“The sky was dark. The night was black. Obscurity reigned. The gleam of the wolves’ eyes was the only light that came to sight. The howling of the jackal was the only sound to be heard. Conspiracies were in the making while slanderers and the malicious were busily chattering.”
The Broadsheet Enquiry Report is a miniscule reflection of the way the state of Pakistan has been defrauded by succeeding rulers and their appendages in a systematic manner.
After discovering that the record pertaining to the payment of a hefty amount to a wrong party was either missing, or those who had it were unwilling to cooperate with the investigation, the author of the Enquiry Report relating to Broadsheet, Justice Azmat Saeed, noted that “to say that, as a consequence of absence of due diligence, a sum of US$ 1.5 million had been paid to a wrong person or entity would be a misstatement. In fact, the State of Pakistan had been swindled out of US$ 1.5 million”.
This is only the beginning of the damning indictment. It goes without saying that, from his appointment as head of the Enquiry Commission onward, Justice Saeed remained under immense pressure not to go ahead with penning a soul-searching report outlining the putridity which has infected various pillars of the State. As he elaborates himself, “parts of this report were scribed late evenings at the foot of the Margalla Hills where I was staying. The discordant symphony of the howling jackals was a constant companion. The howling of the jackals could not distract me from the task at hand”.
That would be a tragedy of no small measure because states cannot prosper without the support of their institutions and functionaries. With the crime spree penetrating deep, openly sponsored by people in influential positions, a sustainable remedy is not a possibility without first undertaking an extensive surgical procedure to eliminate the hotbeds of crime and corruption which have plagued the country through generations. That is the monumental challenge that the government is faced with. In order to salvage the State, it does not have an option other than initiating this procedure in earnest
While responsibility has been apportioned to some individuals, as it should have been, the underlying narrative is far more damning in terms of the dysfunctional aspects of the State. The factors relating to the record of the case either having been callously destroyed, or the responsible functionaries blatantly unwilling to cooperate in facilitating the conduct of the enquiry, constitute the extent to which this malady has penetrated the body politic. The hands of evil were not confined to offices and individuals inside Pakistan. They extended to Pakistan’s High Commission in the UK and other places which also reported loss of the relevant material. The disgraceful role of a former Pakistani High Commissioner in the UK, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, in personally wheeling away the documents pertaining to the indictment of Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari by the Swiss Court, was caught on camera, which would remain forever an indelible mark of shame across the face of Pakistan.
There are many criminals who figure prominently in this saga of corruption. Justice Saeed has a few words to say about the haughty and dangerously bloated bureaucracy of the country: “…the Secretaries of various Ministries/Divisions involved are deliberately delaying matters by indulging in farcical bureaucratic games reminiscent of the erstwhile British Comedy called ‘Yes Minister’. The Secretaries who strut about like inflatable ‘Prima Donnas’ with the sole purpose of finding ways to ensure that no worthwhile work gets done for the benefit of the State and its people except to provide comic relief. This quotation from ‘Yes Minister’ appears to be very apt for the case at hand: ‘We don’t measure our success by results, but by activity and the activity is considerable and productive’”. Are you reminded of the monkey game?
Justice Saeed highlights his mindboggling narrative of crime and complicity by quoting the French journalist Frédéric Bastiat who said that “when plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves, in the course of time, a legal system that authorises it and a moral code that glorifies it”. He goes on to state that this “quotation is uncanny in its applicability to present-day Pakistan. Corruption has infected every institution in the country. All four pillars of the state are afflicted with this malaise but, perhaps, what is worse is that the most blatant acts of corruption, even those without the benefit of a fig leaf, are not only condoned, but also applauded. Histrionics are mistaken for heroics”.
He ends his scathing indictment with a piece of advice: “As a nation, we must dismantle the structures that give rise and protection to corruption which gnaws away at the scaffolds that support the state structure and polity: the state must not tear the scaffolds that support its existence. The apologists of corruption are a dime a dozen. I wonder whether this phenomenon reflects some perverted form of ancient tribalism, moral bankruptcy, or such persons are simply standing there with their mouths open, tails wagging, hoping for some crumbs from the table”.
I have written often on a comprehensive moral collapse that afflicts Pakistan today. This has been laboriously nurtured, promoted and strengthened by various strings of rulers who came to strangle the country in their vicious and malfeasant grip. There is virtually no exception in the long lineage of humiliating appendages whom one could single out by way of their integrity, character and devotion to the cause of Pakistan. They all came riding the bandwagon of shallow sloganeering to salvage the fate of the State, but went on to scavenge it of all its promise, virtually skinning it to its bare bones. In the process, and with the wicked cooperation and complicity of corrupt functionaries whom they first appointed to important positions and then exploited in fulfilling their nefarious agendas, they were able to hijack the functionality of the State to serve their self-interest-driven cause alone. Thus, while the State kept becoming weaker, their personal coffers, and those of their appendages, were overflowing with arrogance and pelf both. Instead of the State becoming powerful and strident, this experience makes for a classic case of individuals prospering at the cost of the mother ship.
The utter absence of self-esteem makes this trail of robbery absolutely depraved and degenerative. These criminals who chartered the fate of the country during their respective stints in power have gone about commemorating their crime spree with gay abandon, laced with substantial proportion of pride. They celebrate indictments in gross criminal indulgences with victory signs and censure by courts with hurling wild accusations of injustice. There is no submission before law as these charlatans consider themselves, and their appendages, above everything except subservience to their own crass agenda of pillaging the state.
The critical question is whether the findings of this Enquiry Report will make any difference in terms of proper cases initiated against those found responsible for this daylight robbery, or this, too, shall be consigned to the bin after the initial hullabaloo like so many other similar reports have been in the past? In the current times, I don’t have any doubt about the intentions of the government. There is an underlying commitment to the cause of justice and probity. The problem spans multiple dimensions which have been outlined in the Report itself with regard to the incriminating complicity of institutions and personnel alike. If lack of their cooperation during the phase of conducting the Enquiry is a fair yardstick to go by, there is little good that I see coming out of this Report also.
That would be a tragedy of no small measure because states cannot prosper without the support of their institutions and functionaries. With the crime spree penetrating deep, openly sponsored by people in influential positions, a sustainable remedy is not a possibility without first undertaking an extensive surgical procedure to eliminate the hotbeds of crime and corruption which have plagued the country through generations. That is the monumental challenge that the government is faced with. In order to salvage the State, it does not have an gammaother than initiating this procedure in earnest.
Let the jackals howl. After all, it is their job to do so.