Pakistan is the land of the pure. This is why we really don’t hold accountability to much of a standard. What need would anyone have for accountability in a country that literally is ‘of the pure’? The pure can’t be corrupted. In a land where corruption is a myth, and allegations are considered mere ‘Jewish conspiracies’, it is no surprise that some are considered more pure than the others. Why is it that we are allowed to discuss allegations of sexual assault in cases involving ordinary citizens or when having been allegedly undertaken by political figures, but when a military man is suspected, as was the case in the Dr Shazia case that is said to have lead to Akbar Bugti’s death, the matter becomes off limits and is termed a malicious campaign? Why is it that the sexual deviousness or the reputation of politicians and socialites can be openly discussed in public, and rightly so, but no one can dare ask a maulana (religious cleric) as to what is happening in his madrassah, and whether those young boys and girls deserve to have their innocence stolen from them? Why is it that when Mian Nawaz Sharif offers an olive branch to India for peaceful co-existence, he is labelled a traitor of the highest order, but when General Musharraf in essence agrees to ‘share’ Kashmir with India in order to obtain peace, no one even bats an eye? All these examples can be neatly fit into a quaint theory I would like to call the ‘sacred cow hypothesis’. In terms of this theory, all those institutions or groups which are expected to ‘self-regulate’, have in essence become untouchable and unquestionable by virtue of such self-regulation. The original idea behind self regulation was to protect institutions or groups from the ‘corrupting’ influence of other institutions and vested interests. In relation to the army, the concept was that being the only disciplined and developed institution in the country, subjugating its internal disciplinary mechanisms to a parliament full of ‘corrupt’ or ‘morally shifting’ politicians would do more damage than good. The politicians would try to influence and destroy the professionalism of the force to serve its needs, and with threats on multiple fronts, such interference could not be afforded. This is why, although the law does allow a certain say to the government in army affairs, practically there is none. Likewise, the pro self-regulation advocates of the judiciary also contend that being answerable to the parliament or any other institution would be tantamount to an attack on its independence. Even though many countries have specifically made judges accountable to the people through their parliaments, in Pakistan, they claim, such a system cannot work. The fact that self-regulation hasn’t worked either seems to have lost on them. The maulanas, although not an institution, are certainly a privileged group in Pakistan. They are the only group that opposed Pakistan’s creation, and much like our army, expanded to in fact conquer it shortly after its creation. They have always maintained that they should be allowed to self-regulate, as obviously, matters of religion, and those who claim to be spreading it, should not be subject to any open debate or judgment by those who are not as ‘religious’. Furthermore, and in any case, as per them, in this beautiful country, whose official religion is Islam, which is also represented in its flag, and whose population is 95-97 per cent Muslim, Islam is in danger, and only they can save it. And perhaps as a corollary, accountability would distract them from doing just that. The poor politicians, it seems, are the only one’s who are accountable to the people, the judiciary, and even the military. They are accountable to the people at the time of the ballot, to the judiciary in relation to any legal infractions they commit, and ironically, they are also accountable to their military for the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) among other things. But accountability seems to stop right there, and ironically, in the guise of ‘self-regulation’. As such, the necessary inter connections between institutions binding them to each other and within the same system have been lost to the jargon of an ‘independent judiciary’, ‘military discipline’ and the concept of ‘saving Islam’. Why is it that the sexual deviousness or the reputation of politicians and socialites can be openly discussed in public — but no one dares ask a maulana what happens inside his madrassa, and whether those children deserve to have their innocence stolen from them? What this has essentially done is create parallel systems where internal accountability on the basis of internal complaints may be entertained, however, when it comes to independent complaints from someone outside the institution, such complaint is automatically seen as a threat to the institution’s existence. Such a threat is met with digging in its heals and protecting its members, as opposed to forcing them to go through a transparent and open system of accountability. Punishing a wrongdoer starts appearing like an admission of wrongdoing by the institution, and as such, rather than be a judge in the cause, it becomes a party to it. In time, such perceptions and mindsets cement into institutional positions. And once this happens, self-regulation becomes less about accountability and more about ensuring that no one other than those in the institution/ privileged group have a say in their internal workings. This is exemplified by how the parliamentary committee has been treated by the Supreme Court as a rubber stamp, where an earnest effort to better regulate appointments via a two tier process has been reduced to a mere formality. The decision seemed to have had less to do with accountability, and more about protecting institutional space. In fully concentrating on protecting institutional space, all these institutions and groups have in fact failed to actually create and afford effective accountability within their ranks, self-regulated or otherwise. Therefore, Pakistanis are left witnessing a situation where an alternative accountability system can not be imposed for possibility of external interference, and the institutions themselves are failing to internally develop and establish working and effective accountability models which answer the very questions being asked by the public. There can be no doubt that a strong military, a robust judiciary, and a humble clergy are all necessary for the development and progress of Pakistan. But much like is the case with politicians, Pakistan can’t break ground without across the board accountability within a single system, and with a clear agreement on none being above the law of the land, whatever their rank, class, profession, gender, or institution. The writer is a litigation lawyer practising in Karachi. He can be reached at email@example.com and tweets at @basilnabi Published in Daily Times, November 28th 2017.