By Khaled Ahmed
20 July, 2012
Once again, accountability will come to nothing because it is based on revenge and ill-will
PMLN persuaded its leader Nawaz Sharif to end what the media called 'friendly opposition' to the PPP government. The Supreme Court was anti-PPP and the NRO case was mishandled by the PPP, thus reviving all the corruption cases against its leaders and allies, including Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari. Nawaz Sharif had told the PPP it will go along with the Court and that the NRO was simply unacceptable.
What ensued after Nawaz Sharif's long march in favour of the restoration of the Supreme Court was bad language and low adversarial campaign against the federal government, led by chief minister Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif. Today Minister Sharjil Memon in Sindh is directing the same sort of libellous cannonade against the Sharifs. And NAB has been finally let loose, putting to test the judiciary which the PPP sees as favouring the Sharifs.
Media anchors looking for ratings and not getting enough abusive juice from their talk shows accused Nawaz Sharif of 'friendly opposition'. They wanted war again, a pattern of voting based on hatred, and a revival of accountability under which the PPP chief Asif Ali Zardari had spent over a decade in jail without being definitively found guilty
Three cases have been sought to be reopened: In one corruption reference - State vs Hudaybia Paper Mills (Pvt) Ltd - nine members of the Sharif family were accused and the money involved was Rs642.743 million, which was allegedly stashed away in accounts opened in other persons' names to pay off the loans of the Sharif companies.
The second case State vs Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, etc, concerns the Raiwind assets, that the Sharifs had acquired vast tracts of land on which a number of palatial houses and mansions were constructed with money that could not be proved as rightly earned. It involves an amount of Rs247.352 million. Nawaz Sharif's his mother is also an accused in this case.
The third case, pending before the Lahore High Court, is State vs Ittefaq Foundries, etc, involving Nawaz Sharif, his brother Abbas Sharif and Kamal Qureshi in alleged bank default. The main accused is Ittefaq Foundries Ltd that obtained cash finance from the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP), in which they wilfully defaulted in 1994. It is pending before LHC.
By setting the dogs of NAB on the Sharifs, the PPP is actually helping Imran Khan as 'third presence' in the future legislature
There are other matters lying with NAB including (i) case of illegal appointments in the FIA against Nawaz Sharif, (ii) misuse of authority by Nawaz Sharif as ex-chief minister Punjab in the construction of road from Raiwind to Sharif family house causing loss of Rs125 million, (iii) Sharif Trust case against Nawaz Sharif/Sharif Trust involving allegation of money laundering, misappropriation of trust funds and acquisition of benami assets in the name of Sharif Trust;
(iv) London properties case against Nawaz Sharif and others regarding owning of Aven Field properties, (v) Illegal appointments in PIA allegedly by Nawaz Sharif, and (vi) Corruption in the allotment of Lahore Development Authority (LDA) plots involving ex-CM Nawaz Sharif, ex-DG LDA Brig (r) Manzoor Malik, ex-Director Estate and Shahid Rafi.
The cases were brought against the Sharifs by General Musharraf in 2000 when Nawaz Sharif was in the Attock jail. The cases revived against the PPP and allies also go back to the same period reviving the tradition of PPP-PMLN vendetta which has been popularised as 'accountability.
The Sharifs say one of the three cases concerning Hudaybia was quashed by the Lahore High Court (LHC). In the second case, the accused were never heard and the third was pending before the LHC. They say the cases are false and baseless.
Pakistan is once again tilting into crisis through a dubious process called accountability. So bad is Pakistan's record under the rubric of accountability that the world should get together at the UN and pass a resolution saying Pakistan should give up the farce of accountability because it deepens the country's faultlines and defames the principle of holding rulers accountable.
Before returning to Pakistan, the Sharifs got together with the PPP leader Benazir Bhutto to issue a Charter of Democracy in 2006, which was the beginning of a phase of reconciliation in Pakistan. It was based on an admission that the two parties had victimised each other in the past to the detriment of the state. Nawaz Sharif was confessional about the way he had hounded the PPP leadership through his Ehtisab Bureau run by a person possessed with the demon of revenge rather than justice.
The 'reconciliation', alas, did not last. Media anchors looking for ratings and not getting enough abusive juice from their talk shows accused Nawaz Sharif of 'friendly opposition'. They wanted war again, a pattern of voting based on hatred, and a revival of accountability under which the PPP chief Asif Ali Zardari had spent over a decade in jail without being definitively found guilty.
The Sharifs fell for the ruse of 'long marches' and rough language on a media short on ethics. The judiciary, not treated too well by the PPP, bounced back and started scrutinising its governance with a magnifying lens. The more the PPP faltered the more the PMLN sharpened the knives of its damning propaganda.
In this atmosphere of resumed hostility, in May 2012, Adviser on Interior Rehman Malik, then Interior Minister, fired his salvo, saying the Sharifs had defrauded the government of $32 million and must face a revival of investigation against them.
The PMLN has shot back: 'Malik had lodged cases through the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) during Benazir's second tenure and had the 75-year-old Mian Muhammad Sharif and 16-year-old Hamza Shahbaz arrested'.
An emotional Shahbaz Sharif, currently chief minister of Punjab, swears that if found guilty he would quit politics. The tormentors in the PPP say it is tit for tat in accountability but fear that the judiciary, the final arbiter, is with the PMLN, which means that this time too accountability is political and threatens to further politicise the process of law.
What is wrong with accountability in Pakistan? It becomes a part of dirty bipartisan politics with the result that people are asked to vote again and again for those accused of corruption in a spirit of revenge. The PMLN has done significant damage to the PPP's chances of doing well at the polls when elections are held before of after 2002. The media, the unofficial watchdog of public affairs, has done its job of wounding the incumbent party significantly on the question of governance.
People are predicting that the PPP will crash to its lowest vote in history. But what will happen to the PMLN after NAB gets going on the Sharifs? Even if the media is kind to the party after accusing the PPP of ill-will, the PMLN is bound to suffer.
Who will catalyse this process through sharply hostile rhetoric? Not so much the PPP as Tehreek-e-Insaf. By setting the dogs of NAB on the Sharifs the PPP is actually helping Imran Khan as 'third presence' in the future legislature.
Once again accountability will come to nothing because it is based on revenge and ill-will. The state institutions are tainted with politics and the media is not enjoying its finest hour as its TV anchors rush for ratings in an economy that is less and less able to sustain those employed in journalism.