Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan heads a Lahore based think tank.
The recent senate elections in the NWFP resulted in some unexpected defeats for the MMA candidates suggesting that some MPAs had voted against their party. There is nothing new about our elected representatives voting for considerations other than political, but the pleasant surprise here is that MMA took the matter seriously and investigated it. They found that four MPAs, Gorsaran Lal, Yasmin Khalid, Maulana Dildar Ahmad and Rukhsana Raz had failed to observe the party discipline by voting against it in the senate elections, while Mufti Kifayatullah the provincial secretary general, was lax in his duties. Action was taken against the four MPAs and they were deprived of their party membership and forced to resign from their provincial assembly seats. Mufti Kifayatullah was declared unfit for any party post for three years but his membership was spared. This hunt for the turncoats is not over and more names may be disclosed soon and punished. This is the first time in our political history that such an action against lack of discipline and political corruption has been taken by the party itself. This might be the only bright aspect of this very troublesome episode.
There have been numerous reports of elected representatives voting for simple monetary considerations. Some wealthy tycoons openly bought votes for millions and gained seats in the senate which in turn impart them social status and polit so important for their businesses irrespective of the legitimacy. For them spending a few crores seem like a very productive business investment as they will earn many more crores for them.
Most of the NWFP MPAs come from middle class backgrounds. Their temptation for crores is understandable but not condonable. While this tells us about the major flaw in the distribution of wealth in our society, it also points to an even more painful direction, the society seems to have become indifferent to corruption. No one asks about the means but certainly appreciates the wealth and the wealthy. The days when a few corrupt use to hide their ill-gotten wealth are gone and now the corrupt feel proud of boosting about their negative skills. This has resulted in a society that claims to be Islamic but tarnishes the image of the great religion more than the shameless cartoons printed in the European papers.
The painful truth is that corruption has creped into all nooks and corners of our society affecting all groups including the religious elements as shown by this incident. This rise must be checked if we wish to live as a dignified nation in this world. Political corruption does not infringe the rights of affected politicians alone, but the rights of the people who lose their effective representation. This affects millions of people forming the constituency. So we see that in this case the real losers are not the MMA nominees for the senate seat who lost the elections, but the millions of voters who lost an opportunity to send their legitimate representative to the senate. This invariable leads to problems for the electorate and the nation.
Our power brokers have repeatedly accused the politicians of corruption and claim to have controlled it. We saw EBDO, PRODA and many other accountability processes for corrupt politicians as precursors of the current NAB. Unfortunately despite all these claimed efforts this corruption is on the rise to an extend that the pre 1958 politicians seem like angels when we compare them to the present lot indicating that our accountability procedures are not working. Taking actions against those who took the bribe is certainly desirable and needed, but our Islam does not only talk against those who take the bribe. People who bribe others to gain something they don’t deserve are equally guilty and are equally warned of the burning fire of hell. Is any action against these rich but corrupt newly elected senators in the offing? Perhaps not.
In this case we identified the guilty that took the bribe and acted against them but failed to do anything against those who initiated the bribe and our now enjoying the benefits. I am sure they are not hard to find as they never try to hide themselves and brag in public about their achievements and methods. If we really want to rid our polity of corruption we must identify the people who bought their senate seats and disqualify them as they do not belong there. They must be further investigated as to how could they amass such enormous wealth? Did they ever show their gains on their income tax returns? Anyone found misreporting in his returns should be dealt as any ordinary criminal. If we can jail our top politicians, businessmen and even admirals, why not these people? Unfortunately in our system with the prevalent tax laws it might be possible for the hard working to get affluent but the enormous wealth needed to buy senate seat is invariably gained with dubious means, to say the least. Consequently such elements always associate themselves with the government as they are pliable and cannot afford to take stands. Using the services of such unscrupulous elements might confirm allegations that our governments condone, rather encourage such corrupt practices losing their moral standing in the process.
While taking over General Musharraf made some promises to the nation which made him popular as these steps were felt as overdue. Out of these promises one was strengthening of the national institutions. Out of all institutions, the political institutions are the most important for the inner strength and internal cohesiveness of a nation. They are more important than the uniformed or other institutions. Any attempt to disfigure or damage them is certainly against the national interests and must be resisted. MMA has partially done its job but the government that claims to be fighting corruption, and the NAB are yet to respond to this obvious embezzlement of electorate’s rights for money or maybe some intangible benefits. Getting political mileage out of this grave discrepancy would be unbecoming of a claimant of clean governance and we expect the government to take notice of it and punish the guilty. Make sure that the senate seats go to the deserving and the elements trying to make mockery of our elected bodies punished. It would go a long way in lending credence to the claims of “real democracy”.