The Lahore High Court recently issued notices to top politicians of Pakistan on a petition relating to their corruption, requiring them to bring back their assets from abroad. The petition on which this decision was taken was filed by the lawyer Javed Iqbal Jafri against 64 politicians, in which it was stated that they had transferred hundreds of billions of rupees to foreign countries through money laundering, thereby causing a huge loss to the national exchequer. It is generally believed that Pakistan would not require foreign loans if assets of the politicians were brought back to the country.
Raymond Baker in his book entitled “Capitalism’s Achilles Heel: Dirty Money and How to Renew the Free-Market System” (which is readily available at Amazon and other book agencies), has focused a section on the massive corruption by politicians in Pakistan that has squeezed the country into poverty, and has resulted in the accumulation of huge wealth by leading politicians in foreign properties and bank accounts. The book on dirty money that politicians have stacked abroad gives details of specific cases of corruption of the leaders of both major parties of Pakistan. Specific examples of mega corruption and how they were manipulated are given. The author has tried to understand the dynamics of how dirty money works, and causes the devastation of nations. The national treasury has been plundered and looted for the last two decades with complete freedom, with the courts and the army watching on and doing nothing to punish the corrupt. The economic policies have been manipulated and distorted for personal benefits. Large loans have been taken from foreign agencies following which contracts have been awarded with huge kick –backs. This reminds one of a book written by a former CIA agent entitled “The Memoirs of an economic Hit Man” that describes how USA manipulated corrupt leaders through CIA agents to give huge loans to their countries for large infra-structure projects involving massive kick-backs. One submerged in debt the countries could be made to dance to foreign masters. Education, science, technology and innovation have been grossly neglected and the country is dying a slow death. Media has been exploited by paying off key anchor persons with plots and cash gifts so that the truth would remain hidden and the possibility of army intervention discouraged by the propaganda that this form of pseudo-democracy was what Pakistan really needed to prosper and flourish. One mechanism for mega-corruption is the grant of huge bank loans without appropriate security on the basis of personal connections and influence. These loans are then not returned but “pardoned” by the government while the politicians stash huge amounts in foreign bank accounts. According to the Minister of Finance about $200 billion are stashed in Swiss bank accounts alone, but little or no effort is being made to recover these funds as many powerful people are involved.
It is therefore understandable that Imran Khan and Dr. Allama Tahirul Qadri have finally raised the issues of corruption and collusion (“Muk Mukaao”) on the streets of Islamabad between the two major political parties so that they can protect each other.
One was expecting that the army will resolve the present crisis at the end of last month. However two developments led to the cancellation or temporary postponement of the army intervention. One was the use of the “Javed Hashmi” card that blamed the army for creating the crisis. The other was the situation created on our borders. India created a war-like situation by firing across our borders, and whipping up hysteria in the Indian national press. This was apparently aimed dissuading the Pakistan army from intervening in support of Imran Khan and Allama Dr. Tahirul Qadri.
So where do we go from here? Firstly the judiciary could play a key role. The Supreme Court should take suo moto notice of the petition of the petition filed in the Lahore High Court and if there is solid evidence against the politicians available, then they should be suspended from all political activities till the case is decided. Secondly we need to understand that the first requirement for democracy is education but with more than half the people kept deliberately illiterate, we have a “feudocracy” where the feudals dominate and rule in a land that has become among the most corrupt in the world —the very opposite of what the word “Pakistan” means. Thirdly we need to see how other nations in Asia have developed—it was always through strong visionary leaders — Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore, Mahathir Mohammed in Malaysia, General Park in Korea and Deng in China. Pakistan does not need the present system of democracy but a strong Presidential form of democracy where the role of the Parliament is confined to law making and the Ministers are technocrats — the best specialists in their respective disciplines chosen not from the Parliament but directly by the President, as is done in France, USA and several other countries. For this we will need to make amendments to the Constitution, and bring in a system that best suits us. Fourthly the judicial system will need to be completely revamped to ensure that cases are decided within 3 months of their being filed. The complete failure of the judicial system in Pakistan has been the main reason why the corrupt have escaped scot-free and looted and plundered the country at will. Fifth, major electoral reforms must be instituted to ensure that only persons of integrity and competence can qualify for key positions in the government and as heads of major national institutions —for this a very rigorous screening system will need to be introduced.
Lastly education, science, technology and innovation must be constitutionally guaranteed the allocation of at least 30% of the national budget as we live in an age of a knowledge economy. In this knowledge driven world, countries that have realized that their future depends on investing in their young through high quality education, and then tapping into their creative talents by promoting science, engineering, innovation and entrepreneurship have marched ahead rapidly. Even a country of the size of China which has a population of about a quarter of our planet has been able to transform itself into an economic giant by massive investments in its human resources.
Pakistan’s real wealth lies in its 100 million or so below the age of 20. It is only through unleashing their creativity through high quality education and building a strong knowledge economy that we can forge ahead. For this, Pakistan needs to develop top class schools, colleges and universities and establish Centres of Excellence in key disciplines so that research and innovation are linked to industrialization and commercialization.
Pakistan is blessed with huge natural resources. To tap into these we must first develop our human resources if we are to emerge from this pit of poverty, hunger and deprivation. We must also throw away the corrupt rulers who have destroyed this country and build a new modern Pakistan with fresh honest and competent leadership. Only then can the dream of our Quaid become a reality.
The author is the former Federal Minister of Science and Technology, former Chairman of Higher Education Commission and currently President of Pakistan Academy of Sciences