for a savior by Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

Before commenting on the current state of affairs. Let me take you to a bygone era when a military dictator will abrogate the constitution and took charge of the reins of government to save the state. Save the state from whom? Corrupt politicians would be the culprit and the main cause for introduction of an autocratic regime. But as soon as the savior general took over, he would have to become a politician and in the name of pragmatism join hands with those same corrupt politicians to continue his rule. That era ended with the introduction of electronic and social media. Now we are in a new era where residue of old era still wants a savior general to save the nation from corrupt politicians but the nation is not falling behind these appeals and want the political institutions to reform itself. In this new era a plethora of articles and opinions start appearing as soon as a politician makes a speech that is considered anti-establishment. But since the establishment is an institution with its own research and analysis they are aware that nation is not willing to accept another experiment of a military savior. So they hesitate to come to the front but encroach on more ground in the precarious civil-military balance of power with each outburst of a politician.

There is no doubt that politicians are unable and incapable to govern to improve condition of the people. But it is also true that politicians cannot execute their corrupt plans without help from bureaucrats. It is this collaboration between politicians and bureaucrats that produces financial corruption in which everyone gets cash rewards and are accomplices. Similarly criminal elements in political parties that are engaged in kidnapping and extortion cannot succeed without support from civilian law enforcement agencies. Those engaged in these practices blatantly dare people to provide evidence of their corruption in talk shows and interviews. The dirt on the streets of Karachi; scarcity of water; relentless load shedding and broken law and order are all evidence of the corruption as these issues will be non-existent under an honest management. This nexus between politicians, bureaucrats and civil law enforcement that has to be broken to improve the functioning of the state. How can this be achieved?

The proposal promoted by old era op-ed writers is imposition of a governor’s rule in Sindh along with calling of military to aid the civilian administration. This may have many short term advantages but also has serious long term consequences. One of which is the past record of military to abrogate constitution and assume direct rule through a martial law. Second reason is that ultimately civilian institutions have to be built for the country to have sustainable existence. Apart from that PML N led central government is still fearful of allowing military to encroach further on its authority if they concede ground in Sindh. These three factors combined makes governor’s rule a less sought after solution to clean up the system.

It is an established fact that no community can survive and grow without justice. Herein is the key to solving the issues of Pakistan as well. A judicial system that punish corruption and criminal elements through a speedy trial process. No one should be above the law and justice should not be made subservient to political expediency or opportunism. Politicians and bureaucrats that are found accomplices in corruption charges should be severely punished. To give an example, China has awarded death sentence to many bureaucrats that accepted bribes. Without fear of punishment it is next to impossible to weed out the corruption and criminal elements from political parties and government administration.

Another development that will have a long term consequence is hearing of a petition filed in Supreme Court regarding repeal of 21st amendment that instituted military courts for two years. During the hearing SC issued stay orders on three convictions by it and requisitioned all case material for review. There are expectations that Supreme Court might announce a verdict to reject creation of military courts or grant right of appeal to the accused. The tenure of current Chief Justice of SC will be expiring in next few months. Appointment of a Chief Justice that has proven track record of administrative and judicial performance to impart justice will be a key stone of reforming the system.

Another step in improving governance is reforms and transformation of political parties. Almost all political parties are ran as monarchies. These political monarchs impose their personal will on the decisions of the party and the same practices are employed in running government as well. Political elite form a ring around these monarchs to ensure their vested interest are served at the expense of the nation whether it is oligarchs or feudal. Media has to play a critical role in educating political activists about laws that govern political parties so that they can exert pressure on their party heads to transform the parties. Media should also provide better coverage of internal party affairs and whether party constitutions and national laws are upheld by party managers. None of the major parties including PML N, PPP and PTI respect the laws of the land or their party constitutions in award of party tickets or taking a political decision like announcing dharna or a strike. President Zardari’s threat to announce a nationwide strike was without consultation with party members or reference to party constitution. Similar situation prevailed in PTI when Chairman Imran Khan announced dharna against government. In both these cases personal interest of party heads were the main motivation at the cost of party interests and lives of party members. This situation has to change and decisions of the parties should be through a process outlined in their party constitution.

In most countries military establishment has a direct or indirect bearing on defense and foreign policies. But involvement in domestic policy has the potential of destabilizing the nation. For internal stability it is important to increase the capacity of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to investigate and prosecute white collar crimes as well as serious crimes of federal nature. The rapid response special operations team should also work under FIA. To enable FIA to be more effective it is important to review the laws governing it and allocate more resources to it.

The bottom line is that we need to adopt a four pronged approach as a nation to improve system. Reform political parties; military role limited to security & foreign policy, cleanup of civil bureaucracy & administration and strengthen judicial system to punish corrupt and criminals. System will not evolve overnight and short term solutions will only aggravate the situation. We need to take the long term view and then stick to the course.

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