“I am a politician; I cannot commit any crime; I am perfectly innocent!”
That is how, as we know at least in Pakistan, politicians argue. That manner of political self-defense clears the two-way traffic: criminals may become politicians; and, politicians may become criminals. Pakistanis have enough of both. And the breed is multiplying like rabbits. All the more, species belonging to other realms of social, economic, military, cultural, religious have started aping the politicians. They have learned the art of politics from them. That’s a hundred percent fool-proof method of overcoming any odds.
Also, that has rendered all the systems of accountability inefficacious. Why? Because, and it is awfully baffling that, all the systems of accountability are conceived, detailed and legislated by the criminal politicians or political criminals. Who can forget the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO)? And it is these politicians, tainted with criminality, who appoint the heads to these accountability systems, just like Chaudhry Qamar Zaman, has been appointed Chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). Just like the leader of the opposition party in the National Assembly, Khurshid Shah, has been made Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). Such systems are a product of the political-criminal complex in Pakistan.
The latest episode from this complex unfolded a few days earlier when on May 29 an anti-corruption court issued non-bailable warrants for the arrest of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and Makhdoom Amin Fahim, former commerce minister and a member of Gillani’s cabinet. Both are senior leaders of Pakistan Peoples Party. Seven others include the list of the accused in this case which allegedly involves major irregularities of Rs.7 billion in granting freight subsidies to fake trading companies by the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP). Previously both politicians were issued three notices to appear before the court. As the notices were ignored (note their arrogance!), then bailable warrants were issued. Now non-bailable warrants have been issued with hearing adjourned till June 17.
The same day the former prime minister issued a statement and said: no case in this country was completed without implicating him whether it was the case of OGRA, NICL, NRO, TDAP or Haj scam. He added: the beneficiaries of the NRO had been exonerated but he was still facing the music. His political alibi was worded thus: ‘He asked the government to avoid crossing the limits of victimization and unleash it to the extent they could also bear it tomorrow. They had no stomach to tolerate even the fraction of what was going on against him.’
No sooner this news item flashed than the political machinery of Peoples Party got switched on and statements started pouring in the newspapers and TV channels to beat the drum of political victimization. Very next day co-chairman of the PPP and former president Asif Ali Zardari ‘deplored the victimization of former prime ministers Yousaf Raza Gillani and Raja Pervez Ashraf and former federal minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim behind the façade of accountability as witch-hunting.’ He warned: ‘that bodes ill for the politics of tolerance, accommodation and reconciliation.’
This narrative of Political Victimization is very much typical and repeats itself on various occasions and for various personalities. Now it’s Asif Ali Zardari’s turn to mouth it: in his statement he pretended to be shocked while, according to him, the PPP was seeking to protect the democratic system through political reconciliation the government was chasing political opponents and thereby undermining the unity of political forces. His tirade is totally based on political alibi: he said that decisions in national policies whether in the rental power plants or subsidies or concessions in importing commodities were taken collectively and transparently by the cabinet in the light of objective realities and singling out the prime minister is patently wrong and smacks of political victimization. Also he found a poignant similarity between the hounding of Benazir Bhutto in late 1990s for the decisions jointly taken by the cabinet at the time and the chasing of Yousaf Raza Gillani, Raja Pervez Ashraf and Makhdoom Amin Fahim now for decisions taken by the cabinet. He advised the government to review its policies and stop witch-hunting and victimization of political opponents.
This narrative of political victimization amounts to this: all the decisions politicians make while they are in government, whether they prove to be good or bad, must be treated as unquestionable; since by dint of their electoral mandate they are innocent; and more than that by virtue of their being politicians and representing the people they cannot make any wrong decisions. In short, in their capacity of being politicians, they are infallible. And while they win elections, they place themselves beyond every norm, value, principle, and morality and law; thus, their infallibility perfects. Gillani’s and Zardari’s words quoted above are based on these presumptions. They may be termed as the Political Alibi.
Thus the political alibi claims the politicians must be considered and treated as beyond the law of the land. That means they are King, who used to be law unto himself. So they, the politicians of Pakistan, are law unto themselves. No need to try Yousaf Raza Gillani, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, or Asif Ali Zaradri for any wrong-doing; they are infallible; they are themselves law of this land.
Or otherwise, if this or any other government think of trying or tries them, their narrative by implication means to say that, they will not protect the democratic system; they will give up political reconciliation; and so on. In this sense, the political alibi conceals threats of undermining the system. Just as psychological alibis provide criminals with excuses for their crimes, such as harming others, or murders in the name of honor, etc; in the same way, politicians use the political alibis as excuses to hide their inefficiencies, incompetencies, corrupt and dishonest practices, scamming, nepotism, cronyism, and misappropriating the public exchequer.
Finally it may be reminded that the law of Pakistan provides for no such alibi to any one, be they politicians. That was why they took recourse to the NRO; otherwise, such a law would have come to their rescue. If any charge is made against any politician, he / she should present himself / herself in the court of law and prove his / her innocence. Political alibi is no way of proving ones innocence; it may prove the guilt, instead!
This article was carried by Pakistan Observer on June 5, 2014.