Accountability Not Politics

Just one day after I wrote about the need for a process of accountability that is not steeped in political revenge and intrigue, the Daily Times published an editorial that backs this proposal. The New Year has just begun, but if it continues to bring common sense proposals and agreements like this, it promises for a bright future. Once a non-political process is in place to handle accountability, political parties will be able to concentrate on more important issues such as militant violence.

The importance of a new, non-political process is clear from the basic fact that both Chief Justice Chaudry Iftikhar as well as the NAB were both put into power by Musharraf. There is a saying in law that you cannot use “the fruit of a poisonous tree” as evidence. Unfortunately, so much of the accountability authority is actually the fruit of the poisonous tree of the Musharraf dictatorship. How can we say that we must implement the Charter of Democracy to undo those power grabs by Musharraf, but still we will keep some other relics of the Musharraf regime? This will only result in resentment and revenge – exactly what we are trying to stamp out.

The Daily Times editors agree:

It is therefore highly desirable that the government should work towards instituting an independent commission that enjoys the confidence of all political parties and state institutions and is not seen as partisan. It must ensure that the process of accountability is fair and transparent. Wrong decisions should also fall into the ambit of the new law just like the appropriation of national wealth by misuse of authority. Given that we now have relative media freedom and an active judicial system, it can be hoped that the new law will not be used for political purposes. The government can then also consider strengthening accountability mechanisms of other institutions like the military and judiciary.

Real accountability and transparency can only be established by a mechanism that is untained by corruption and unaccountability itself. We should be passing a process that allows for the proper review of past charges in the context of how those charges were brought.

While all holders of public office should be held accountable for their actions, it must be remembered that cases instituted in the 1990s and later under the Ehtesab Bureau and NAB had more to do with victimisation of political opponents and less with bringing back plundered public money and punishing the culprits.

Everyone from all responsible political parties wants to see the removal of corruption and unaccountability from government and politics. But we should not engage in Witch Hunts or tainted procedures that will only continue the mistakes of the past. Rather, it is time to join together to develop and implement a transparent, independent, and fair process of quickly addressing past charges so that those who have been victims of political attacks may finally have their names cleared, and our political leaders from all parties may return to doing the work of the people, undistracted by petty political fighting.

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