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Archive for September, 2000

Economic Wilderness

In keeping with the financial mismanagement of the 50 years plus of this nation’s existence, the economic numbers simply do not add up. To be fair to the military regime, the massive siphoning off of public sector funds into private sinecures has been contained at the macro-level while the quantum of leakage at the micro-level seems to go on unabated has even increased because of the “risks” of being “nabbed”. Pakistan is in a Catch-22 situation of obtaining more and more loans to make repayments, without having the means to avoid further slide into an ominous debt trap. The quicksand is of our own making, with no or little help from the obdurate policies of world financial institutions and the lack of a spine among our financial negotiators. Our Finance Ministry has been grovelling before the IMF both in public and private for measly amounts which the IMF dangles before us but does not disburse. The flight of capital has assumed alarming proportions, a mass migration of talent and expertise going to Canada, if this is not reversed no entrepreneurial potential will be left in the country. Thankfully, our Finance Minister is still smiling in the face of eminent financial apocalypse, maybe he knows something we don’t.


Intent and credibility

Given that military regimes are not in fashion in the New Millennium, the Chief Executive’s “live” presence in New York was a success by itself. Staying at home when 150 or so of the world’s leaders were assembled for the UN Millennium Summit would have been a disaster, force-multiplied by the massive anti-Pakistan propaganda unleashed by India. His absence would have been exploited as nervousness in facing the “free world” averse to giving “legitimacy” to a military regime. The democracy practiced by leaders of more than two-thirds of the nations attending the UN Summit is a sham. We are neither hypocrites in posing to have “democratic credentials” nor hypocrites in accepting them as “democrats” knowing them to be otherwise. Not only did the CE address the assembled leaders from the UN pulpit, he met a dozen plus leaders despite the heavy agenda of a host of Heads of State and Government running free in the few square miles of Manhattan. Apparent from the world media attention, including breakfast meetings at the “Asia Society” and the “Council of Foreign Relations”, no social ostracism, of the nature that the malicious one-page Ads planted by the Indians in prestigious international newspapers sought, happened. This undercut the credibility of the “anti” campaign, the motivated were left with very little to try and build a mountain out of a molehill.


The report

Some skeletons can never stay in the closet. From time to time the Hamoodur Rahman Commission’s Report (HRCR) surfaces (or is made to surface) Phoenix-like to haunt Pakistan, more particularly the Pakistan Army. The motivation behind the present radiations is hardly a mystery, which is the one institution that remains between India and regional hegemony? As a psy-war weapon the Report is far more cost-effective in maligning the Army than the expensive one-page ADs being run by India in major international newspapers pre-the UN Millennium Summit. A broad section of our own intelligentsia seems to have fallen for this, proceeding to castigate an Army that is three decades removed from the catharsis of 1971. While politicians have a vested interest in trying to force the uniformed personnel under pressure back to the barracks, a broad spectrum of the elite facing accountability have reinforced this unholy nexus. The “fog of war” invariably covers the actions and misdeeds of the victors, only the dirty linen of the vanquished is on display for public approbation. Many years later, only myths and half-truths emerge, the truth remains buried.


NAB Blues?

Trying to resolve a major financial dispute between a private sector entity and a public sector organisation, the Minister-in-Charge gathered both the parties in good faith recently in Islamabad. It was soon clear that the public sector entity had no intention of accepting the truth and was mainly engaged in confusing the issues. Frustrated at their attitude, we requested the Minister for an impartial audit to be carried out by any well renowned mutually acceptable independent auditor. We were taken aback when the public sector entity asked for an immediate enquiry by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). That in fact was our own objective, to have professional accountants look at the records and on the basis of their findings to take it to NAB for prosecution of those in that particular Corporation who had been involved in fraud, forgery, perjury, misrepresentation and misinformation. The ready willingness of those whom we had no doubt had indulged in skullduggery to go to NAB in the first instance was really surprising. It was only after the meeting that we discovered why. It transpired that these characters had earlier been investigated by NAB officials on other issues, contrary to being held accountable for their misdemeanours they had compromised those enquiring into their affairs. Control of a public sector organisation allows a number of inducements to be possible, cushy job placements for relatives and/or friends, petty contracts, etc, in this case it included the job of a Chief Security Officer as a starter. Not surprising that those whom we wanted exposed should have audacity to suggest NAB, these “veterans” knew NAB could be manipulated to their satisfaction. That is the measure of what NAB has ultimately become, the sum of a few rascals in authority with a willingness to do “business” with the corrupt. NAB may do a hundred good things, a few bad fish have spoilt the entire pond. The guilty have reason to feel confident that they have derailed the moral sanctity behind NAB’s accountability process to suit their own purposes.

When Amjad became the Chairman of the newly commissioned NAB last October, great things were expected from him. In the Army he had acquired a reputation as a clean, honest (to a fault) and professionally competent soldier (and he remains one). He methodically set about cleaning the dirty stables of the muck-filled Pakistani farm, and if not rid us altogether of nepotism and corruption, putting the fear of God into a majority of the corrupt lot, their illegal activities could no longer be carried out openly without any questions or fear. Not only the hopes of the COAS and the Pakistan Army but that of the entire nation rested upon him. One forgave him his first “bull-in-a-China shop” steps because of inexperience and a nation hungry that the guilty be brought to justice. In the process a number of well-known businessmen were hauled up and subjected to extreme discomfort, if not third degree treatment. Obviously this was playing to the gallery and the people of Pakistan were generally delighted at what they thought was just retribution for those who had looted the country’s wealth for over five decades. It soon transpired that at least some of the process was out of personal motivation, others were not well thought out. Some of those held were totally innocent. One after the other, those who could connect and/or compromise made their way back to freedom. The failure of NAB to hold those clearly guilty, particularly due to lack of evidence and despite the draconian NAB Ordinance, was extremely disappointing for both the intelligentsia and the masses of Pakistan. Perception is nine-tenths of the law, a backlash set in. To obtain results Amjad resorted to legitimising dishonesty, an amendment was enacted to NABO wherein if you returned the illegal wealth and/or penalties thereof imposed by the Chairman NAB, you could escape punishment. This undercut the moral authority of NAB to function.


True or False?

In South Asia we think nothing of blaming the law enforcement agencies and the judicial system for the lack of justice delivered by our courts, at the same time we do nothing (and are reluctant to do anything) to strengthen the law, the hands of the enforcers of the law and the legal process that is meant to provide fair and equitable process, one that is not directly proportional to the efficiency of lawyers and the amount of money their clients are prepared to pay for it. The reasons for our present predicament are not complex or beyond redemption but the situation is growing worse by the day. Judgement upon any issue whether it be a legal process or simply routine matter, depends upon the evidence available in the case of the courts, the veracity of not only evidence but the credibility of the person putting forth that evidence. This may be statements from witnesses or documents supporting an argument for or against any issue. And that eventually is the essence of our problems, whether a statement or a document can be taken on face value to be true or false by the person examining that evidence. Those whose duty it is to provide impartial evidence on a regular basis, i.e. the law enforcers, have made it into a business, their findings mostly depending directly upon the quantum of money paid into their pockets, there being honourable exceptions, of course.

How many of those brought before the Accountability Courts for various reasons have accepted that they have indulged in nepotism and/or corruption of some sort? Indeed some of them have plea-bargained their way out of jail i.e. come to an agreement to pay that much money that will satisfy the NAB Chairman to give the “donor” relief from incarceration. In obtaining a reluctant (but relevant) “confession” the accused tacitly accepts his (or her) guilt, but can one condone the falsehood that the person rendered under oath before he (or she) saw the “light”? Should that not be a separate charge against the person that he (or she) is lying under oath? Or should we accept that all this is a one big game and that it is legal to give false evidence or bear false witness as long as one does not get caught?