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An ABC of Pakistani Politics

Both the PPP and the PML-N, co-signatories of the Charter of Democracy 2006, had committed to ‘replace politically motivated NAB with an independent accountability commission’ in the document. How both these parties continued to operate under what they had called ‘a Draconian law in the name of accountability’ and why they didn’t manage to throw it out till now is anybody’s guess. Whatever be the case, it’s skeptical enough to merit questions on their motives this time around.

‘C’ is Corruption. There is no denying that it is at the heart of any and all problems faced by Pakistan. This is the word that is much used and thrown around in the socio-political discourse on the country. Brush aside the international rankings and our score on the corruption index, for if ever statistics failed to convey the severity of a problem; this is it.  Corruption is a phenomenon which is perceived by the Pakistanis through all of the six human senses.

It takes many forms and manifestations but at the root it stems from one basic source, which is, the corruption of purpose. Anything that you are supposed to do has a purpose, a raison d’etre, which once adulterated with becomes corrupt and through extension corrupts you. To fight this evil all civilisations, religions and societies around the world have within them the notion of accountability, both private and public.

‘A’ is Accountability. Until recently public accountability in Pakistan never achieved anything much as it has seldom been allowed to progress beyond the rhetoric. When in action it has been arbitrarily selective and unilateral with the one in power calling all the shots. This gave the affected parties an excuse to cry foul and dub it as a tool for settling personal scores and engaging in political victimisation.

A paradigm shift in this regard appears to have taken place in the period following the restoration of the judiciary. The Supreme Court has actively taken the lead in the issue of above board public accountability and it has been left to the parliament to play catch up.

Both the PPP and the PML-N, co-signatories of the Charter of Democracy 2006, had committed to ‘replace politically motivated NAB with an independent accountability commission’ in the document. How both these parties continued to operate under what they had called ‘a Draconian law in the name of accountability’ and why they didn’t manage to throw it out till now is anybody’s guess. Whatever be the case it’s skeptical enough to merit questions on their motives this time around.

‘B’ is Bill. The PPP, nearing the fag-end of its tenure, has finally managed to produce a new draft of their proposed bill called the National Accountability Commission Act, 2010. This bill had initially been presented to the National Assembly in 2009 by then PPP law minister under the title of ‘the Holder of Public Office Accountability Act, 2009” from where it was forwarded to NA standing committee for Justice and law. The bill stayed with the committee for a whole year before it was endorsed; even so the PPP delayed the final presentation of the bill before the parliament for another two and a half years. This delay, when taken in perspective of other mutual exercises the two have successfully completed, has been damning.

Fresh attempts are being made yet again to ‘generate consensus’ on the bill but differences have arisen between the erstwhile COD partners. The PML-N  has taken exception to certain provisions in the bill and reportedly dismissed the draft given to them as weak and not tough enough in its current form. They have demanded several amendments in the draft before they agree to support it.

 The strongest point in favour of the said bill is that it widens the net by defining public office holders according to Article 260 of the constitution.
The strongest point in favour of the said bill is that it widens the net by defining public office holders according to Article 260 of the constitution. This in effect would mean that members of parliament, judiciary and the armed forces wouldn’t be immune anymore and now be officially liable to face accountability. On the flip side however it contains a few dubious clauses that undermine the whole concept for which the bill is needed. Proposing immunity for wrongdoing committed in ‘good faith’ has legal and practical loopholes and hence should not be made into a law where accountability is concerned. Another amendment to the draft demanded by the PML-N that the head of the NAC be a sitting judge of the SC, holds weight as most high profile cases end up there anyway. Also given the fact that the court enjoys large scale public trust and is itself engaged in activism validates this demand.

Furthermore, the PPP immediately must do away with the clause that bars the commission from investigating past cases and restricts them from attempting to have accused persons foreign accounts forfeited. This clause appears prima facie specific to Mr.Zardari and a recycling of the NRO, as this too is a violation of justice and fundamental human rights. Any court in the world would strike down a law which contains such a provision and unless the PPP is looking to tread in judicial quarters yet again, it would be better if common sense prevails.

That said even if a reformed bill is passed that is only the first step, it’s important that laws be in place but for practical purposes we need a sincerity of purpose. Pakistan as a nation needs to learn to be accountable. We all do; accountable to God, self and country.

By: Syed Zamin Raza

 

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