Sunday, April 24, 2016

General Raheel Sharif is a true Patriot

April 22, 2016
By Saeed Qureshi
In the aftermath of Panama Leaks, General Raheel Sharif the incumbent Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff has made one very important announcement as well as took a landmark decision. In his momentous address delivered on April 19 at the military’s Signal Regimental Center in Kohat, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa he pleaded that the on-going war against extremism and terrorism cannot bring enduring peace and stability in the country unless the menace of corruption is uprooted”. General Sharif who will retire in November 2016 has declined his extension of service.

There cannot be a more truthful and poignant analysis of the malaise of deep-rooted corruption and its ominous impact on the war on terrorism and uprooting of crime violence in Pakistan. General Raheel further emphasized the “need for across the board accountability to secure a better future for generations to come and also for the integrity, solidarity and prosperity of Pakistan”.

His unprecedented and most applauded decision is to send 12 army officers on forced retirement against charges of corruption and misuse of power. Among these 12 officers are six high-ranking military officers, including a lieutenant general and a major general. The forcibly retired army officers have been asked to return all earnings accumulated through corruption and unfair means.

This action is being admired by the civil society, politicians, business circles, media and the people at large. The army thus far has been considered as a holy cow not to be touched for probe or for any legal action whatsoever. But this taboo has been broken by the current COAS who has brought both the civilians and the army at one plank which sets a watershed and splendid tradition of the “across the board accountability” of the corrupt individuals whether in Khaki or the civilian attires.

Pakistan is known to be one of those countries where corruption has always been endemic and widespread in public and private department and institutions. All along the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has been infected with “Bribery, Cronyism, Kleptocracy, Economics of corruption, Electoral fraud, Legal plunder, Nepotism, Slush fund, Plutocracy, Political scandals etc.
In 2012, Transparency International (TI) calculated that Pakistan had lost more than Rs 8.5 trillion (US$ 94 billion) in corruption, tax evasion and bad governance in the PPP-led coalition government from 2008 to 2013 (Wikipedia).

There has never been an effective and unassailable accountability mechanism that could make headway in rooting out this diabolic curse of corruption keeping Pakistan governed badly, economically poor and socially backward. Now the ball is in the court of our civilian leadership. 

The government should follow the shining example set up by inimitable General Sharif to unfurl a comprehensive plan and strategy for catching and punishing the corrupt elements in all spheres of society who robbed the national exchequer, got the huge loans written off , who opened offshore accounts to conceal their assets and income and amassed wealth through foul and dishonest means.

The prime minister’s announcement to constitute an accountability commission under the chief justice of Pakistan for probing corruption is the first step in the right direction. But catching of the bull of corruption by horn is not that much simple. There are countless powerful lobbies and influential individuals involved in persistent corruption for decades. 

There has to be a nationwide gigantic effort and unrelenting drive to uncover and punish the delinquents of all shades involved in the wholesale and uninhibited corruption, bribery and misuse of power.

In this regard the judicial system has to be strengthened because judiciary is infested with black sheep that sell their honor and professional integrity and dish out verdicts for the highest bidders on the basis of their relations and friendship or under the political pressure.

 In a 2011 survey, TI Pakistan identified judiciary as “the most corrupt institution in Pakistan alongside police where the highest amounts of bribery were spent on people affiliated with the judiciary and police”. In the domain of education the ghost schools and absentee teachers have robbed the provincial and federal governments of billions of rupees.

The bureaucracy in Pakistan has been in the forefront in misusing their authority and administrative clout and power for kickbacks and huge grafts.  The people and the public should be encouraged and protected to come forward and reveal the scams, cases of corruption and bribery and illicit deals and show of favoritism by officials and departments at the cost of the national or public interests.
Similarly the cadres of police have to be strengthened, retrained and mobilized to catch the culprits with professionalism, courage and without any fear of being sacked or harmed in any way.
In fact it is a colossal and gigantic national mission and crusade to be launched for cleaning the society of gross malpractices, highhandedness of bureaucracy, of politicians, and members of parliament, influential feudals, senators and bigwigs in Pakistan.

This is a lifetime chance for cleansing the stables and dens of corruption, the violation of law and rules and endemic despicable culture of favoritism and vested interests. If no cue is taken from General Raheel’s milestone and historical initiative, there cannot be another chance to cure the diseased society of Pakistan assailed by opportunists, bounty hunters, bribe takers and agents of sleazy character.

The national accountability Bureau or to be newly established judicial commission or both jointly should, first of all, probe the following mega cases of financial fraud, misconduct and robbing the national exchequer of billions and trillions of rupees.

 Some of these cases are OGRA Scam, Rental Power Projects (RPP) scam (former PPP Prime Minister Raja Ashraf is the main culprit), NATO containers case, Pakistan Steel Mills scam, NICL (National Insurance Company Limited) corruption case, Ephedrine quota case (70 billion rupees fraud in which former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani in implicated), the Media-gate scandal, the PMDC’s fake registration and Hajj corruption case. 

The financial losses due to corruption in PIA alone have been around $ 500 million.  Massive financial losses due to mismanagement and embezzlement of funds have also been reported in Pakistan Railways.
Also the usurpation of millions of acres of official land including that of Railways, illegal and out of turn allotments of plots, sale of water by PPP ministers in Karachi, the patronage by politicians of extortionists, target killers, criminal gangs and mafias need probe and punishment.  Those found guilty of fraud, and corruption should be punished with confiscation of their assets, properties, and lands and long jail terms.

The guidelines, reforms and road-map should be handed out by commissions manned by experts for good governance, to ensure accountability and to ward off re-occurrence of misuse of power, sway of crime and financial scams.

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