PESHAWAR: The accountability process has once again become controversial in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the Centre, due to ulterior motives behind the set-up.
At the federal level, accountability cases seem to be mostly registered against Pakistan Peoples Party whereas the ruling Pakistan Tehrik Insaaf in K-P is using it against its rivals. This situation has started a heated debate around accountability, giving embezzlers all the more room to ‘prove’ their innocence.
Then and now
Corruption and nepotism have existed since time immemorial; the erstwhile NWFP Legislative Assembly had adopted a resolution against such practices in the mid-1930s. The assembly had requested the British Raj to help them combat corruption.
Years later, Khan Abdul Wali Khan raised his voice against corruption. He came under severe criticism by fellow politicians when he called for “first accountability, then elections”.
General Ziaul Haq used a similar slogan while looking for ways to prolong his dictatorial rule after martial law was imposed in July 1977. Even General (retd) Pervez Musharraf exploited accountability.
Before Musharraf’s regime, Nawaz Sharif established an ehtesab commission by taking some of his political allies into confidence. However, the commission came under fire when it went against PPP leaders, some say on political grounds. Later, Musharraf promised of making it “impartial, fair and transparent”.
Nevertheless, motives behind Musharraf’s accountability process were no different; Sardar Mehtab and Azam Hoti were the few who were arrested – out of over four dozen ministers and advisers who served during 1990-93 and 1997-99.
Musharraf consumed most of his energy on what he called eradicating corruption from its roots. He also claimed he recovered plundered wealth from corrupt people. But in practice, nothing was found when his government had drew up a list of 8,041 individuals, including 248 politicians. In any case, he later declared amnesty for a majority of the accused through the National Reconciliation Order (NRO). The reason was best known to Musharraf.
Likewise, PTI Chairperson Imran Khan and Chief Minister Pervez Khattak have also put “accountability and eradication of corruption” on top of their list of priorities. People have great hopes with the promises made by PTI, but the results have so far been all the same.
The K-P government, as per Imran’s vision, adopted a multi-dimension approach to implement its agenda “for change”.
At the time of 2013 election campaign, PTI leaders made tall claims of setting all government departments straight. But after coming to power, PTI formed working groups for each department and their outcomes are still a mystery.
The K-P government also renamed the Awami National Party-established provincial ombudsman as the Ehtesab Commission. A retired military general was made head of the EC whereas a NAB officer—on political grounds—was made the head of the anti-corruption department. Politically, both the officers came under severe criticism in the wake of recent acts.
The anti-corruption department’s enquiries are focused on projects and schemes executed during ANP’s regime; it’s even digging out cases prior to the party’s rule. All those who are reluctant to switch to the ruling parties are being forced to surrender “plundered wealth”.
On the other hand, Ehtesab Commission needs no introduction after the cases of former minister Ziaullah Afridi and Senator Sitara Ayaz. Both of them have declared the commission the ‘Khattak Commission’.
In the Centre, NAB has been focusing on PPP. Recent statements of former president Asif Ali Zardari, ex-premiers Yousaf Raza Gillani, Raja Pervez Ashraf and ANP’s Asfandyar Wali Khan claim they are being punished not for plundering or misusing powers, but for legislations that led to the strengthening of the Parliament.
Therefore, those in power should review the procedure. They should first prove the sincerity of their acts. The government must evolve a strategy for making a permanent, powerful, independent and responsible accountability body that would be answerable to none other than the Parliament and the judiciary.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2015.