Pakistan doesn’t have a Bouazizi

Sarfaraz Shah couldn’t become Pakistan’s Bouazizi. Unlike the poor Tunisian vendor who self-immolated to stir a revolution, Shah was gunned down by security forces in Karachi on a flimsy pretext. It was, indeed, arrogance that flowed from the barrel of the gun and claimed his life.An amateur video-footage, which showed the unarmed teenager pleading for mercy and then being shot point-blank by paramilitary troops, was enough to kick-start an uprising in a country that is lawless, economically paralysed and politically apathetic. But that didn’t happen. Perhaps, Pakistan’s 180 million people have resigned to their fate as they keep their fingers crossed in a sense of inertia and remorse.Shah was neither the first — nor will he be the last one — to lose his life at the hands of extra-legal forces. But the reaction witnessed from the government and the organs of the state is a telling tale of waywardness, and the sense of apathy at work. Initially, the government vowed to bring the culprits to book, and reportedly suspended the paramilitary squad on duty. But later as the Supreme Court of Pakistan took a suo motu action and ordered the removal of the Director-General Rangers and the Inspector-General of Police, and a subsequent trial of the accused who pressed the trigger, the government is in a defiant mood. This is an unbecoming attitude on the part of the executive in dispensing justice, as that too in its capacity as an elected dispensation. Whatever may be the fate of the case, as none is followed in shadows once the limelight fades, Shah’s ghost will be an addition to the innumerable souls who longed for justice, fairplay and a system of governance free from corruption and nepotism.

The fact that the Karachi shootout has come close on the heels of Quetta’s Kharotabad killing in which also paramilitary troops were seen firing extensively on unarmed men and women, who also happened to be foreigners, is quite disturbing. Despite being captured on the lens, the accused have denied any wrongdoing before the inquiry tribunal and are adamantly maneuvering for a clean-chit.So is the case with Karachi officials who do not feel obliged to step down by accepting responsibility for a heinous crime under their nose. All this goes on to establish that there is a serious problem of writ of the state and the supremacy of law, when it comes to tightening the noose around the mighty and the powerful in the military and politics, respectively.The court and the civil society in Pakistan merely enjoy the status of bookkeepers and great lamenters — and nothing else! This is more than enough to perpetuate the culture of corruption in governance, and confidentially hoodwink the norm of justice and accountability.

The list of who’s who in identifying the corrupt is so crisscrossed that it trespasses from the civil-military bureaucracy to the politicians and, of course, the custodians of the constitution. That is not an end in itself. The common man, too, is in it, with bribery and favouratism becoming part and parcel of officialdom — whenever and wherever an eyebrow is raised. This is a cancerous enigma and is eating into the vitals of the country. Corruption is, certainly, the biggest threat to the socio-cultural polity of Pakistan and is impacting its development and organic evolution.

Many will argue that Pakistan is not alone down with this syndrome. No country or system, of course, is immune from corruption. But what makes Pakistan look different is the lack of political will to stem the rot, and the dysfunctional institutional approach. That is evident from half-hearted measures at the governmental level to prosecute the corrupt, especially those with political and bureaucratic strings, and the inability of the courts to put the foot down. This rejuvenated judiciary, which was widely looked up to as a messiah to undo corrupt practices and uphold the rule of law, is itself struggling to ensure that its dictates see the light of the day. Expediency and window-dressing measures have become the order of the day as the government has tactfully learnt to hoodwink the judiciary and befool the people on pretexts of rules of business and the ‘next date 
in court’.

This cannot go on indefinitely. There are lessons to be learnt from Egypt to India; and from Hosni Mubarak to Knaimozi and Dominique Straus-Kahn — the power icons who are presently being tried to uphold the rule of law.There have been too many slips between the lip and the cup in bringing the corrupt to book, and ensuring that the looted wealth of the nation is accounted for. The list is bewildering: Surrey Palace to Swiss accounts, and from Ittefaq Foundaries to Gujarat Sugar Mills, from loan write-offs to bank frauds and Haj scandal and much more — and this doesn’t include hundreds and thousands of cases of omission and commission, and transgression of power, that widely go unreported and unnoticed.As an overwhelming number of Pakistanis are obsessed with the ensuing Arab Spring, Cairo’s sincerity in bringing under the hammer of justice its despots and fraudsters is worth emulating. Who could have imagined that the mighty Mubaraks would be made to bite the sand, and profess publicly to return the looted wealth hidden in the shadows?

Could Pakistan follow suit? Quite unlikely. The reason: Pakistan’s problems are revolving around the callous compromise that is known as the ‘National Reconciliation Ordinance’, which clean-slated the powerful corrupt and the convicts. This piece of legislation has to be undone. Only when the siphoned billions are recovered, and the arrogantly corrupt sent behind bars could emerge a Pakistan meant for welfare and stability. Till then there will be many more Abbottabad, Karachi and Kharotabad-like sorrowing tales. It’s time to wage a war against the corrupt. – Khaleejnews