The epidemic of corruption is so widespread that it has become a way of life in the land of the pure. The purity with which we started on August 14, 1947 has been overrun by impurities of all kind. Every organised effort to curb this menace has resulted in its rise instead of reduction. The present government has shown its resolve to put an end to this rogue practice. While the party in power is committed to end this wrongdoing, the opposition is united to keep it going. Those who are charged for corrupt practices do not present their defense, instead they blame the accusers, claiming that every affluent person in Pakistan is tainted with common stripes. One of my sisters is an ardent supporter of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). According to her, everyone in authority and power is corrupt and as such they should all be tried. In one heated argument, I questioned if our father was involved in any corrupt practice. The answer was in the negative. Are any of our close relations indulging in corruption was the next question. The answer was again no. Since then she has softened her stance and her blind defense of the political outfit. The corrupt have to defend their conduct, not point towards others.In contrast, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), being a genuine political entity remained relatively honest till Asif Zardari started playing his innings. He was inspired by the approach of the Sharif brothers, who managed to gain political power to build their business empires without any major sacrifice. Compared to the Bhuttos who all died young (Shah Nawaz, Murtaza, Benazir, Zulfiqar), the Sharif’s have been able to burn the candle at both ends. After the assassination of Benazir with the signing of Charter of Democracy (COD) and the two-party system in place, Zardari Sahib was able to pursue his dream of empire building. Now instead of one, the country has two family empires (Sharifs, Zardaris) making the task of fighting corruption even more difficult and complex.Until 1958, the political leadership was able and honest. After that, it ceased to be upright. The bureaucracy survived till 1985, but soon it was all over. Corruption took control of the land of the pureIn the current crusade against corruption, there is one big difference. An elected government headed by a popular leader is leading the charge. In the past, most attempts at containing this menace were either by usurpers or by set-ups. In October 1958, the first usurper blamed the politicians for corruption when he took control of the country. Through his EBDO (Elected Bodies Disqualification Ordinance), he sent the entire political leadership home. He then teamed up with the Royal Bureaucracy of Pakistan to launch his so-called golden period of development. In 1962, he then created the first ‘Sarkari League’ called Convention Muslim League (CML) which became a nursery to produce corrupt politicians that we continue to endure till today. Until 1958, the political leadership was able and honest. After that, it ceased to be upright. The bureaucracy survived till 1985, but soon it was all over. Corruption took control of the land of the pure. After introducing corrupt to the core politicians who depended on the ‘Thana’ and ‘Patwarkhana’ for support, the usurper introduced the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE), which still exists but only on paper. President Farooq Leghari created the ‘Ehtesab Bureau (EB) to combat political corruption, but he soon chickened out. In Nawaz Sharif’s second stint in power, EB was handed over to Saif-ur-Rehman, owner of a medical store located at Mozang Chungi Lahore. Saif Sahib went full throttle against Zardari Sahib while protecting corrupt elements within his own party. Then came Musharraf’s National Accountability Bureau (NAB), with its draconian laws of arrest and then prosecute. Initially, it netted big fish like the Chaudhrys of Gujrat, but soon fizzled out when most of them were inducted into the cabinets. Compared to NAB, the common law is more humane but it has failed to control white collar crime world over.Al Capone, the untouchable gangster of Chicago, was arrested for tax evasion and imprisoned for 11 years. After eight years in prison, he became debilitated from syphilis. He died in 1947 after suffering a stroke. Assets beyond means are questionable. Individuals holding public office should possess records to cover their assets to avoid prosecution. Only verifiable money trails can provide an effective defense. The onus of proof has to be on the accused not the accuser. Political leadership is a privilege not a right. In the past, NAB has been used to change loyalties, which should stop. Also, the power to arrest individuals needs to be curtailed but the onus has to be on the accused for effective accountability otherwise it will be business as usual. As Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan has taken a handsoff approach. He desires political cleansing through effective accountability. Even the corrupt elements within his own party are not safe. He already has political legitimacy which he has earned over two decades of political struggle. Perhaps for the first time in the land of the pure, there is an opportunity for it to regain its purity. Honest leadership at the top can make a real difference if it is sincere in its efforts. In the past, most anti-corruption initiatives have failed as battle lines were not clearly drawn. In the coming days, there is bound to be political pressure to save the big fish but I am confident that Kaptaan will net them. The corrupt can run but cannot hide, their days are now numbered. As the first generation of Pakistan, we are duty bound to pass over the country in a shape that we inherited. This is the least we can do for our coming generations. The land of the pure has to be purified not petrified as it has been since July 1977. After over forty years of darkness, now light is emerging at the end of the tunnel.The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science FoundationPublished in Daily Times, February 28th 2019.