As the Mehrangate drama unfolds at the Supreme Court and the PML-N feels the heat from its revelations, a new scandal is being uncovered: the PPP, now sitting pretty, has been accused of using funds allocated to the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to bribe the members of the PML-Q to form a PPP-led coalition government in Punjab after imposing Governor’s Rule there. The parallels with Mehrangate are present: funds misappropriated and distributed without a trace among politicians who can now swear piety by using the scam’s in-built deniability.
The irreducible fact is that Pakistani politics — unlike Indian politics — takes democracy to mean elimination of the opposition through the majority principle. The difference is glaring: simply put, Pakistani politics is primitive and based on vendetta, while the connection with the people is vaguely perceptible in the background. Unfortunately, the masses that vote have been brainwashed over the years to see the opposition party as a traitor not deserving to live and, therefore, liable under the charge of treason.
The Mehrangate scandal recalls a period of time when right wing politicians and journalists had ganged up to get rid of the ‘traitor’ PPP and had used big money — arranged by an army chief — to anoint the wheels of political dysfunction. The word used there was ‘national interest’ recognised by political scientists as a pseudo-doctrine too incoherent to lend itself to any sane analysis. Suffice it to say, in all countries, right wing parties and the army feel cosy together and share their sense of intense nationalism and will occasionally employ dirty tricks to eliminate or defeat the liberal parties.
In Mehrangate, fraud was used to float a fund which was then used as an instrument of organisation to defeat the PPP in the 1990 election. The PPP is alleged to have used IB secret funds to buy off politicians to create a majority against the PML-N in Punjab. In the first case, the army chief plus the army-dominated ISI and its right wing friends were successful in trouncing the PPP at the polls, only to realise soon enough that the PPP was capable of bouncing back. In the second case, the PPP high command failed to prevent the PML-N from ruling Punjab. Consider the sheer waste of this kind of politics that, since the Governor’s Rule episode, the PML-N has distracted itself and the ruling PPP by launching one plan after another — including recourse to the Supreme Court — to get rid of the government at the centre.
The PPP government allegedly withdrew Rs270 million from the secret fund of the IB against the PML-N prior to the imposition of Governor Rule in Punjab in 2009. The IB chief informed the prime minister about the removal of funds with no results. The ironic development on the shoals of which the plan made shipwreck was that the PML-Q stalwarts who presumably absorbed these funds put forward additional conditionalities that the PPP leaders could not meet! Now for the next week or so, expect to see verbal fireworks — and even a likely petition at the Supreme Court — to give the PPP a bloody nose to match the bloody nose that Mehrangate has given to the PML-N.
It is no longer hidden that politicians end up making money, regardless of whether they are in power or in the opposition. The two cases prove this. Additionally, those put in charge of doling out the money without the formality of receipts stash away their share, putting a question mark over the actual destination of the money. What should be done? Abolish secret funds? All over the world secret funds are used by intelligence agencies but that doesn’t mean that there is no oversight of the allocated amount. The Auditor General is there with powers to put questions and obtain answers from spenders. In Pakistan, financial accountability is undermined by delay of audit, not by secret funds.
The fault, if it is true, lies in the exemption granted to the intelligence agencies. Is there no audit of accounts of the IB? Some time back it was being said that the ISI is exempt. The Auditor General should make a public statement about the latest revelations and tell the nation how he dealt with the phenomenon of vanished IB funds.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 16th, 2012.
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