Pakistan's war on terror is incomplete without a war on corruption

The least that can be done is to change the template of governance with accountability at its core.

By Ishtiaq Ali Mehkri

Published: Sun 21 Jun 2015, 10:22 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 3:15 PM

A week after the December 2014 attack in Peshawar in which 133 schoolchildren were killed, Pakistan’s political parties unanimously formulated a National Action Plan to root out terrorism. Its most startling feature was to crack down on those responsible for the bleak law and order situation – those politicians who abetted terrorism and who provided funds to terror groups. The legislators, though reluctantly, also agreed to set up special military tribunal courts to try such cases, and an amendment to the constitution was introduced, accordingly. But to this day they have failed to walk the talk.

It seems forces of inertia have spoiled the show and nothing has been done to bring the accused to book. The NAP is in a limbo. This inaction against white-collar criminals has impacted the successes of the armed forces against the Taleban.

On June 6, Director General of the Rangers Major General Bilal Akbar said that at least Rs 230 billion changes hands under the table every year and big political names are its beneficiaries. The army authorities have demanded that shady characters in the political establishment be purged.

It’s not a secret that Pakistan’s biggest problem is irresponsible and bad governance. This is at the root of militancy that is eating away the vitals of the country.

A two per cent elite is fleecing the nation — and that too with impunity. Pakistan’s external debt is at $66 billion (2014 estimates). Finance Minister Ishaq Dar says more than $200 billion looted money is parked in Swiss and other foreign banks! There can’t be a more corrupt state of affairs than this. The country, during all these decades, had to borrow from international donors to keep itself afloat.

Corruption cases now being reopened by the Supreme Court were set aside under a decree called the National Reconciliation Ordinance, which former president General Pervez Musharraf used to grant a clean chit to more than 8,500 persons against whom corruption and criminal cases were pending.

Abuse of power and terror activities go hand in hand, under the patronage of major political and religious parties. This is not an allegation, but a fact, as stated by the Corps Commander of Karachi, Lt. General Naveed Mukhtar, who said terror outfits of various political and radical parties are responsible for the decline in law and order situation, and are directly responsible for extortion cases and land grabbing.

Pakistan has witnessed more than 88,000 deaths in blasts and other terror attacks since 2001, when it became a member of the United States-led war on terrorism under duress. The total loss to the economy is estimated at around $100 billion.

Despite the passage of a law to try terrorists and high-profile criminals in the military courts, the nucleus of NAP, not a single case has been heard. While Pakistan has lifted a moratorium on the death penalty, no terrorist has been hanged to this day. All those who were sent to the gallows in the last few months were sentenced for crimes, such as murder and ransom.

It would not be wrong to say the feudal-mafia is giving a bad name to democracy. Rising unemployment, falling standards of living and a terror-stricken society are some of the biggest issues of the nation with 190-million people.

What is the solution? Conventionally, the all-powerful military has taken over the reins of power at the first indication of political turmoil. Though the military is largely blamed for the ills of the strife-torn country, it is still seen as the last and credible option to stem the rot. But surprisingly, this time around, the army doesn’t seem to be in a mood to stake its claim to power.

This gives the political classes another opportunity to clean up their act and redefine national priorities to kick-start serious socio-economic reforms. The least that can be done is to change the template of governance with accountability at its core. Political corruption breeds terrorism. The nation cannot coexist with the corrupt and terrorists anymore.

Ishtiaq Ali Mehkri is Assistant Editor (Opinion).

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