By Osama Rizvi*
The winds blowing from the Indian Ocean towards sub-continent brings along the southwest monsoon season in Pakistan. Now-a-days, dark clouds gather all of a sudden on the horizon, giving an impression that a storm is coming. But hitherto there only have been pleasant showers. However, on the political horizon things are different.
The clouds are darker and bear a grim impression. The storm is underway with no signs of abating. The winds are strong. Masqueraders have been exposed as the masks were thrown away by gales of evidences. The politicians taken aback, bedazzled by the thunder of accusations. The masses surprisingly still divided and confused. This might be self-created confusion; a sort of indirect denial. But all that is happening has a tinge of optimism, a promising note for the future.
For the optimists a new Pakistan is in the making.
April 2016, the world witnessed the level of adroitness (read: cunningness) of the global politicians, call it financial management! One by one many incumbent/former premiers and government officials were exposed of having off-shore companies and monetary counterfeiting. Few resigned, many apologized but some, obstinately in clear denial, refused to accept the claims, decrying them as propaganda (propaganda all the way from Panama, only for our government?). What followed was unexpected. Because after the first decision was aired we then realized that nothing new was going to happen. However, something has. The Joint Investigation Team, formed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, which was to form an investigation report after 60 days, did a commendable job.
The interpretations, the inferences of the report’s finding range from “they’ll get out of it” to a clear “game over”, of-course the political affiliations are responsible for fogging the minds of those analyzing it. We can observe three tiers here, who are involved directly or indirectly in the ongoing political soap-opera. The government and that they are unwilling to admit any allegation is all but natural but not at all necessary. The lawyer’s fraternity has a huge arsenal of constitutional weapons and an infantry of laws that they hurl at each other but both sides more or less maintain their ground. The third level is of the common man is not for the weak hearted as it has all kinds of negligent and emotional soldiers. What makes them more dangerous is their lack of knowledge and bent toward one party. They won’t listen to you, not even the most logical of arguments. May be it is not the logic that they want. They are concerned not with what is true or what is false; right or wrong. The vox populi is a tricky thing, indeed.
The economic picture is not so promising as well. Pakistan Stock Market (PSX), that gave a staggering 46percent return last year, has shed 10,000 points, plummeting from dizzying heights of 53,000 points. Not to mention billion of rupees drained out in terms of losses. After 1st June, 2017, as our market segued from Frontier markets to Emerging Market, hundreds of thousands of foreign investment was envisaged. Unfortunately that event superimposed with this political turmoil and hence during the first half this year foreigners sold stocks of $333 million compared to $41 million during last year. Exports are down, reserves as well. The circular debt is inflated to a dangerous level. Take them as cost to purge the country.
But, the big question: whether the government is staying or going is still subject to discussion. Maryam Hayat, a friend from the afore-said lawyer’s fraternity, a Barrister here in Pakistan, has a very positive view of the overall proceedings, she says that without taking into account the “winner-loser” approach we should be happy that we are witnessing a precedent here: “The report of the JIT consists of factual content only and is not reflective of the final verdict in the Panama Case papers. It will now be on the Supreme Court to determine the merits of the report. I am sure that the court will decide the case on merits with neutrality and objectivity and continue to exercise its powers under Article 190 of the Constitution. Nonetheless, the eventual precedent will leave a positive impact on the country. This landmark case has set a precedent that even a sitting Prime Minster in a country like Pakistan can be held accountable for alleged charges of corruption. It has set a brand new trend of accountability and transparency for all government functionaries. Let us hope that we will enter into a new era of accountability and curb the menace of corruption, once and for all.”
So, yes, let’s hope that in future, when the thought of corruption tempts the leader, the tantalizing unfair means of making fortunes lure them; they are, then, able to recall that the country has now changed. That the institutions now work and that they are and will be held accountable. There something bigger than win-lose here. It’s about a change in the mindsets. The origin from where everything else flows.
Again, advice for those who relish a sanguine mind: Consider these proceedings one of the stepping stones on which a New Pakistan will be raised.
*Osama Rizvi, Independent economic analyst, Writer and Editor