Anti-Corruption Drive: Opposition Parties and Documentation of Economy

By Sajjad Shaukat

Opposition parties have agreed to convene an All Parties Conference (APC) after Eid-ul-Fitr. They have agreed for launching a protest movement against the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) government which has continued anti-corruption drive and documentation of the economy to pull Pakistan out of the multiple crises.

The purpose of this conference is to put pressure on the government and create hurdle in accountability system. Ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, leader of the Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and President Asif Ali Zardari, leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) are undergoing different investigations regarding corruption charges. Both the previous governments obtained unprecedented amount of loan. When the then President Gen. Pervez Musharraf had taken over in October 1999, the country’s foreign debts stood at $37.9 billion. At the end of June 2007, when Gen. Musharraf was still in power, the loans rose to $40.5 billion. In 2008, PPP came into government, External Debt & Liabilities (EDL) increased from US $40.5 billion at end-June 2008, to $55.9 billion by the end of June 2010, and stood at $59.5 at end-March, 2011. The PPP government borrowed almost $20 billion in just three years.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government obtained around $35 billion in new loans during his four-year tenure. About $17 billion or nearly half of the total loans obtained from July 2013 to June 2017 were utilized to repay the previous debt. The maximum number of loans– amounting to $10.1 billion, the highest taken out in any single year during the country’s 70-year history–was obtained during the last year of Nawaz’s government (his government left a debt trap for the new government). The prevailing economic situation is outcome of both the previous governments.

It was due to the corruption-practice of the previous regimes that at this juncture, Pakistan is facing multi-faceted crises and challenges like corruption, soaring prices, energy-shortage, unemployment, crimes, lack of health facilities, and dependence upon the US-led developed countries, IMF and World Bank for financial aid.

There is a famous Arabian saying which states “A man’s greatness can be measured by the enormity of his enemies.” The Urdu poet Nida Fazli simplifies it further by saying, “He, who has lot of enemies; consider the man as good.” Something similar is happening in case of Pakistan’s elected government of Prime Minister Imran Khan led by PTI. At home front, most of these elements have been involved in corruption. But, Imran Khan remains determined in building a “corruption free society”.

Pakistan is currently ranked 117 out of 180 countries on the Transparency International Index which is quite worrisome. The anti-corruption drive has brought the major opposing leaders like Sharif brothers-deposed Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif, PPP’s-ex-President of Pakistan Asif Zardari and their cronies in the whirlpool which is creating rumbles that can be heard through their media associates on national and international fronts.

Under the leadership of Prime minister Imran Khan, anti-corruption drive by the institutions continues independently.

Notably, in his address to the nation, Prime Minister Imran Khan pointed out on October 24, this year, the steps taken by his government to tackle the economic hardships faced by the country. He said: “We were trying for many days to get rid of this burden placed on us of the debt. We had to pay back our debts otherwise we would have been faced with default.”

The prime minister criticised the previous governments for raising Pakistan’s debt from Rs. 6 trillion to Rs. 30 trillion in the last 10 years alone.

In a reference to the PPP and PML-N, P.M. Khan remarked: “The opposition parties that are accusing his government of incompetence are doing so because they fear that their corruption will be unearthed when we do an audit of the Rs. 30 trillion…the PTI government hasn’t even begun implementing its policies as yet, but is busy cleaning up the economic mess of the last 10 years…They just want an NRO [National Reconciliation Ordinance] from us…I want to give them a message: you can come out on the streets. We will give you containers and give you food. You can do whatever you want in the assemblies…[But] no one will get an NRO…country has no future until and unless corruption is rooted out. His government is cracking down against corruption and money laundering.”

He stated: “The entire burden of loans taken by corrupt officials falls on the nation. Taxes are imposed and prices are raised in order for the country to be able to pay back the loans. This is the cycle that is functioning in Pakistan…a small class is growing wealthier, while the masses are becoming poorer.”

It is noteworthy that since the Supreme Court of Pakistan and National Accountability of Pakistan (NAB) have accelerated the cases of corruption which have become urgent issue for every patriot citizens of Pakistan, some leaders of the PML-N, PPP and their cronies are targeting the apex court and NAB in order to misguide the public.

As regards the impartiality of the government regarding corruption-cases, sources suggest that in April, 2019, the NAB has written a letter to the interior ministry and recommended to place the name of PTI senior leader Aleem Khan on the Exit Control List (ECL). On February 6, 2009, the NAB Lahore Bureau arrested PTI leader and former Punjab senior minister Aleem Khan in cases of assets beyond known sources and offshore companies. After the arrest, Aleem Khan resigned as the minister.

However, the current government has placed the names of top leaders of the PPP and PML former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter, son-in-law Captain (Retd) Muhammad Safdar, former president Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Faryal Talpur and Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah on the ECL.

On the other hand, Javed Iqbal, Chairman NAB chaired a high-level meeting of Operation and Prosecution Divisions at NAB headquarters and reviewed their performance, especially regarding mega corruption cases.
Speaking on the occasion, the chairman said he had already directed the concerned on October 11, 2017 to take the 170 mega corruption cases to logical conclusion. The meeting was told that NAB headquarters and regional bureaus have made encouraging efforts to conclude the mega corruption cases. As many as 105 mega corruption cases out of 179 corruption references have been submitted in relevant Accountability Courts. The proceedings of the cases were continuing as per law. The meeting was told that corruption was root cause of all ills. NAB is striving hard to eradicate corruption by pursuing the policy of ‘Accountability for All’ by pursuing merit and transparency.

It is mentionable that there is also a co-relationship of anti-corruption drive and documentation of economy. In this respect, PTI government on May 14, this year, approved the Asset Declaration Scheme (Amnesty Scheme) after scrutiny amid internal opposition in a bid to document the economy and to bring dead assets into the economy and make them functional.

Prime Minister Khan’s Adviser on Finance Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh briefed the media on the scheme after a meeting of the federal cabinet. He was accompanied by new Chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Syed Shabbar Zaidi.

Shaikh said that people will have the opportunity to become part of the scheme until June 30, 2019. Every Pakistani citizen will be able to avail the scheme except. He elaborated that the basic purpose of the scheme was not to generate revenue—as media reports had speculate, but to bring dead assets into the economy and make them functional—the plan was not to intimidate people, but to encourage businessmen to participate in the legal economy.

He added that Pakistani citizens can whiten their assets within the country and abroad after paying a certain amount. A rate of four per cent will be charged for whitened money and the cash will have to be brought into Pakistan to be kept in banks—a rate of 6pc will be charged in case people wanted to keep their money abroad. In the case of properties, their value will be considered 1.5 times more than the FBR-assigned value.

State Minister Hammad Azhar pointed out that, unlike the past amnesty schemes, the one being introduced now makes it mandatory for people declaring assets to become tax filers.

In fact, experience of previous governments of PML-N and PPP has proved that in case of Pakistan’s version of democracy, the country has the same system of representatives like the Western democracies according to our constitution, but the elected representatives grossly violated the public mandate for obtaining their selfish and materialistic gains. These representatives, virtually, shattered all hopes of voters by neglecting their social problems, financial difficulties and psychological distress. Promises made during election campaigns had been quickly forgotten, while perks of public offices were fully enjoyed. Irony of the fate was that same elite group got elected over and over again and election campaigns were held as rituals. Unfortunately, voters had become trading pawns in the hands of politicians who regard elections as windows of business opening to plunder national wealth through all possible means of corruption whose result was poor governance.

Now, these political parties are contacting each other to start a protest-campaign against the PTI government so as to hide the corruption of their leaders. Under the cover of democracy, this corrupt mafia wants to give call to the general masses to come in the streets in order to create unrest in the country.

Undoubtedly, present government’s anti-corruption drive, documentation of economy and the decision of the opposition parties to launch protest campaign after Eid-ul-Fitr are interrelated. These hostile elements not only want to save themselves from the accountability system and cases of NAB, but also desire that under the leadership of the PTI government, Pakistan should not make political and economic stability. Otherwise, their parties and leaders will loss importance. Hence, they seem determined to bring the general masses on the streets.

Therefore, at this critical hour Pakistan’s electronic and print media, including social media must guide the people not to play in the hands of the opposition parties which are misguiding the general masses so as to create chaos in the country.

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