Apr 21 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan) – Is nothing sacred anymore? Has privacy lost its sanctity? Why cannot our prime minister go to London for an urgent medical check-up, drop in on his tailors Scabal in Savile Row for a fitting, and then treat himself and his acolyte ministers to a lunch at Churchill Hotel, without also being photographed by amateur paparazzi on their ubiguitous mobiles? Now that Swiss bank counters and Panamanian desktops have been converted into unscreened confessionals, is nothing secret or sacrosanct? One`s sympathies reach out to our nouveau-riche rulers. They thought they had buried their money long enough for it to acquire the patina of `old money`. (`Old money` is what a ruler makes in his/her first administration.) As aspiring arrivistas, they felt that they had finally `arrived`. However, our elected Noriegas have found themselves sharing the predicament of the wife of the general-industrialist whose automotive companies were nationalised by Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in January 1972. `Life is so unfair, she moaned. `Just when we thought we had made it into the 22 families, Bhutto goes and does this to us.
She had a point. In the game of politics of the time, Bhutto`s nationalisation constituted foul play. Perversely, it was not the assailant but the victim who was sent off the field. In today`s matches, the spoilsport is accountability. It is the asp coiled in a basket of figs.
Our leaders amass wealth not as a precautionary nest egg, as an insurance against a predictably insecure future. They do it to provide their future generations with a financial security they themselves never enjoyed. It is a fact that no president or prime minister of Pakistan has ever left office poorer than when he or she entered it, with the possible exception of our 15th prime minister Shaukat Aziz who did not become rich.
He came rich. He was heard to boast that he did not need to be corrupt: as a former Citibanker, he had enough money to last three generations.
Should the public be surprised therefore that leaders when elected and their scavenger minions when unleashed should see governance not as a responsibility but as an opportunity? Greed whets an appetite; the fear of accountability should 1(ill it. But it doesn`t.
Our law libraries in Pakistan have no shelves lef t to accommodate the tomes of legislation passed to hold the corrupt accountable. Our courts are clogged with corruption cases that suppurate and decompose but never die, and are left unburied. NAB has become a watchdog-turned-leech, sucking diseased blood, bloated beyond original purpose. Files containing crucial evidence ofpursuable cases have vanished. Our sovereign parliament has misplaced its dentures.
Is corruption, as the historian Edward Gibbon would have us believe, `the most infallible symptom of constitutional liberty`? In our case, yes. Democracy in Pakistan is not so much a vote-for-all as a free-for-all.
Today, it would seem that the media in Pakistan is the last spokesman of the public`s conscience. Television channels scour tirelessly for information of illicit transactions.
TV anchors itch for an opportunity to catch and expose wrongdoers. Newshounds sniff like inquisitive foxes, ferreting out stories that cower, hidden in warrens, afraid of discovery. Today`s media is the hunter, the corrupt its prime quarry.
`The press is a sort of wild animal in our midst restless, gigantic, always seeking new ways to use its strength,` Zechariah Chafee, a commentator, once wrote. What he said 70 years ago is as valid today even to the applicabilityofthe tellingnextsentence:`The sovereign press for the most part acknowledges accountability to no one except its owners and publishers.
At a LitFest recently, during a discussion on the social responsibility of the media, a view was expressed that nowhere in the world is the press anything other than an aggregation of powerfulcommercial interests. Stories sell newspapers and airtime, their aftermath does not.
Media moguls prefer surgery to post-op care.
Traditionally, the media has always had three discrete roles: it can hold a mirror to society, it can be its voice, and it can (and should) act as its conscience. And it is in this latter capacity that the Pakistani media has attained what some might argue is a belated maturity.
The voice of our media has shifted from a shrill alto to a deeper bass. Having added timbre to its voice, has it also developed muscles to match? Disgruntled Pakistanis would like to believe it has. The targets of the Panama leaks know that it has not, perhaps never will. Hell will freeze over before Pakistan becomes another Iceland where a tainted prime minister resigns rather than continue in of fice.
Our politicians are made of sterner stuff.
They will not be besmirched by such inky allegations. Their Savile Row suits are lined with Teflon.
The writer is an author. www.fsaijazuddin.pk
This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan