If the government formulates sound economic policies and the fruits of economic growth reach the masses, in particular the poor and vulnerable segments of society, the people will become its protective shield
A debate is raging over the Inter-Services Public Relation’s (ISPR’s) press release issued after the corps commanders’ conference in which the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Raheel Sharif, said: “Good governance is a must for good results and the inconclusive investigations by Joint Investigation Teams (JITs) are affecting the operation.” He underlined the need for “matching complementary governance initiatives to achieve long term gains of the operation and enduring peace across the country.” Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif, in response to a question by the anchorperson of a private television channel, said he agreed with the observation made in the ISPR release, and did not see anything objectionable. However, Senator Mehmood Achakzai said that the ISPR release was against the spirit of the Constitution and went so far as to say that in case anything went wrong between the “two Sharifs” he would stand by the civilian Sharif.
This appeared to be an effort to provoke Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif for a rejoinder to the ISPR press release, as chairing a high level meeting on September 10, 2015, PM Nawaz Sharif himself expressed his dissatisfaction over the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP). He stated that there has been greater progress in one province and lesser in another, while there has been no progress at all in some areas. He added that implementation was necessary for each and every aspect of the (20-point) anti-terrorism plan, and directed the federation and provinces to improve coordination for better results. In this backdrop, the ISPR press release expressed similar views but, on the advice of its advisors, the government took exception to the ISPR release and issued a press release stating the government’s position. According to balanced analysts, there was no need for that rejoinder.
Immediately after the 2013 elections, Nawaz Sharif addressed the PML-N parliamentary party and said: “Let us make a promise that we will not tolerate corruption in the country and our government will hold looters and plunderers of the national exchequer accountable.” This means that, in principle, Raheel Sharif and Nawaz Sharif are on the same page so far as good governance is concerned. Reportedly, the PM had discussed the ISPR press release with his close political aides and after a thorough debate on it a carefully drafted reaction was issued by the spokesman of the federal government wherein the implementation of NAP was termed the collective responsibility. Moreover, it stated that the government had taken necessary steps in the implementation of NAP and that all institutions are required to play their due role to make it a complete success, remaining within the ambit of the Constitution.
The government may not have issued the rejoinder but some media men and a few politicians interpreted the ISPR press release as dictation by the military to implement NAP and expedite FATA reforms, madrassa (seminary) reforms, take measures to stop terror funding and operationalise the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), which indeed has been in limbo for the last six years. Even those political analysts, who opined that the ISPR should not have issued the press release agree that the observations made by the corps commanders were based on ground realities. It is pertinent to quote Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani, who, on September 30, 2015, admitted that politicians were involved in corruption. “I admit that the PPP’s political workers (and leaders) have carried out corruption, and I do not defend them, but I will also say that the rest of Pakistan is also not clean,” he added.
Of course, some members of other parties are also accused of corrupt practices and their proverbial houses are also not clean but that does not justify in any case corruption by the PPP’s leaders. On September 18, 2015, at the end of a debate held in the upper house to commemorate the International Day of Democracy, Raza Rabbani’s address was candid. He said: “Our weaknesses have made it redundant. In my eyes, no constitutional clause can protect democracy. Only the people can protect democracy provided they are given ownership of the system.” One could infer that if democracy is redundant then parliament created through elections is also redundant. The question is why he kept mum during the PPP’s tenure from 2008 to 2013, when its two PMs and other cabinet members were allegedly involved in corrupt practices?
Former PM Raja Ashraf admitted on a television programme the other day that all the advance money paid to the rental power companies had been returned with interest. Even a layman knows that the advance had been returned after the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and the courts exerted pressure on the then government. The question also arises on how advances were paid in the first instance without checking the credentials of those companies. It goes without saying that political stability hinges on good governance, which means addressing the issues of accountability, transparency, participation, openness, rule of law and socio-economic justice. If the government formulates sound economic policies and the fruits of economic growth reach the masses, in particular the poor and vulnerable segments of society, the people will become its protective shield. Good governance is seen as a key ingredient for sustainable development, alleviation of poverty and stability of the government.
Perhaps it was a damage control exercise that after one day of the government’s press release the Punjab government acknowledged, in a letter sent to district administrators and divisional police chiefs across the province, that civilian law enforcement agencies were not fully active in their efforts to counter terrorism. If similar letters were written by other provinces to provincial administrators and police chiefs to expedite implementation of NAP it would have been better. NAB is also to blame for lack of governance; it has been resorting to plea bargains instead of putting culprits in the dock. The fact of the matter is that the amount of money recovered by NAB was only a fraction of the plundered wealth by influential persons and those belonging to big business. Having said that, good governance is an indispensable condition towards establishing real democracy and peace in society.
The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org