Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Reconciliation Pakistani Style

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan heads a Lahore based Think Tank. 18-10-07

Reconciliation Pakistani Style!

The recent national reconciliation ordinance raises many questions due of its timing and content. It was introduced hours before the reelection of Gen Musharraf from the same assembly for the second time and apparently selectively benefits BB and the PPP, who were routinely slandered by Musharraf himself. He used the argument of corruption and impropriatory prevalent in our politics to justify his takeover and now when under pressure, he was willing to sacrifice his cherished beliefs for political expediency. This ordinance seems to be customized to benefit the MQM and the PPP while ignoring the Nawaz League, a major political party and the nationalist parties of smaller provinces. Because of these major omissions if it is reconciliation of some kind it does not qualify as national reconciliation. At the most we can call it reconciliation between 3 political groups. Sounds a bit like a deal?

Whether it is reconciliation or deal one thing is for certain and that is that BB and her associates will get a sigh of relief from the innumerable cases filed against them by the NAB but at a cost. This reconciliation is being perceived as a deal by many further damaging the reputation of BB and PPP. Such a blanket pardon/immunity offered in this ordinance appears suspiciously like a form of sophisticated confession. The protection provided by this ordinance might be at too much of a cost to the image and perception of the party making it worthless. If ZAB could face courts and BB herself could do it for decades along with her husband, she might be prudent if she gets her final relief from the courts and not ordinances promulgated by Generals under duress. She owes it to her party, the nation, the Pakistani polity and herself.

It is true that politicians in Pakistan have been the punching bags of the ruling elite. Some of them might be corrupt but they are not the only one’s. They are the most abused and maligned of the privileged. They had to go through Ebdoes, Prodas etc. while their rivals in the power game, the Generals and the bureaucrats had it easy. These witch hunts never ended and finally took the shape of NAB. In this power struggle the courts were used unashamedly with the help of brute power. It is also true that this unfair treatment was disproportionately conferred on the politicians coming from the smaller provinces. Bhutto’s case is still something everyone tries to push under the rug including the people involved in it. These cases of corruption and other forms of impropriety were prolonged beyond comprehension while effective media trials were held during this period. In short the political class was effectively tormented in the name of accountability by people who should have been held accountable themselves. Still it does not justify immunity of a leader from an ordinance proclaimed by a General in duress.

It has gotten so bad that the different accountability efforts became very effective in subduing the politicians and making them pliable and compliant for the service of the ruling parties. No wonder most Pakistanis consider NAB a recruiting agency for the military dominated government, a sad commentary on the process of accountability itself. BBs decades of exile or her husband’s long jail term without conviction is unjust and reprehensible but still does not justify the blanket immunity offered by the ordinance because it will come at the expense of blemish on her and her party.

She should certainly not keep on suffering indefinitely in the hands of people of dubious credentials. For this she might be much better off to demand better legal protections and procedures which might take different forms. Judges of different tribunals can be made responsible to conduct and complete a case in the stipulated period. Failure to adhere to the time restraints must carry serious repercussions on the part of officials involved. She might justifiably demand a temporary immunity until the cases are decided. Fresh cases must be filed very carefully and those accusing politicians baselessly for their own ulterior malicious reasons should be taken to task. We are Muslims and our Islam is very clear about how we should treat the false accusers. Ultimately BB and the PPP must be vindicated by the court of law and nothing short of it. Might be cumbersome but still worth it.

The basic idea of reconciliation, if at all seriously desired here, is a very good one. We might consider attempting a true national reconciliation covering all aspects of our society and geography. We must be more accommodating with our Baloch and tribal brothers and stop attempts to force their compliance. Any attempt of national reconciliation without Nawaz League will remain incomplete. Personal vendettas must be put aside for the national good and gracious and chivalrous attitudes adopted. The South African experience teaches us that reconciliation without extracting out the truth is incomplete so let us make it a truth and reconciliation exercise on those lines. We can be tolerant and forgiving to our own people.

After all this the government owes it to its people to inform them that how much was spent on the futile exercise of NAB. Detailed accounts and expenses might explain a lot about its genesis and reasons of existence. If we are able to introduce a culture of accountability of public funds by exposing the accounts instead of hiding behind the unwisely conceived national secrets we might be doing a great favor to the nation. The thought of having to go through this exercise would discourage many future misappropriations. If money was wasted in this useless endeavor we might also try to identify the people responsible for this wastage of public resources and hold them accountable. The people in power are the trustees of public resources and must protect as a duty.

We have been repeatedly told that Pakistan is going through very tough times and unfortunately many times it has been true. Many rulers consider national emergencies an opportunity and excuse to amass more power at the slightest hint of such a pretext. Yes Pakistan is going through very tough times and we can’t afford to make any more mistakes. We have a mini civil war going on in the tribal areas and like fire it must be curtailed soon before it engulfs the entire nation. For this we need a true national reconciliation and no half hearted efforts with other ulterior motives. BB might consider rising to the occasion and taking lead by empowering the judiciary and getting acquitted after the due process of law. Extending the same protection of law to all corners of the country can take care of most, if not all our problems. She is a hard bargainer and if she can force a General to promulgate a very embarrassing ordinance she can bargain justice for other Pakistanis too. If she succeeds in the national reconciliation, the nation might accord her the Mandela status overlooking her and her husbands past. It’s her choice, whether she wants to be remembered as a general’s protégé or Bhutto’s daughter in letter and also in spirit, something people have started doubting lately.

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