Power corrupts?

The PML-N government is walking a tightrope

Power corrupts?
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has submitted to the Supreme Court a list of politicians, bureaucrats and ministers against whom it probed allegations of corruption. The men include Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, former prime minister Raja Pervez Asharf, and the prime minister before him Yousaf Raza Gilani. Former President Asif Ali Zardari is also on the list given to the court on July 7, and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar faces a NAB investigation in a case that pertains to his assets beyond his known sources of income. But there have been no convictions in these cases.

Former president Asif Zardari spent almost a decade behind bars facing several corruption cases. The prosecutors could not prove a single allegation against him. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was accused of bank loan default, yet the investigators and prosecutors failed to convince the courts that he was guilty. After years of hearings, the Lahore High Court recently quashed some high profile cases against the Sharif family.

Brig (r) Farooq Hameed, former NAB director investigation in Punjab, said the bureau was unable to complete the loan default probe against Sharif. The LHC should have given more time to the bureau to finish the investigation, he says.

NAB insiders say the list was hurriedly prepared. Several other high profile cases were missing. It is not clear if that was intentional.

While the NAB did not hesitate to mention the names of a former president, prime ministers, ministers and politicians, it withheld the names of the two brothers of Gen (r) Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, who were accused of a land scam in the Islamabad Defence Housing Authority. Likewise, the names of officials of the Capital Development Authority were not revealed in one case.

Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf chairman Imran Khan criticizes the PML-Nawaz and People’s Party of protecting each other from accountability.

Before the 2013 general elections, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif used to promise stern action against President Zardari and his companions. He wanted to rip open their bellies and drag them in the streets to make them return “looted money”. Later, he apologized to the former president for making those offensive remarks.

PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira dismisses NAB’s claims of massive corruption during his party's tenure. The authorities did all they could to prove corruption allegations against Zardari. “They failed, miserably,” he said, “because no such thing happened.”

It was the first military dictator, Ayub Khan, who used accountability to silence his rivals. Under those draconian laws, a number of his political opponents were barred from contesting the elections. During first two governments of Nawaz Sharif, the country witnessed the worst cases of political victimization in the name of accountability.

Now the PML-N is running the country for the third time. With a vigilant media and a stronger judiciary, people assume the days of political victimisation are over.

It’s a tight rope the ruling party is walking on. Annoying the People’s Party leadership is bad politics at this juncture. But turning a blind eye to the allegations of corruption on them may disillusion the voters, who now have a third party to turin to.

Shahzad Raza is an Islamabad-based journalist

Twitter: @OldPakistan_