Sunday, February 10, 2013

For Sale – or – Becoming a Mafia State?

Organized Crime is having a corrupting influence on all state institutions in Pakistan. RPP, CPP, OGRA, NICL, Hajj, Ephedrine, PIA, Railways, PTA 3G… the list of recent scams goes on.

Organized Crime Takes Office. ©Moisés Naím
Increasingly the state-crime nexus is challenging nations around the globe and is becoming a prime source of state fragility. In fact, the emergence of mafia states is now a real and major source of global instability.

Increasingly crime and the state are becoming intertwined in Pakistan as well. Indicted felons have been awarded public contracts, have been accused of fraud, and commercial banks have been abused to perpetuate crony capitalism instead of promoting entrepreneurship.

Increasingly it is evident that criminals have penetrated the Pakistani state institutions to an unprecedented degree, while in several instances rather than eliminating powerful gangs, our federal/provincial governments have instead taken over their illegal operations.

Let there be no illusion. Scandals that reach the very heart of power must now be a wakeup call for the Pakistani policymakers and public policy experts.

Is the system broken – or – was it actually built this way?

According to the National Accountability Bureau’s estimates, there exist a daily corruption of about Rs6-7 billion to Rs10-12 billion which amounts to about Rs4000-5000 billion per annum. Interestingly, this amount reportedly being lost in corruption, fraud and waste exceeds the total annual budget of the country. But the malaise goes beyond mere incompetence or inefficiency.

Ironically, to plug these systemic loopholes, the National Accountability Bureau has stressed on the “need to overcome corruption at lower level” and is mum about the big fish.  So, no surprise, the Bureau has withdrawn a 1401 kanal Land Fraud Reference against a real estate tycoon, has reportedly helped the central character in the OGRA scam flee the country, has insisted on the innocence of the prime accused in the Rental Power scam, and has been even implicated in the mysterious death of a civil servant investigating the RPP scam.

Isn’t it a shame for the decision makers to have rather turned the accountability watchdog into a Centre for Disintegrity & Misgovernance offering cheats, codes and walkthroughs to the crooks?

To add insult to injury, as this rotten political system hits the bottom of the pit, three major political parties have reportedly proposed a real estate tycoon of dubious fame during their back channel deliberations for the interim prime minister-ship.

Isn’t it a shame for the collective conscience of the Pakistani society, provided it’s still alive? Weren’t there any bipartisan reasonable persons left in this country of 180 million worthy of the task to lead an interim government and insure a smooth political transition? Or else what may you expect from a clinically certified mentally ill person at the top? It should be of concern that dementia and post-traumatic stress disorder can revert to ‘acute’ forms, more so when a patient undergoes repeated stress or hospitalization. Or are these scams and this downslide rather symptoms of the underlying disease; a growing influence and control of the criminal mafias especially the real estate and energy syndicates and industry cartels on the political decision-making in Pakistan?

With the murders of Usama Maud (provincial Secretary), Hameed Akhtar (Director Excise & Taxation) and Kamran Faisal (Assistant Director NAB) in the recent past, the civil servants in Pakistan are now under an increased threat of criminal syndicates and gangsters. Regardless of what the doctors, police or courts may say about the mysterious death of Kamran Faisal, it is probably a fact that no Black Belt in Taekwondo has ever committed a suicide. In martial arts, it simply negates the philosophy, discipline and strength required to attain a Black Belt level. Add to it the complex national and regional situation, and the insecurities and fears of public servants may rather worsen in the coming months and so necessitate serious introspection by the ruling elite.

It is high time that the Government of Pakistan legislate to eliminate any incompatibility of professional or fiduciary duties and personal interests, insure adequate job and personal securities to all employees, and accord complete protection to witnesses in a civil or criminal matter before, during and after proceedings in a court of law.

To successfully protect the interests of public, a “Conflict of Interest Law” that distinguishes between professional obligations or fiduciary duties and personal interests, ensures that public officials have the trust and confidence of the general public, and ensures that public officials are under an absolute duty to act for the benefit of the public and not for their personal benefit of any kind, is the need of the hour.

To successfully eliminate corruption, waste and fraud in government, a “Whistleblower Protection Law” that encourages, supports and protects both public and private sector employees to disclose government or corporate malfeasance, without any fear of retaliation, reprimand, discharge, suspension or a change in working conditions, is an urgent need.

Moreover, to successfully trial the organized crime in a court of law, a federalWitness Protection Law” to accord full protection to witnesses who may feel intimidated or threatened, is also a serious necessity.

Plato cautioned: “the price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” It is time that the people of Pakistan demand these statutory safeguards from their representatives, who are elected to represent, protect and serve the people who had sent them to the legislatures in the first place, and thereby correct the systemic wrongs. Alice Walker said: “the most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any,” and it is time that the people of Pakistan recognize their rights and freedoms and hold themselves and their representatives accountable.

Importantly, it is time that you ask yourself, what are you doing to make things better?

After all, a government may survive with unbelief but not with exploitation and injustice.

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