What would you say of a parliament where calling a thief a thief is not allowed and where the punishment for doing so is to be barred from entry into the house? For much of the life of this country, thievery has been a norm which virtually everyone indulged in commensurate with one’s lust or need: while the rich and the mighty had insatiable greed to satisfy, the ones fighting for mere survival did so because they needed to provide two meals to their families. So, be it because of greed or need, thievery has been a favourite pastime. Now, we go a step further towards institutionalising the malady when calling thieves by what they actually are would be barred within the walls of the parliament. In other words, the worthy institutions which should be the guardians of the rule of law have degenerated to becoming the protectors of motley crimes and their perpetrators. But there is no remorse, no shame. It is as if it were an inherent right of those who sit within the sanctified domain of the parliament to indulge as they may deem fit without any fear of censure or punishment. It is Frederic Bastiat who best illustrates this state: “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time, they create for themselves a legal system that authorises it, and a moral code that glorifies it.” For much of the life of this country, thievery has been a norm which virtually everyone indulged in commensurate with one’s lust or need: while the rich and the mighty had insatiable greed to satisfy, the ones fighting for mere survival did so because they needed to provide two meals to their families. So, be it because of greed or need, thievery has been a favourite pastime No wonder a former prime minister stands on the floor of the house and makes false and often contradictory claims with regard to the sources of his immeasurable wealth which he later reneges when appearing before the court of law. In fact, he claims immunity for the falsehood that he had indulged in with such lucidity and conviction earlier in the parliament. He wants this to be construed as a factor within the broader parameters of practising realpolitik. Or, the claim that letters which were submitted as a key instrument in the defence repertoire of his case actually never existed and that he had nothing to do with the ones which were presented earlier before the court as proof of the sources of his wealth. Or, take the case of a former president who, in an interview, claimed that there was nothing wrong with depositing huge sums of money in someone else’s account. When confronted with the query that the account holder never knew about the transactions, he shamelessly retorted that it was not his fault. With regard to the possibility that the entire account may be fake which was opened without the permission of the alleged account holder, he responded that, in that event, and before arresting him for any wrongdoing, the government will have to prove that he actually went to the bank and opened an account in someone else’s name. Why is it that when it comes to defending the criminals and their nefarious deeds, the process of degeneration, even within the confines of the parliament, does not seem to stop anywhere? It looks like an unfathomable plunge to the depths of depravity. It is so humiliating to see that practically the entire senior leadership of the two main political parties, the ones who had a contract to share the spoils of ruling this country by taking turns, have either secured bails before arrest, or are in the process of doing so. The remaining ones have run away and have been duly declared absconders with orders of their arrest issued. If the claims of the political elite to being innocent are correct, why is it that they are eager to be spared the trouble of appearing before courts? Quite obviously, and in conformity with the tradition of reneging on previous claims like the speech in the parliament and the Qatari letters, they are afraid of the prospect of being hauled up for a string of crimes that they are ostensibly guilty of having committed during their sequential and lordly tenures in the corridors of power. This is the core reason why they would want to douse all voices which remind them of the vicious deeds they committed when in office. A willing partner they have found in pursuing and furthering this agenda are the media houses which have their own axe to grind with the government, most notably the stoppage of the illicit dole-outs from the state exchequer which they used to receive during the previous two governments. This was happening even, and most notoriously, when the government was borrowing heavily from various sources for managing its day-to-day affairs. In the process, disinformation and wild exaggeration have become a norm. A couple of days ago, bulk of the media carried a statement, allegedly made by the Chief Justice regarding the competence and performance of the government, in banner headlines. Some anchors did whole programmes on its contents. The CJ took a notice of this and said that his words were not meant for the government, but a public-sector institution whose case was before the court. No media house had the moral or professional integrity to publish a corrigendum in equally bold fonts as the original false story. This is the making of gutter journalism and its proponents are available in ample stocks in the country. The master game plan is clear. The traditional mafias are feeling threatened by the onset of an accountability process which they have never faced before. In spite of innumerable weaknesses and limitations, this process must continue and be further empowered as it moves along. This is the Damocles sword hanging over the heads of virtually the entire political elite, and they want to abort it using all means irrespective of the harm it may do to the state. In addition to making use of all legal implements that they can, they are also raising desperate noise from all forums that they can access. They are not even sparing the parliament in this regard and are using it to drown the voices calling them by names which stick, and which they are known by in ordinary day-to-day conversations. Pakistan’s democracy has been reduced to finding a ‘decent’ word for those who have bloodied the state to its bare bones. Or, so would the Chairman Senate have us believe. A motion should, therefore, be moved before the senate to come up with an acceptable synonym for the word ‘thief’ that could be used for referring to those who have indulged in merciless plunder. That should, henceforth, be the principal task before the house to debate. What horrible fall! The writer is a political and security strategist, and heads the Regional Peace Institute — an Islamabad-based think-tank. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @Raoof Hasan Published in Daily Times, November 18th 2018.