It is difficult to disagree with the call by Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif for “across the board accountability”. There does need to be across-the-board accountability if the Hydra of corruption is to be vanquished. If terrorism is to be rolled back, there has to be across-the-board accountability. If state institutions are to be reformed, there has to be across-the-board accountability. If effective civilian governance free of taint is ever to take root, there must be across-the-board accountability — and there’s the rub. The state is corrupt to its very foundations. There is not a single great office of state that is free of corruption. There is no state agency that is regarded as clean, either by our own populace or by the wider world, which for the most part sees — and has to live with — a seemingly irredeemably bent state.
It is for the civilian governments at federal and provincial levels to take the measures that are needed to bring about accountability but they have been signally unable to do so either from lack of will or because those that tread the corridors of power are themselves corrupt. There are no autonomous mechanisms or competent investigative bodies that are above politics and empowered to investigate alleged wrongdoing.
This is the problem currently faced by the incumbent government as it scrambles to make a response to the Panama Papers but is hamstrung by a lack of willingness on the part of the judiciary to have anything to do with what judges know will be a Pandora’s box of troubles. Whoever takes on the task — and there have to be questions about the necessary competencies of forensic investigation being available in-country — is going to come under immediate and sustained political pressure. If any investigation comes close to establishing a link between any politician and corruption, be it via the Panama Papers or any other source, accountability will vanish in a puff of smoke. General Sharif was right in his comments, but he will know as well as all around him that he is wishing in the wind.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2016.
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