By Andleeb Abbas
You only feel humiliated if you have the capacity to feel. The egos of our politicians are so big that they have blinded them to their own reality. They do not see the rightful and do not feel the painful
Leaders with integrity are an endangered species in Pakistan; in fact they are almost on the verge of extinction. The painful process of seeing the same faces shamelessly denying proven facts, making promises which are broken as a matter of routine, and continuing to use and abuse their political positions has become an agony the public can no longer bear. The fact that the president of this country has merrily and unabashedly announced that his position gives him amnesty despite the lapsing of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) is an admission of the fact that his title is the only thing saving him from prosecution; this ‘exemplary’ leadership has set the pattern for many of his ministers to follow.
Politics and politicians in this country have become a joke; you really do not know whether to laugh or cry at the totally bizarre character and behaviour of the majority of the politicians around. They rant raucously, they lie unscrupulously and they cheat ruthlessly. Here is how the politician eligibility criteria goes in Pakistan: to qualify for a seat of power, your major qualifications are a graduate certificate from nowhere; you need to have tonnes of experience in hoodwinking, law breaking and leg pulling; your major skills are a fierce determination to put your self-interest above the interest of all else and a ferocious dedication to prove that wrong is right. Being insensitive and callous are of course bonus traits that will ensure your survival under the most penetrative and conclusive media attacks on your performance and behaviour (our Minister of Interior has abundantly proven how sans heart and soul he is while repeating again and again that “it is not possible to stop these terrorists” and thus advises patience to people who see their loved ones being massacred haplessly). Some additional pluses are their unbounded potential and talent at mudslinging and character assassination of all who oppose them; such abusive retaliatory powers will win you accolades from your party leaders; their personal integrity should be zero while their professional corruptibility should be hundred percent. With this lethal combination of qualification, experience and skills, you stand a very bright chance of coming into parliament again and again as every time you are in power you enhance these qualifications to a level where you become a veteran of politics at its filthiest.
The crowning glory for these highly eligible individuals is the NRO. The NRO is like an ISO-9000 certification for corruption of the highest quality level. The NRO list shows a total of 8,041 people. 7,793 high ups from Sindh have benefitted from the NRO, promulgated by former president Pervez Musharraf on October 5, 2007.
The NRO is a distinguished list. Befittingly, the leader of the country is leading the list from the front. From the SGS and Cotecna, to ARY Gold, to Pakistan Steel Mills, to the Awami Tractor Scheme, the president has really led the way.
Following suit are prominent leaders like Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, Nawab Yousuf Talpur, Mir Baz Khetran, Sindh provincial minister Agha Siraj Durrani and Senator Jehangir Badar, Salman Farooqi, secretary-general to the president, Pakistan’s Ambassador in Washington Hussain Haqqani and Wajid Shamsul Hasan, High Commissioner to the United Kingdom are all in line for this unique honour.
The MQM is the second highest accused party. Altaf Hussain had 72 cases against him, including 31 on murder and 11 on attempt to murder charges. Dr Farooq Sattar, the MQM’s parliamentary leader, occupied the second slot. A total of 23 cases were withdrawn against him, including five on charges of murder and four on attempt to murder. The third biggest beneficiary appeared to be provincial minister Shoaib Bukhari of the MQM, against whom 21 cases were withdrawn, including 16 on murder and attempt to murder charges. The PML-N also figures in this illustrious list but is overshadowed by the above two stalwart parties.
In any other country such horrifying exposure would have resulted in resignations and perhaps suicides. In the recent MPA expense scandal in London, from the speaker to the accused MPAs, all resigned; though in many cases the allegations did not amount to more than a few thousand pounds, the humiliation was too much for them to take. But you only feel humiliated if you have the capacity to feel. The egos of our politicians are so big that they have blinded them to their own reality. They do not see the rightful and do not feel the painful.
It is time for justice to take its turn. The judiciary should ensure that they shake the complacence of these alleged wrongdoers and once for all change the belief of this nation that in politics one has to compromise on character and integrity. You may compromise on style and procedures, you may sacrifice on processes and practices, but you can never compromise on principles and values. What we need are leaders with integrity, leaders with dignity, leaders with courage, leaders with conviction, leaders with vision and leaders with passion. This is a nation which came into being due to leaders of integrity and this is a nation which will once again rise and shine due to people of such character. Integrity maybe a rare commodity but not an extinct reality. Let us ensure that this human minority overrules the inhuman majority.
The writer is a consultant and CEO of Franklin Covey.