The battle against corruption will not end soon

What should have in any civilised country been a very welcome step, the apex court’s strong and determined campaign against corruption is being attacked as an intrusion and has become a major bone of contention

What is happening to Pakistan is hard to grasp, harder to explain, difficult to stop and almost impossible to reverse.

Everyone is up against everyone else. No rules of the game are being followed. There are no referees, no boundaries and no idea of what a win would look like or a loss would mean.

The pillars of the State — legislature, judiciary, executive and the media — are all crippled because of a merciless internecine warfare and, to coin a new word, internecine absurdity.

Instead of these pillars standing united and firm to strengthen the State on the basis of known principles of morality, lawful conduct, universal human values, laws of nature, best methods of governance and tolerance, they are pulling each other down ferociously.

All know the result of their monomaniacal delusions but some of the stakeholders have developed the frightening phobia that if they do not get their way, there will be no play.

He once made the fatal mistake of miscalculating his power in October 1999 by starting a revolution in the army after dismissing an airborne army chief while the PM was feeling safe in his official house. That revolution turned against his fortunes

What is hard to grasp and explain can be summed up by these few examples:

Country’s three-time prime minister and leader of a big party is asking masses to rise in revolt against the country’s apex court and disregard its verdicts. What happens to laws if he succeeds.

What should have in any civilised country been a very welcome step, the apex court’s strong and determined campaign against corruption is being attacked as an intrusion and has become a major bone of contention.

The Parliament, supposed to make laws to serve the masses and eliminate corrupt practices, has stood on its head, or tail, to protect convicted persons, in sheer defiance of common sense or ordinary wisdom.

A principled position by the civil and military establishment to obey and apply the law/constitution has been taken as a declaration of war against the elected rulers.

Instead of making pillars of democracy (led by the two houses of Parliament) strong, credible and respected, the latest staged bazaar of buying and selling of votes for smugglers, criminals, absconders and unprincipled defectors in the upper house has put democracy and its creators to shame.

The future reported plans to consolidate power of the corrupt are vicious and demeaning and can only be defined as self-destructive. Any attempt to bring institutions of state into direct confrontation for serving the interest of one person, family or party would fit this description.

While the world has begun an intense campaign against corruption, money laundering and graft, with presidents, kings and princes, elected leaders and anyone else being dragged by the law to throw up looted billions buried in no-longer safe havens, this fight in our country is seen as a personal vilification campaign against the ruling elite or even called an attack on the right of vote of a man in the street, who has nothing to do with all this.

There can be many more examples of perverse behaviour by the ruling class, but what appears to be going on looks like a watershed battle between the power elite and the forces of correction, no matter how badly reputed or black eyed these forces may have been in the past.

This God-sent watershed battle began with an unexpected disclosure of stolen wealth in Panama and engulfed many countries. Pakistan is also fell in the line of that raging fire.

The problem became serious when they refused to realise the gravity of the situation, dismissed the allegations as if they would get away as they had always been getting away. They mistakenly believed that they would manage the judiciary and the civil-military establishment, as always, and get out of this mess unhurt. That did not happen.

When push came to shove and the country’s civil society helped by the ever indulging media, led by the free for all social media, rallied hard, the judiciary felt it had to show some spine. The clincher came when the military establishment stood by the judiciary and refused to intervene for the corrupt ruling elite.

That caused some leaders a self-defeating personality disorder, (also described by the Wikipedia as ‘masochistic personality disorder’). One form of this is called a “Self-undoing masochist” and it is defined as someone wrecked by success, who experiences victory through defeat; is gratified by personal misfortunes, failures, humiliations, and ordeals; eschews best interests; chooses to be victimised and is ruined and disgraced.

In this situation Pakistan now faces some very hard choices, which can bring about an “Erdogan Moment” if not handled with caution and extreme care. The problem is that the Turkish President was popular but also on the right side of the law, fighting a military out to crush democracy and destroy his achievements and his base. He won.

In Pakistan it is just the reverse and our Erdogan may not win. Why? Because a ruling class, caught right in the middle of an on-going anti-corruption campaign, has been exposed by the forces of law, backed by saner and a wiser military establishment which has probably learnt some bitter lessons.

And no one is staging a coup.

So now if Nawaz Sharif, Asif Zardari, their minions and cronies of all kind, collaborators in the officialdom, bureaucracy and business world, have fallen into an ever-widening net, they are scared, screaming loud and planning to overthrow the entire system. But what they will get even if they succeed?

Nawaz Sharif’s call for a revolution is just a cry in the desert as his fortunes are linked to his crumbling power for another few weeks at the centre and in Punjab.

He once made the fatal mistake of miscalculating his power in October 1999 by starting a revolution in the army after dismissing an airborne army chief while the PM was feeling safe in his official house. That revolution turned against his fortunes.

Now his rebellion is against the judges, the highest courts of law, the supporters of law and the constitution. If pushed too hard, this could easily meet the same fate.

That is why a wily Asif Zardari is maintaining his distance while helpless cronies are confused and undecided. The moment they see the change, they will fall in line. It is hard to imagine that in just a few months a whole new army of devoted selfless freedom fighters has emerged to sacrifice for a corrupt fallen leader.

But Nawaz and Zardari better watch this time, as this battle may throw up clear winners and losers and no in-betweens. There can be no reconciliation with the losers.

The writer is a senior journalist

Published in Daily Times, March 9th 2018.