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Archive for December, 1996

Self-accountability-the Decontamination Process

The final accountability being that rendered by the masses at the polls, should not the public expect the political parties to themselves filter their candidates through a pre-electoral weeding process to ensure that they pass measure at various levels leading to the anvil of the Ehtasab (Accountability) Ordinance? The recurrent failure to carry out accountability has brought a once vibrant economic engine fuelled by a dynamic people resplendent in hope to its knees, the last three years at the hands of a band of looters who would put vultures to shame. Not that any thief has ever accepted guilt (to quote renowned columnist Ardeshir Cowasjee “which thief will give you a receipt?”) without being faced by incontrovertible evidence but seldom has there been such highway robbery and then a brazen display of shameless feigning of benign innocence as by the members of the universally unlamented late government of Ms Benazir Bhutto. Unfortunately that is their benign right under the laws of the land unless they are brought to justice.

We have to studiously guard against a rush of judgment. As columnists and journalists, except for investigative journalists like Ardeshir Cowasjee, Kamran Khan, Kaleem Omar, etc we have seldom access to hard evidence, we simply articulate the mass perception. In doing so we fall into the Catch-22 trap of kangaroo courts insofar as we mix truths and half truths that feed on each other mixing these such that the palate of the population becomes anxious and hungry to apportion blame. A responsibility devolves upon us to verify the accuracy of what we put down in print, more so because in our haste to lay accusations and see the looters brought to justice we may be unknowingly playing into their hands because hastily levelled accusations run the risk of being shown to be without depth and substance, it is more difficult to cast doubt on hard evidence obtained more deliberately. Some of us are also guilty of letting our own personal bitterness and frustrations get the better of our own judgment, in effect we attempt to project as the truth what we would like to believe is the truth.

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The ‘90 Plus 90 Formula’

The Constitution requires that elections must be held for the Assemblies within 90 days of dissolution, to that end the National Assembly (NA) elections are slated for Feb 3, 1997. On the other hand, the raison d’etre for seeking of a fresh mandate from the people being rampant nepotism and corruption afflicting the Ms Benazir regime, the chief practitioner of the second oldest profession being the lady’s spouse and de facto PM Asif Zardari, the mass public demand for accountability cannot be ignored. Given the time consumed in the mechanics leading to elections and the lead period before the Ehtesab (Accountability) Ordinance becomes effective in implementation a very short period is left for accountability, not enough by far. There is widespread skepticism about the future of the country if elections return such people to the Assemblies who need to be held accountable for the destruction of this country’s economy, its social ethos and national security at the altar of personal greed. It is quite reasonable to presume that having made a packet and then some, it would be in the vested interest of the corrupt and the greedy to ensure their elections by using some of their easily earned but undeserving largesse. Money may not play a decisive part in all the constituencies, it may well play a critical part in some crucial swing ones, enough to affect the course of our future political and economic history back to the dark ages of our own Mafia Don. The traumatic experience of the past three years must encourage us to work out a pragmatic compromise formula allowing the election process to proceed unhindered on schedule while the accountability process is geared to ensuring that every person elected to the Assemblies is given a thorough going over as respect antecedents and integrity before he or she takes oath as a member.

Once the winning candidates are gazetted by the Chief Election Commissioner, the Speakers of the respective Assemblies can call the Assemblies to session so that the Members can take oath, thereafter whoever has a majority in the Assemblies can form the government. This period normally takes about 10-20 days after the elections. It is important to ensure the credibility of the democratic process by staying within the Constitutional parameters defined. While the Constitution is quite clear about the time frame for the elections process, it has not really laid down such a time frame for handing over power post-elections. Conceivably the Speaker could call the National Assembly into session after an extended length of time, maybe even 90 days without violating the Constitution. This God-given window of opportunity can be exploited in a positive manner for the good of the nation under the “doctrine of necessity”. Once the winners are notified by the CEC, the only remaining formality to their sitting in the Assemblies is the oath of office. Once a member takes that oath, in public perception he or she acquires legitimacy, it becomes more difficult to carry out accountability, more so of the ones seated on the Treasury Benches given the political compulsions of the government-in-power that is then subject to blackmail to maintain their majority. Besides blackmail on a very personal basis by her husband Ms Benazir was the target on a political basis by a vast number of politicians leading single-digit parties. The accountability process can be made into an effective roadblock by making the time frame for its completion slightly more flexible. The possibility of certain elimination due to accountability pre- and post-election will dampen their enthusiasm for allocation of party tickets thus easing pressure on the party leadership, a sort of a self-accountability that frees political parties to accommodate credible candidates rather than the less than desirable personalities.

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