Yet again, the nation has sidetracked itself from a former obsession. Perhaps it is tired of making noises, leaping up and down in highly righteous indignation, and getting absolutely nowhere.
The final decade of the 20th century and the first couple of years of this century witnessed much activity on the national front regarding accountability and its need after the fall of the pseudo-democratic governments of the 1990s.
Funnily enough, clamours for accountability as far as corruption is concerned and the robbing of the national exchequer have not been a national pastime after the departures of military dictators — though their propensity for encouraging acolytes to dip their snouts into whatever national goodies there were was never in doubt.
As governments existed and fell in the 1990s, with two rounds each to Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, corruption was a major accusation against both. Corruption had never before been such a big deal as it was after the 1988-91 BB/Zardari government. Of course, it has forever been with Pakistan — as it has with all the world’s nations. It is a natural phenomenon but, in civilised democratic lands, it is kept within controllable bounds. Accountability does exist, so that when individuals overstep the accepted line they are hauled up and they pay for their light-fingered activities.
Not so in Pakistan. Corruption was inbuilt at the country’s birth. The first indulgence in that popular game came with the grabbing, by the newly-born Pakistanis, of any refugee properties and assets their eyes lit upon. Grab was the order of the day, with civilians and the military cashing in grandly.
Anyhow, following the fall of the Sharif second round in 1999 — after the mass corruption of four governments — accountability was the hot topic with the fourth of the army generals to take control of a failing republic. The National Accountability Bureau was set up — its acronym was fortuitous as it indicated that it was there to do a swift and effective nabbing job. But as with all things Pakistani, enthusiasm for doing a job that needs to be done, in this case cleaning up the corruption fields, was not long-lived. NAB slowly settled into a meaningless institution, unable or unwilling to pursue those it should have pursued, and as helpless as all accountability organisations that preceded it to obtain the convictions badly needed to stem future mass corruption and the lethal attacks upon the national exchequer.
Then, with the advent of PPP co-chairman Asif Zardari’s government and his subsequent bagging of the presidential chair, all hopes of accountability fled. It would be a pointless exercise as the looting and plunder was to outdo all that had gone before. It was an open field for all, in or out of government, for party and coalition members, for even those in opposition, all had their chances and took and continue to take them. NAB fell by the wayside — toothless and useless.
And now we have had much ado about the appointment of a new chief. Why would any sane, self-respecting individual take over NAB, given the way things work in the state? He would know fully well that Zardari and his cohorts will not be subject to any form of accountability, as is the case with the large fish of the opposition, as one or more may at some future stage manage a comeback into the top powerhouses.
So what gives with the good Admiral Fasih Bokhari, who is obviously in the loop with his president friend? Is he bored with retired life? Have the golf courses lost their charm? Or is it that once having occupied a top slot the lure of being back in the perks queue, heading whatever, is a welcome relief from hanging around nowhere?
NAB has had its day and is now but another cipher in the list of terminal diseases that strike our institutions.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 22nd, 2011.
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