The grilling of Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat, on March 27, 2010 by the special investigation team (SIT), investigating the 2002 riots in the Indian state – lasted nearly seven hours in two rounds and many more may take place – has shown the real difference between the Indian and Pakistani democracy and rule of law.
In Pakistan, the sitting Federal and provincial ministers are shamelessly defying the law-conversely, for the corruption charges they are rewarded and applauded by the government.
While in Pakistan, the President is claiming immunity under Article 248, the Indian Supreme Court has ordered that law should be supreme, making no distinction between the rulers and the ruled. It has ordered the sitting chief minister to appear before an investigating team for a criminal inquiry.
The appearance of Modi before the SIT has proved that a chief minister, like the ordinary citizens, is bound by law.
Is our worthy Khadime Aala of Punjab ready to face the charges of extra-judicial murders?
Are the courts in Pakistan ready to constitute special investigation teams to summon the president, governors, chief ministers, high-ranking government officials and holders of public office for investigation?
The NAB directly-controlled by the government cannot be a substitute for an independent special investigation team, directly answerable to a high court or the Supreme Court. In India, the case against a sitting chief minister is assigned to the SIT, an independent body representing the Supreme Court. There are no Gujarat officials in the SIT. As the SIT is probing the Gujarat riots case, Modi has been asked to step down by the Congress.
Modi is the first-ever Chief Minister of any state, who has been called for questioning by the police in connection with a criminal complaint. One of the petitioners is Zakia Jaffri, widow of former Congress MP Ehsan Jaffri, who was killed in the riots. Another petitioner is advocate, Teesta Setalvad, and the complaint covers wider conspiracy surrounding the 2002 Godhra frenzy.
Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat when the violence against Muslims broke out in February 2002 in the wake of burning of a train at Godhra, leaving 59 Hindus dead. It is said by many that the violence erupted after a tacit green signal from Modi, the highest ranking official in the administration. Modi and his administration are accused of aiding and abetting the riots. In her complaint, Zakia has alleged conspiracy by Modi and 62 others, including his cabinet colleagues, senior police officials and senior bureaucrats, including home minister Gordhan Zadaphia, Health Minister Ashok Bhatt and the city police commissioner PC Pande.
Our Supreme Court in Dr Mobashir Hassan & Others v Federation of Pakistan & Others PLD 2010 SC 1 – commonly known as NRO case – did not order any investigation and/or action against Musharraf, who promulgated the black law to protect the plunderers of national wealth – public servants and politicians – and criminals, who killed many innocents people. This shows the difference between the working of Pakistan and Indian Supreme Courts.
Musharraf first used NAB for securing “political allegiance” of the corrupt politicians and then promulgated NRO giving amnesty to many of them.
He spent billions out of taxpayers’ money to pursue cases in Switzerland and elsewhere, ending with directions of withdrawing the proceedings.
The Supreme Court made Zardari appear as the main target of NRO judgement but no action was proposed against Musharraf-the real culprit. Astonishingly, the Supreme Court, in its judgement of 16 December 2009, did not even touch upon the issue of inordinate delay by lower courts in deciding the matter after the case was remanded back by it in 2001.
Besides, no finding was given regarding what prevented Musharraf from getting Zardari et al convicted by the lower court up to 2007 if the case was bona fide.
Tragically, the annals of our history so far have never witnessed the judges punishing men in khaki for their unconstitutional actions while their judicial axe vehemently falls on the politicians.
All successive regimes in Pakistan have appointed corrupt people on high posts. This phenomenon continues unabated till today. In Musharraf era, at least two federal ministers were under investigation – in fact references were pending against them – when they were inducted into the federal cabinet.
In the present PPP government, almost every other minister, state minister or adviser is NAB-zada – which is a condition precedent to have a top-slot as reward for past “political victimisation”! When Attorney General Latif Khosa and Baber Awan were accused of taking bribes in the name of judges, they were not only protected but were given the posts of adviser and full-fledged minister of law, respectively.
It is an undeniable fact that many top bureaucrats and their guardians in politics are engaged in corruption, which has been increasing in Pakistan with every passing year and the claims of the governments – civil military alike – that they were committed to eradicate this menace, is just an eyewash.
Unfortunately, Pakistan has become a place where rampant and institutionalised corruption has become a way of life. In tandem with this silent conspiracy is the fact that the laws against the racketeers are not enforced and if they are, the penalties are laughable. Since the system has become a free for all and laws that are designed for their prevention fall by the wayside, the general attitude is of helpless resignation, an acceptance of the defeatist principle that if one is to survive one must play the game.
The darker side of the picture is that the persons (the judges, politicians and bureaucrats), who are responsible for checking this distortion, are not ready to act: for it would sever their financial lifelines.
Many inquiry commissions were set up in the past to probe various causes of corruption. What they suggested, nobody remembers. Lack of accountability of the rich and mighty, unprecedented tolerance towards corruption and encouragement of black money, have made Pakistan a state captive in the hands of ruthless forces; representing money power.
Rulers, having billions of dollars lying outside the country, claim to be champions of democracy. Their slogan is: “We are elected by the people and have every right to rule in whatever way we want”. They have no respect for ‘rule of law’.
Democratisation of society is possible only through a credible system of accountability that works across the board – having no sacred cows like the judiciary and army in our country. If mighty segments of society – politicians, high-ranking government officials, judges and big businessmen – are not accountable, then how can democratic dispensation, transparency and rule of law be established?
Does the public enjoy access to asset/tax declarations of the rich and mighty (especially president, governors, chief ministers, ministers, high-ranking civil-military officials and judges) to scrutinise the sources of their income resulting into enormous wealth? How can beneficiaries of loan-write off possess assets worth billions of rupees if their claims of bankruptcy were bona fide?
How many, holding key positions in state institutions are engaged in rent-seeking and corrupt activities is no secret, but their declarations of assets/ income before tax authorities have never been made public.
Those responsible for plundering national wealth should be investigated by special investigation teams working under the direct supervision of the Supreme Court as has been done in India in the case of Gujarat riots.
State functionaries, judges and politicians should make their assets/tax declarations public immediately after taking oath – a law should be passed by the Parliament to this effect. Those found guilty of amassing wealth through illegal means should be punished and debarred from holding any judicial or public office.
Unless this vital step is taken through a Tribunal or special investigation team, headed by a judge of Supreme Court, the dream of establishing a true pro-people democratic polity will never become a reality in Pakistan, no matter how many elections are held or how many new judges are appointed after “consultation”.
Let the starting point be investigation of assets/incomes of Asif Ali Zardari and Mian Nawaz Sharif – heads of two leading political parties who are responsible for shaping the nation’s course of future – by an independent Judicial Commission.