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I am honest by Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

In recent weeks Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) blamed government for targeting its activist as political discrimination in the garb of action against criminals and corrupt. They resigned in protest from all houses of the parliament. Then former President Asif Ali Zardari threatened of retaliation if they are pushed to the wall. Those threats were repeated again when Dr. Asim was arrested by Sindh Rangers in a case related to aiding and abetting terrorists. Hearings the protestations of political parties makes it appear everyone apprehended in Pakistan is honest and gross injustices are committed by law enforcement agencies.

This is serious situation and need to be investigated whether these claims of honesty are based on facts in which case there certainly is an injustice committed by law enforcement agencies. On the other hand if they are corrupt then why civilian law enforcement agencies did not act and apprehend them in first place. Does this mean that there is complete breakdown of judicial system to punish white-collar and hardened criminals? Then there is another question to address, military has traditionally used corruption as a cover to abrogate constitution and impose martial law. Is this new wave of military operation an effort to prepare grounds for next martial law? Then there is another situation PTI candidate for NA-122 Aleem Khan has posted banners on social media that anyone who can prove that he has grabbed any land unlawfully will be donated that land. Does this means that false perceptions are created about people while they are honest businessmen and are victim of envious opponents?

The reality is that Pakistan has become a deeply divided society. On one hand are elites of the society that control bureaucracy, civil law enforcement, judiciary, military establishment, media, politics, business and investments. They comprise roughly 15% of the population but control 100% of its decision making and resources. It is not in their interest to have strict imposition of rule of law in the country because almost all of them have committed one or the other form of white collar crime. Whether it is non-payment of taxes, land grabbing, out of merit promotions, bribes, theft of subsidies and duties this 15% of the elite population is responsible for it. So if an environment emerges in which rule of law is applied uniformly then the first casualty will be the elites of the society which is something they don’t want. To avoid this an environment has been created in which these elite segments of the society engage in a power struggle but on the ground there is no change to reduce their hold on the system.

These exploiters of the society are so well entrenched that it would require a force with abundant resources of legitimate violence to dislodge and disrupt. Military and Rangers have those resources available and with permission to set-up courts they don’t have to rely on civilian institutions to punish hardened criminals. But the dilemma military has is that in the past they initiated these cleanup operations to create an environment to abrogate constitution and grab political power just like a land grabber does to a civilian property holder. Military so far has not done any public relations efforts to ally these fears rather allowed opinion makers to promote this perception. This does not bode well for the clean-up operation to retain public trust in long-term.

Another factor that is missing is emergence of clean politics because it is eventually civilians with mandate from the people who can strengthen constitutional institutions and perform deep cleaning that is longer lasting and sustainable. One way to achieve this objective is to strengthen the regulatory authority of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to force political parties to evolve into institutions. While in the short-term politicians and bureaucrats against whom there is evidence of corruption should be severely punished and those verdicts should be widely publicized. Since there is popular support to clean the country the chances of a street protest by political players is next to nothing. We can learn from the experience of China where President Xi Jinping has started a campaign against state corruption that has rattled nerves. In the short term there will be retaliation against any effort to clean the system just like an operation against terrorism results in a backlash. This backlash could be in the form of disrupted fuel supplies; long duration interruption in electricity; and shortage of basic commodities.

Educated and compassionate members of political parties have to also realize that presence of criminals and corrupt individuals amongst them is not good for their own reputations. It is an opportunity for capable people to rise through ranks to lead the nation and any lack of initiative and drive will be a missed opportunity. Members of PPP, PML N and MQM have to demand greater accountability and transparency in decisions from their party officials. PTI has to stop recruiting electables without proper due diligence and back ground checks. PTI should also try to ensure that ideologically grounded people should control the reigns of the party.

In a society where corruption is rampant it is easy to level false allegations even against honest people because it is believable by those who are themselves involved in it. They believe since they are engaged in it others must be doing the same. That brings us to the claim of honesty by Aleem Khan of PTI. A google search indicates he did engage in irregularities in selling lands to EOBI but he may have repented since that incident. Only a court can decide if Aleem Khan has committed corruption and only voters can decide if they believe in his claims of honesty. So Aleem Khan has a golden opportunity to prove in next 41 days that he is honest. Even if he loses the election but clears his name it will be a win for him.

Honesty should be a norm rather than an exception in a healthy society. When a politician campaign that he deserves votes because he is honest then that means honesty is not common because if it was then it would not be a differentiating factor to seek votes.

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