By Mansoor Ali Khan.
“Accountability” is perhaps the most ‘over-used’ word these days. In general, the term is referred to a process of making people accountable, but not in the case of Pakistan. Accountability in this country is referred for different purposes. The term is mostly referred to arrest, imprison or hang corrupt civilians and politicians who are perceived as the dirtiest creatures on earth.
In Pakistan, accountability has also been referred to political victimization. Each sitting government tried to victimize its political opponents in the name of accountability. This process of ‘Selective Accountability’ was initiated by General Ayub Khan just after he had imposed Martial Law. In those ‘Golden Days’ of so called economic development, everyone who spoke against the military regime and centralized structure of federation was traitor and worthy to be accountable. Gen Ayub Khan, as chief martial law administrator, promulgated PODO in March 1959 which was then substituted by EBDO or “Elected Bodies Disqualification Order”; however it was limited to civilians only.
He brutalized the supporters of his opponent Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah as hundreds of her supporters were jailed and tortured for political reasons. Whatever happened with workers of Mujeeb’s Awami League in the East Pakistan is also an open secret, but after losing East-Pakistan mainly due to the unrest and uprising triggered by political victimization of Bengalis, everyone expected that the Pakistani rulers would learn a lesson from it there would be an end to political victimization.
Later, under the government of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the Holders of Representative Offices Act and the Parliament and Provincial Assemblies (Disqualification for Membership) Act were passed in 1976. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto too made life difficult for his political opponents but he didn’t dare to bring the characters who were involved in the debacle of 1971 as per Hamood-ur-Rehman Commission report. He might have been afraid of his own accountability, as many of his statements had added fuel to fire during East Pakistan crisis.
A lot has already been written about political victimization during Gen Zia-u-Haq’s regime. It was the darkest era in terms of political victimization. None of his opponents were barred from being tortured or jailed. He also misused the courts and judges were pressurized which led to the hanging of Pakistan’s first elected PM Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto which is referred as a Judicial Murder.
Political victimization was however more systemic and institutionalized in late 90s. In 1996 the then opposition under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif and then PM Benazir Bhutto tabled their respective on accountability. These bills however lapsed with the dissolution of National Assembly.
Later, the caretaker government of Malik Meraj Khalid and then President Farooq Leghari promulgated Ehtesab Ordinance 1996 which was replaced by a new act of parliament called Ehtisab ordinance 1996. A new Ehtisab Commission was formed and Saif-ur-Rehman was made its chairman to victimize political opponents. The same Ordinance with a few amendments was later introduced by Gen Pervez Musharraf and a so called accountability institution ‘National Accountability Bureau’. All those who were with Musharraf were given an “unannounced pardon” and those who didn’t recognize his leadership were brutally victimized.
We saw a new ‘wave’ of accountability in 2013, when Mian Nawaz Sharif and General Raheel Sharif had sworn in. People were concerned about deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi with dozens of people being killed every day and businessmen rolling back their businesses. Both Sharifs took a populist stand of selective accountability which was only aimed at PPP &MQM. Meanwhile Gen Musharraf and other Generals who were involved in huge scams were given a kind of immunity.
It was finally in February 2016, when both Mian Nawaz Sharif and Chairman PTI Imran Khan had realized that accountability could reach at their doors. After Sindh, the rulers from Pakhtunkhawa and Punjab are now feeling the heat of accountability and, apparently in a preventive move, they have started warning the National Accountability Bureau to act carefully or get ready for clipping of its wings. PTI led provincial government has already amended its own created ‘KP Ehtisaab Commission Act 2014’ and its Hamid Khan whose nomination was well hailed by PTI had resigned the very next day.
Political leadership failed to create transparent accountability process.
Another warning to NAB came from none other than Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself on last week. He indicated the government was considering amending the law if NAB Chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry does not address his reservations.
It seems as if the accountability will remain a dream as long as the sacred cows syndrome persists. Political parties will have to realize that they need to create a transparent accountability process for all and make Pakistani people realize that they are capable of running the country and if they want to make everyone accountable.
Writer is Producer Current Affairs based in Islamabad, Pakistan.