Sunday, June 21, 2009

President Zardari and Roh Moo-hyun

By Saeed Qureshi

In the wake of an ongoing investigation of a bribery case against him, Roh Moo-hyun, the 16th president of South Korea (Feb. 2003-Feb. 2008), committed suicide on May 23, 2009, by jumping over a mountain cliff. He could not carry the burden of a guilty conscience and the agonizing stigma of being a corrupt head of state. In his suicide note he wrote, “I am in debt to so many people. I have caused too great a burden to be placed upon them. I can't begin to fathom the countless agonies down the road. The rest of my life would only be a burden for others”.

Pakistan has a head of state too. He is at the center of a hurricane of diverse corruption scandals and multiple money making scams that remained before the Pakistani and international courts for many years for hearing. In some money laundering cases and kickbacks, the incumbent president was indicted. The Pakistan courts too passed judgment and awarded him jail terms. He remained in jail first in 1990 and 1991 and then from 1997-2004 on corruption charges and accusations of murder of his brother in law.

Now all those cases proven or pending were wrapped up and thrown up in the dust bin via a National Reconciliation Ordinance issued by the former military president General Pervez Mushrraf. He and his deceased spouse were exonerated from the grave and rather unpardonable cases of corruption to lend political support to Pervez Mushrraf to keep him in power. To add insult to injury, he became the president of Pakistan by freak and unexplainable twists of fast happening circumstances, one of which was the assassination of his wife and chairperson of the Populist Party: Pakistan Peoples Party. The tradition of pardoning proven or under prosecution suspects, in this fashion, can be scantly dug out from the past.

Here all is well in the state of Pakistan, with the degenerate political system and the ever smiling president who should be declared as number one lucky person in the world. If criminals are rewarded in this fashion then let there be political contests between the politicians for their corruption and similar sleazy practices. Those who come on the top of the list should be made president, prime minister down to ministerial and other coveted offices. Thus the widespread complaints that only a few from among the corrupt individuals and thugs get the rare chances of loot and then get away with it, can be effectively addressed. It would be a democratic way of promoting corruption.

Instead of a grain of remorse , let alone committing a suicide, our incomparable president keeps a permanent grin on his face, perhaps to ridicule those who are jealous of his fortunes, wealth and also those who marvel at his clean escape from the justice. He seems to convey a message that “yes I am a felon but you can do no harm to me.” Now in a presidential role, he is free to exercise his unchallenged authority to spend or pocket as much state funds he can. He has the powers to appoint ministers, ambassadors, heads of government departments, corporations, banks, state owned mills like Karachi steel mill and provincial governors. He can award contracts for financial quid pro quo. With a tainted past and rewarded with such a vast array of powers and with the additional lethal clout of 58-/2-B, our president deserves a distinctive mention in the “Guinness Book of World Records.”

Now the situation elsewhere in Pakistan is also very conducive for the president to remain in the political saddle without the fear of any reaction for the other political forces or from the civil society. The people without a leadership are simply a motley and ineffectual crowd. Moreover the ordinary people are caught up in a cycle of multifarious problems ranging from the frequent long spells of power breakdowns to rampant lawlessness. They cannot find time nor have enough awareness to even think about the greed and self indulgence of the elite classes.

The leaders of the runner-up party, Pakistan Muslim League (N) are also entangled in legal battles that give them little space to raise voice over the casual way the country was being run. Moreover, the political exigency and rank opportunism also comes in their way to challenge the incumbent government on its abysmal performance. The other political parties are good for nothing and have little or insignificant standing.

The president of a country who is believed to be among the five richest men in Pakistan with an estimated net worth of $1.8 billion should be asked how he amassed so much of wealth. He should also be questioned about the possession of the 365-acre Rockwood estate, a $6.5-million property featuring a Tudor-style mansion and two adjoining farms in the Surrey district in UK. He should explain as to why initially, he denied ownership until January 2006, but later acknowledged that he owned the property. He should also be asked about offshore accounts.

Now suppose that he is not responsible for NRO exonerating him from all shady and questionable activities. But then the onus falls on the former president who should be held accountable for issuing a blatantly illegal order exclusive to a few individuals to keep him in power. Pervez Mushrraf violated the law of the land for personal ends. Because of his unconstitutional action for self preservation here we have a head of state that will always remain under the dark shadows of a criminal conduct. So if the judiciary of Pakistan is still left with a strong spine then it should arraign all dubious and shady characters to clarify their positions. Otherwise, if these charlatans ever suffer from the pangs of conscience, they have a recourse set by the former repentant president of South Korea.

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