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Wednesday Nov 09, 2016

How politics got corrupt?

How politics got corrupt?

Ideological politics between right and left had brought romance in politics as it was issue-oriented and mostly remained clean from corruption. The factions used to differ and at times fight on matters related to internal and external affairs, but hardly accused each other of indulging in corruption. Today, it’s the other way round as corruption has become part of political norms, something which has weakened the system. The question is; can it be improved?

It is important to find out the root cause of corruption in politics, which has not only caused political instability but is making it difficult for the civilian government in particular to survive on high moral grounds. Martial Law is not an option, as historically, it played an important role in making politics corrupt.

Panama Leaks is only one way of looking at corruption in our system. Had the names of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's family members or some other politicians not been there, it would not have even become an issue. How easily we had dumped Asghar Khan case and many others.  

Whatever the decision of the Supreme Court would come in the Panama Leaks case, it would neither hit the system nor will lead to institution making. In case it goes against the Prime Minister, the maximum damage it would cause will be the ouster of one man and his family. How will it improve the system? 

From 1988 to 1999, five civilian governments had been dismissed. Prime Ministers and ministers had gone to prison on charges of corruption, two of them had also been disqualified, but corruption continued to flourish. Why? 

We are only looking at corruption from one aspect i.e. politicians are corrupt and democracy has failed as a system. Government or Executive is only one pillar of the state, and unfortunately none of the other three pillars are clean either, as a result corruption is institutionalised.

Ideological politics was certainly a check on such weakness and that is why there was less corruption when politics was based on ideological issues. Thus, through a well planned conspiracy to damage politics based on 'right or left,' the very concept of Constitutional rule was hit, first, in 1954 and then through the first Martial Law, in 1958.  

With the passage of time we saw back to back Martial Law, direct or indirect military rule, making politics more and more corrupt.  

Hanging of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, was almost an end to ideological politics and he was perhaps, the last strong civilian ruler we had, who despite being controversial had never been accused of corruption. 

Dictators in a bid to prolong their rules and in order to get legitimacy not only used politicians through corrupt means but also judiciary through ' law of necessity'.      

With the passage of time ideological parties faded out while the national parties become narrow; nationalists and religious parties because of confusion within also failed in filling the gap. 

After Ayub Khan, General Zia ul Haq, used corruption as a tool and brought a new breed of politicians after he got rid of Bhutto. His biggest disservice to the nation was using the name of religion to prolong his role and on the other hand divided the nation along ethnic and sectarian lines. 

Thus, in his 11 years rule we not only witnessed politicians, intellectuals, bureaucrats and judiciary getting more and more corrupt but also men in uniform. We used to report and heard big drug scams.            

Politics particularly changed in Punjab and many politicians including Nawaz Sharif, Chaudhries of Gujrat, emerged in that era.

Zia never thought any popular party would emerge after Bhutto's execution and he had even damaged right wing ideological party like Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) after he used it against Bhutto.

In 1986, Bhutto's daughter Benazir Bhutto challenged him. Although, she was not ideologically as strong as her father, she soon became a threat to the then establishment.         

Zia once again used religion as a tool and backed Islamic Jamhouri Ittehad (IJI) which was later also provided funds, through one of the worst means of corruption.            

The tag of corruption has also been used to dislodge civilian governments.  In May, 1988, Mohammad Khan Junejo, who like Bhutto had a clean record was dismissed on charges of corruption, though the real reason was his decision to sign 'Geneva Accord.'

With a weak political system and lust to power the politicians also adopted corruption as mean to progress and get power. 

Within few months after Benazir got power, the name of her husband Asif Ali Zardari started appearing in the press as ‘Mr 10 per cent’.

Money was also used to dislodge PPP's government through vote of no confidence in 1989 and again in 1990 elections, through the famous Mehran Bank scam. It injected so badly in politics that it even changed the ideological character of the PPP on the one hand and brought PML-N, led by Nawaz Sharif as an alternate leader.

When General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf came into power through a coup he too generated cases of corruption against both Nawaz and Benazir Bhutto, not to clean politics from corruption but to prolong his rule.             

While corruption was injected by the dictators it has always been used as an issue against 'civilian rulers.' They too are equally responsible as instead of fighting against dictatorship, they not only became part and parcel of the system but also promoted corruption as means to progress.               

This brought rise to Imran Khan, as alternate to Nawaz Sharif, after Benazir Bhutto's assassination. He was the only leader after Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who brought new trends in politics and also a new breed.

People who had got disillusioned saw Imran as Mr clean. His peak was 2011, because for the first time he gave new life and lease to political culture with young male and female students and house wives. For the first time in 2013, elections massive rise in the voting percentage was noticed.            

However, his politics unlike that of Bhutto, was not based on 'ideology' but, over the failures of mainstream national parties and religious parties, who too failed in filling the vacuum.            

Imran's romance was different from that of Bhutto, but to his credit for the first time in 2013 elections, we witnessed young boys and girls, house wives and a breed of new voters, who in the past never went to the polling station. Thus, in a way he has revived the political culture in Pakistan.               

His failure was that he could not sustain the anti status quo character of the party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) which in 2011, saw energetic leaders and workers. By the time elections were held the PTI, had been joined by politicians of 'status quo' and as a result it also caused dent in its politics.

Imran still has a strong personality cult, and any favorable decision in Panamagate would also give him a real boost. But in the presence of the team around him would he be able to revive the democratic values in the party, something missing since the last party elections.                  

Had judiciary not used the so called, ' law of necessity,' in favour of Ayub and later for General Zia ul Haq, not only the judiciary would have saved the political system and had blocked the use of corruption as a tool to prolong unconstitutional rule.                         

This generation had seen 'corruption' as means to progress even to the highest office. They have also grown up to see that neither the military dictators had ever been convicted for abrogating the Constitution nor any civilian ruler sentenced for misusing his power or for corruption. 

Thus, the new breed in politics has grown up with leaders who hardly had any value for rule of law, could get away easily without being made accountable and completely lacked any ideological background.

Can they make a difference and clean up the system from corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, judges and journalists and Generals? But the big question is, how?        

Irrespective of the outcome of Panamagate, don't we know that who is corrupt, who is not and yet, we are far from bringing any meaningful change?


The writer is the senior columnist and analyst of Geo, The News and Jang.


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