Corruption, Courts, and Cynical Melodramas

Shahbaz SharifIf you want to know just how out of touch the Sharifs have become, a perfect example came yesterday when CM Shahbaz Sharif dragged out the old bogeys of corruption and ‘war on the judiciary’. Meanwhile, body counts continue to rise from target killings in Karachi, bodies continue to disappear from Balochistan, and even more bodies walk through markets never knowing if they will be the latest victim of Taliban blood lust. With no answers to these problems facing the nation, Sharif is reduced to dusting off last year’s talking points once again.

Of course this is an old political tactic. When Muhamman Khan Junejo was dismissed in 1988 it was due to charges of corruption. Same with Benazir in 1990, and Nawaz in 1993. Corruption.

After Benazir was dismissed in 1996, the Ehtesab Commission was established by the caretaker government to clean up corruption in politics. Chief Ehtesab Commissioner Mujaddad Ali Mirza started investigating and it was announced that no exceptions would be made for any politician or civil servant. Such a clean sweep was more than anyone had bargained for. Getting rid of your political rivals is one thing, but actually sacking everyone who did some favours?

When Nawaz Sharif formed a government the next year in 1997, he quickly neutered the watch dog. Chief Commissioner Mirza complained that FIA and Anti-Corruption Police stopped cooperating, files began to disappear, cases got moved off of high court dockets, and eventually everyone lost interest.

And when Mushy made his coup against Nawaz Sharif in 1999, what was the reason given? Of course is was the old corruption charge. And now it is Musharraf who finds himself in the hot seat as FIA is investigating his assets and still no one knows who paid for his £1.4 million (Rs199 million) London home.

The Sharifs are singing an old tune that they have merely updated with a chorus about war on the judiciary. But even this takes on a certain note of cynical political gamesmanship if we take a moment to remember the Sharifs’ own recent “war on the judiciary”.

This is why I have a hard time taking seriously this latest outburst of concern about corruption and respect for the judiciary. It is just more politics for the sake of politics, not for the sake of the people.

Is there corruption? Yes there is. Is there contempt for judiciary? Yes of course. But these are reflections of larger social issues that can be found throughout the country, but even these are minor issues compared to the need to stop the violence in Karachi, to respect human rights in Balochistan, and to put an end to extremist militancy.

I’ve said before that we need leaders with the courage and principles to play by the rules instead of trying to upend the table when they don’t like their hand. If the Sharifs have some answers for the issues facing the nation, please let us hear them. Until then, stop boring us with these worn out melodramas.

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