Monday, January 4, 2010

MORAL BANKRUPTCY

By Andleeb Abbas

The historical decision by the judiciary to declare the NRO null and void has created panic in a section of political ranks. The ruling party has predictably decided not to resign and is now looking at the two-pronged approach of denying and mudslinging at the opposition to prove that they are all in the same boat; and, technically, they are correct. PML-N and PML-Q have a history of taking loans and not bothering to return. While Mr Zardari is in the hall of shame for being a billionaire robber baron, the Sharif and the Chaudhry brothers are not far behind in this public money loot sale.

Truth can never be shot down. Somehow, this lesson has never been registered by the insecure leaders of our country, who still believe that position and power will eventually prevail over truth and reality. Herein lie the seeds of their own downfall. With the illegitimate protection of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) blown away, they find themselves exposed and insecure. With their legitimacy in question, they are using all ‘entitled privileges’ to shoot the messenger who brings the bad news. Suspending secretary interior on stopping the minister of defence from going to China is just the beginning of a predictable reaction of people who are desperate to hold on to their positions, as without that they cease to exist.

The historical decision by the judiciary to declare the NRO null and void has created panic in a section of political ranks. The ruling party has predictably decided not to resign and is now looking at the two-pronged approach of denying and mudslinging at the opposition to prove that they are all in the same boat; and, technically, they are correct. PML-N and PML-Q have a history of taking loans and not bothering to return. While Mr Zardari is in the hall of shame for being a billionaire robber baron, the Sharif and the Chaudhry brothers are not far behind in this public money loot sale. According to the latest reports, the Sharif brothers owe Rs 3 billion to banks. In 1998, as prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, in a typical emotional drama on TV (similar to the one he did during the long march), had announced to surrender all the physical assets of Ittefaq Foundries, Brothers Steels, Ittefaq Brothers and Ilyas Enterprises to the nine banks. However, as we are familiar with his political histrionics and know that he is master chameleon, he managed to get a stay on the assets on the basis of some ‘technical default’ grounds. The NRO was a mockery, as is this technical default, which, in a ridiculous comparison to some strange term of ‘wilful default’ was declared legal. The defaulters’ list is as illustrious as the NRO list and includes many famous names and their kith and kin. The political elite is responsible for a majority of the Rs 193 billion default so far officially recorded. In fact, it has become a family heritage. The prime minister’s wife has kept up this tradition by also defaulting and then agreeing to settle the amount as media spotlight became uncomfortably glaring. Pakistan Green Fertilisers Limited Director Fauzia Yousuf Gilani, Ziaur Rehman, Khalid Hussain, Nasreen Munawar Chaudhry and Syeda Samina Abrar allegedly got a loan of Rs 71 million from the Zarai Taraqiati Bank in 1987 and did not return the money. However, NAB has withdrawn the case on their agreement to pay back the loan.

Like the Sharif brothers, the Chaudhry brothers have made merry of other people’s money. Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, along with his cousin Pervez Elahi and brother Wajahat Hussain had borrowed massively for Punjab Sugar Mills and coerced the National Bank of Pakistan to write it off. The blatant attempts to legitimise their illegitimacy has been laid bare by the judiciary, and thus they are now trying to agree on a mudslinging ceasefire which, if continued, is likely to burn all of them in disgrace.

The common trait which brings PML-N and PML-Q together is their tainted and corrupt past. A few days ago, these two parties were sworn enemies. However, despite their inherent dislike for each other, they somehow always ended up ‘compromising’ with each other. Not long ago they were ready to slit each other’s throat and now they are almost at hugging distance. This change of colours and preferences is termed as flexibility, while in actual fact it is mere suitability to their own political designs. Such are the ironies in this ‘Political Corruption Association’.

With a record of failed collaborations in the past, it is but natural that this alliance based on circumstantial convenience will wither away with a change in conditions. Both the parties are playing on the nation’s nerves and patience and hoping that political fatigue in the public will once again condone their disastrous and callous decision-making. The reason given for this unwanted reconciliation is that the country cannot afford to have destabilisation which will result if these two ‘saviours’ of Pakistan do not let go of their grudges for the betterment of this country. However, by now the public is completely aware that each one of them is trying to save their skin. Fortunately, there are so many skeletons out of the cupboard now that there is no hiding place.

While the political leadership is focused on saving their positions, the country has been left politically, economically and socially stranded. The horrible potpourri of strategies to deal with the internal and external threats has led the government to a state of ‘no state’. The army is a pivotal part of this game and between the army, White House and the government, foreign policy has become a tragic caricature of shoot or not-to-shoot. On the one hand we have drones that have no sense of humanity, targeting the innocent and not-so-innocent in one go, on the other, we have the Taliban crushing any form of decency in the areas they can penetrate. While the government stands paralysed, anybody with the least of force can stamp on rules and laws.

This state of ‘no state’ is the result of moral bankruptcy. Moral default creates vulnerabilities in leaders in a situation of crisis. As the country faces food crisis, energy crisis and security crisis, the real face of these chronic defaulters has become frighteningly visible. The test of a leader is in testing times, which assess the leader’s ability to make the right choices. Therein lies the opportunity to rise above himself, above the petty issues and fight the temptations to take the easy way out. Strong leadership is all about not giving in and not giving up. Unfortunately, on these grounds every leader of ours has defaulted. They have been led by their own temptations and by the force of circumstances rather than choosing to be ones who would drive the circumstances. To be such a strong leader you need to sacrifice personal interests, ego, and financial, political and social comforts — a tough choice none of our leaders is ready to make. In every adversity there is an opportunity. Having exposed their weaknesses in the hour of crisis, these leaders are giving the nation an opportunity to make choices based on character, performance and behaviour rather than personality, sympathy and rhetoric. As a nation we have to stop believing that except for these faces there is no choice. As a nation we must see the unseen, speak the unspoken and choose the unchosen.

Andleeb Abbas is a management consultant and CEO of Franklin Covey
Courtesy Daily Times, Jan 03, 2010

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