Sunday, January 25, 2009

NRO Must be Revoked

By Saeed Qureshi

The National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) promulgated by the former president of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf on October 5, 2007, granted amnesty to politicians, bureaucrats and political workers, accused of corruption, embezzlement, money-laundering, murder and terrorism. The beneficiaries among others included MQM, Asif Ali Zardari, Hakim Ali Zardari, Altaf Hussain, Rehman Malik, Hussain Haaqani, Aftab Sherpao, Salman Farooqui, Siraj Shamsuddin, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali and Pakistan Army generals. The former Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, suspended this ordinance on October 12, 2007. But he was soon dismissed after Musharraf imposed the emergency on November 3, 2007. The new Chief Justice, Abdul Hameed Dogar revived the NRO on February 27, 2008.

Asif Ali Zardari, the incumbent president of Pakistan was the principal beneficiary of this blanket amnesty that in one go cleared him of all the offences of corruption and money laundering calculated to be around $.1.8 billion that he is alleged to have amassed during the two stints of his spouse Benazir Bhutto as the Prime Minister of Pakistan. The controversial NRO was issued by Pervez Musharraf as a quid pro quo to pave way for the much needed political support that he needed in the wake of his growing unpopularity to stay in power for another term.

This hideous reconciliation was supervised and hammered out under the aegis of United States to perpetuate Musharrafʼs stay in power in order for him to continue his mercenary role in the so called war on terror in Pakistan and Afghanistan. But the trick backfired on Musharraf. Although this ignominious bail out earned him the tacit support of PPP, the leading political force in Pakistan, yet the situation drastically changed after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, in the most mysterious circumstances. The demise of Bhutto cleared the way for her spouse Asif Ali Zardari to lead the party as was stated in the will of the deceased leader. It is a general conjecture that Benazir was removed from the political landscape because she was stretching herself out of the NRO parameters. Under the combined burden of public outcry and agitating judiciary, as well as due to the drastically changed circumstances against him, Musharraf had to finally quit power in August 2008.

With a unique combination of favorable happenings, viz; the sudden death of Benazir, the electoral victory of PPP, and finally Musharrafʼs resignation, Mr Zardari, a one time most dubious and discredited person became the most powerful and virtual arbiter of Pakistanʼs affairs. His party is in power and he is as powerful a president of Pakistan as Musharraf was or perhaps more overbearing than him. In a queer and unbelievable show of somersault, he has back tracked from the emphatically promised commitment to the nation to do away with the 17th amendment as his first decision as the president. He has also refused to honor his pledge reinstating the judges deposed by the former president.

Since his taking the office of the president of Pakistan, Mr. Zardari and his partyʼs government have exhibited rather scant interest in resolving the gubernatorial problems afflicting this country and its people. He has condemned Kashmiri freedom fighters and Pakistan media as terrorists but called India as friend of Pakistan. With a person at the helm of Pakistan whose suffers from an image problem, Pakistan and its people cannot have clean and corruption free governance. The institutional breakdown, the bleak law and order situation, the slowing industrial and agricultural growth, the poor state of civic utilities and social amenities and above all the insurgency consuming humans and precious resources are some of the glaring problems that the PPP government has miserably failed to address. Pakistan is gradually slipping into the hands of blood thirsty, mindless relgious and regional extremists while the government is watching this sordid drama with complacency and folded hands.

The transparency and accoutability that rides supreme in civil societies is no where seen in Pakistan because the felons, thugs and corrupt elements are given illegal and unconstitutional protection. How can one expect a corruption free society and clean governance from individuals who have been involved and are up to the neck in crimes? One cannot expect the safety of a henhouse from a fox. That is why a compromising or partisan judiciary is still allowed to work to give legal patronage and cover to the crooks and shady characters.

If Pakistan is supposed to run, stay and function as a viable state, the dubious caveats including NRO will have to be abolished for all time to come. An independent judiciary should decide about all cases of malfeasance and corruption and swindling of national assets. The kind of revolution and great change that the people of Pakistan expected from the PPP leadership still remain as unfulfilled goals. Where is the strucutural transformation of the decadent socio economic system? Where is the supremacy of the constitution and rule of law? Where is the transparency and accountability that should have been forcefully injected into the body politic of Pakistan?

Where is the purgation process to punish the delinquents and the corrupt and those who plundered this country for all these times? Should we pardon and keep Musharraf unleashed because he pardoned a class of notorious crooks and racketeers? This is downright unholy alliance between the outlaws on both sides of the isle for mutual accommodation. Where is the dream of a civil society that remains elusive to this day? The decline in every domain of society in Pakistan remains unchecked. Pakistan is in the throws of external and internal challenges and there is no willingness and intention on the part of the leadership to seriously address them.

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