ISLAMABAD: Admitting that the follies of politicians made it very difficult to defend them, human rights activist and senior counsel Asma Jahangir warned that the accountability drive that was being demanded in the wake of the Panama Papers leak should not be used to introduce a ‘parallel system’ in the country.
“I am the fiercest critic of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, but one thing I know is that instability at this point will cost us a lot and will bring poverty to the country,” she said.
Speaking to reporters at the Supreme Court on Monday, she said that the corruption of politicians was indefensible, but no system – except for democracy – was acceptable for the country. She said the legal fraternity would fully oppose any attempts to introduce a parallel system in the country, adding the nation was sick of the “tried and tested system” of national governance by picking up people from different segments of the society.
She also described the scope of the terms of reference (ToRs) – notified by the government for the proposed inquiry commission that would investigate allegations thrown up by the Panama Papers – as being “too vast”, and said that such a commission would never help to eliminate the menace of corruption from the country.
Asma Jahangir warns against ‘parallel system’ of govt; laments leniency shown to corrupt mly officials
Last Friday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had announced his decision to write to Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali for the constitution of an inquiry commission to investigate all those whose names had surfaced in the Panama Papers leak. The chief justice is expected to announce the commission following his return from Turkey on May 1.
The ToRs notified ask the commission appointed by the chief justice to examine information relating to the involvement of Pakistani citizens, persons of Pakistani origin and legal entities in offshore companies in Panama or in any other country.
The ToRs also ask the commission to consider the involvement of former and current holders of public office in writing-off their own bank loans, or those of their immediate family members, through political influence and transfer of funds from Pakistan that have originated from corruption, commissions or kickbacks.
Suggesting a way forward, Ms Jahangir said that there should only be a two-point ToR, suggesting accountability of the prime minister, leader of the opposition and every parliamentary leader of the political parties through a parliamentary committee. This, she said, would purge the menace of corruption from politics.
Similarly, she argued, all institutions should conduct self-accountability to weed out corruption from their ranks.
Hyped sackings from army
Mincing no words, Ms Jahangir was also critical of the way the media projected the sacking of six army officers, including two serving generals, on corruption charges. “Had it been a politician, he would have been sent to jail by now,” she said, regretting that these officers were simply sent into retirement.
“Who does not know the stories of a senior officer’s corruption that have been doing the rounds in Quetta? But he was simply sent home,” Ms Jahangir said, adding this was highly hypocritical. “Everyone knows that one year’s service at one of the five major entry points of Pakistan, such as Shela Bagh near Chaman, Naushki, Taftan or Turbat, could fetch a fortune that would last generations,” she alleged.
Turning her gaze inwards towards her own community, she conceded that the image of the legal profession was not something to be proud of. “We would like to see a thorough inquiry of the judge whose name has also surfaced in the Panama Papers,” Ms Jahangir said.
Published in Dawn, April 26th, 2016