Pakistan's NRO and Corrupt Democracies of South Asia
The culture of rampant political corruption has come in sharp focus for Pakistanis with the recent release of the names of the beneficiaries of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), a euphemism for the 2007 US-sponsored amnesty decree by former President Musharraf. There are 34 prominent politicians, including President Asif Ali Zardari and his close associates, topping the NRO beneficiaries list of about 8000 people accused of corruption.
This is by no means a complete list of all the corrupt politicians in Pakistan; it's mainly a list of politicians and bureaucrats included in the "NRO" deal struck between President Musharraf and late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto under pressure from Washington. The PML politicians have been explicitly excluded from the pardon under the deal. For example, it does not include the Sharif brothers, who have had serious charges of crime and corruption leveled against them, as recently brought out by the affidavits of the PML leader Ishaq Dar, that implicated both of the Sharif brothers in money laundering. The NRO list is probably just the tip of a much larger iceberg threatening Pakistan's national security, current stability and future prospects.
Of the 278 current Indian MPs for whom records are obtainable, 63 have criminal backgrounds. Of those, 11 have been charged with murder and two stand accused of dacoity (banditry). Other alleged misdemeanors range from fraud to kidnapping, according to data collected by National Election Watch, the campaign group that has put together the data. Fortunately for India, none of these criminal politicians occupy the top leadership positions in New Delhi. The honest leaders at the top, leaders like Dr. Manmohan Singh, set a good example of honest, selfless public service for the rest of Indian society.
Unfortunately, the criminal justice system in South Asia is incapable of speedy resolution when the rich and powerful are accused of crimes. “The speed of the Indian judicial system means it can take 30 years to complete a case – easily long enough to live out a full political career,” Mr Himanshu Jha, of India's National Social Watch Coalition, told the Times Online recently. If the NRO were to be allowed to lapse on November 28 as expected, the politicians in Pakistan can easily avoid accountability by filing appeals after appeals in a slow-moving justice system, where it's easy to pay the lawyers and the judges to push out the trial dates, or to make deals to get the charges dismissed altogether.
Predictably, the PML party members led by Nawaz Sharif, who are waiting in the wings to grab power, are playing up the PPP corruption issue for their own benefit. At the same time, many pro-PPP advocates for democracy in Pakistan are counseling patience in the interest of "national security" and "political stability".
The fact is that these “democratic" leaders are so thoroughly corrupt that they can be bought for a fistful of dollars by any body, including the sworn enemies of Pakistan. The kind of stability that will come from these people will only encourage more crime by politicians and growing cynicism among the suffering people of Pakistan, as born out by a recent British Council survey that shows 80% of Pakistani youth are pessimistic about their future.
Rampant corruption by the top leaders is highly corrosive for the entire society. Ignoring the crimes and corruption of top leaders will neither boost national security nor political stability. In fact, it will do just the opposite, by eating away at Pakistan's guts from within. It will make Pakistan more vulnerable to complete failure and ultimate collapse without help from of any external enemies.
To pave the way for a more responsive, better governed, and modern industrialized democracy, the model that is most likely to deliver what Pakistanis need now in terms of political stability and economic opportunity is the ASEAN model, adopted by Suharto of Indonesia, Mahathir of Malaysia and Lee Kuan Yu of Singapore. These three benevolent, relatively honest and competent dictators of ASEAN, who were repressive and ruthless at times, transformed their nations from poor and backward agrarian societies to powerful, industrialized and democratic Asian tigers.
Given its large size, the Indonesian development model under Suharto should be of particular interest to Pakistanis. During Suharto’s three decades in power, Indonesia’s economy grew an average of 7 percent annually, and living standards rose substantially for the bulk of the population. Education and mass literacy programs were used to promote the national language, Bahasa Indonesia, and to unify the country’s disparate ethnic groups and scattered islands. While Suharto used unfettered dictatorial powers and his own family benefited greatly from Indonesia's crony capitalism and its rapid economic growth, the nation reaped huge benefits as well, and eventually, the significantly enlarged, educated and prosperous Indonesian middle class asserted itself and brought democracy to Indonesia after forcing Suharto out in 1998.
Here is an interesting video clip of a Pakistani minister's frank admission of the PPP involvement in bribery. Listen to Mr. Abdul Qayyum Khan Jatoi, Federal Minister for Defense Production, proclaiming that it is the “political right” of every politician to do corruption: “yaar, karrapshun pay humara haq nahiN hai, aur unn ka hai!”:
Here's a video report about the arrest of the same PPP minister Abdul Qayyum Khan Jatoi in 2008 by Islamabad Police at a Islamabad brothel called Cat Club before he was sworn in as a Federal Minister in the current cabinet:
Challenges For Indian Democracy
Zardari Corruption Probe
Pakistan's Feudal Democracy
Blackwater Bribing in Pakistan
The Politics of NRO
ASEAN Architect Suharto Passes On
Suharto's New Order
Money Laundering Charges Against Sharifs
The NRO Beneficiaries List