Thoughts by Bahadar Ali

April 13, 2016

Panama Papers – Not A Big Deal?

Filed under: Political — bkhan @ 6:33 am
Before the reality escapes us here again, let us be very clear about one thing-all this noise is destined to subside and our curiosity would soon cave in to some other ‘more’ interesting scandal. Unfortunately, this is how the chronology of such events in Pakistan dictates us to treat this brand new Panama Leaks scandal as well. The bitter and ultimate reality of such episodes is pushing the government’s authority further into oblivion, resulting into even more weak government and its control on affairs. Aping the Western governments and individuals, to resign on a moral guilt that gets associated with such scandals is an alien concept in our political discourse.

Inability to resign and allow transparency in this matter lies deep down somewhere in our roots about certain insecurities that we grow up with. It is the same set of insecurities whereby we fail to observe a waiting queue at a bus stop fearing that if we miss the bus there may be no second bus coming. Our political class is the most paranoid and some of this paranoia is not ill-found given the history of toppling of civilian-political governments that most of the time is followed by a selective set of accountability against the individual who gets routed out of power. Although, as it is said, the glory of even a single day should suffice the craving of an ambitious individual and given Mian Nawaz Sharif and his family’s presence in the power for roughly three decades, it is an opportunity for them to be on the higher moral pedestal by stepping down and try to come clean out of it. Highly unlikely though, on both counts!

In the Capitalistic world the concept of commissions and kickbacks is the legalized form to cover up the inherit means of corruption that are built into this system. In the established democracies of Western Europe and North America observing the role of corporations and rich individuals’ contributions to the political parties is an accepted mean of securing the potential business favors that are rewarded down the road by the elected governments points to the same trend. But the scope and magnitude of stashing money in off-shore corporations, as revealed through the Panama-Leaks, simply cannot be shrugged off as a norm-of-the-game.It is a well-thought out means of deception and tax evasion by the political and business elite of the world. The primary onus of this mega scandal falls on the shoulders of politicians in power, who expect their public to pay its full taxes. Even if this process may not be illegal it certainly lays a moral turpitude on the political class who are supposed to lead from front. With this precedent in-place, the only example that they have set, is to discover the means to evade taxes. And as majority is not as deep-pocketed, they are deprived to utilize these tax-havens, which results in frustration and lack of respect for the system.

The Pakistani political scene in this regard, is even more interesting in the sense that opposition parties are demanding in chorus for an inquiry into the matter and settling in nothing less than stepping down of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Their moral-fiber is dished out in the form of a noble cause to get back the ‘looted’ money of the Pakistani nation. However, if read between the lines, it is simply a new dimension to the existing power struggle primarily between PTI and Nawaz League. Because apparently it lacks the sincerity of the cause given their obsession with only putting government into the spotlight and conveniently looking on the other side when the names of other Pakistani individuals who made up to this ‘role-of-honor’ are concerned. Obviously it is their prerogative to apply different yard-sticks when dealing with this scenario because as a head of state, Nawaz Sharif cannot escape to bear the major burden of this blame.
The way Nawaz Sharif quickly reacted to this development by addressing the nation, is an open gesture that the ruling family would fight this to the tooth and nail. By establishing a judicial commission and that too by a retired judge, shows the attitude that they don’t weigh this issue too much.

Another dimension to this issue is the public reaction to this affair. For most of the public it is just another of the scandals that they keep on hearing and witnessing during the civilian power set ups. The public seems unmoved by this new development given the cynicism that has been attached with frequent tales of corruption and scandals told to them in the past. For them it is just another tale that would fade away like many others of the past, although this one is unlike any of the others. It is an international scandal that shows the dishonesty and insecurities of the super rich around the world. In Pakistan, all the opposition can achieve through it to create further perception issue for the Nawaz family, which frankly is not a big deal there.

So far the most interesting interpretation, from a section of public is to term this as wrath of God against Nawaz Sharif for his apparent actions and promises of making Pakistan a liberal country and a punishment for his ‘un-Islamic’ deeds. Well this is a prevalent mode of thinking where even earthquakes are also attributed to the increasing magnitude of our sins. But for Nawaz Sharif, sin or not, this scandal would leave some permanent scars on his political careers, although not sufficient enough to unseat him.
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