Pakistan’s Supreme Court has been keeping watch over NAB. Farooq Naeem—AFP
The perception of corruption does not make it a reality.
A few months before the Pakistan Peoples Party’s Asim Hussain, accused of corruption worth Rs. 462 billion, was released on bail after over two years in prison, Pakistan learned through Transparency International that it ranked 117 out of 168 countries on the Corruption Perceptions Index. If you go by the sound bites, politics in Pakistan is more obsessed with corruption—Transparency disagreeing—than governance, which is visibly undermined by a corrupt state of mind.
A few weeks before Hussain’s release, model Ayaan Ali was also let go by the Supreme Court and allowed to proceed abroad after charges alleging she attempted to smuggle millions of dollars out of the country were disproved. She was caught initially “red-handed” in 2015 while trying to take a flight out of the country. The Islamabad High Court has also acquitted former PPP federal minister for religious affairs Hamid Kazmi despite him being convicted for “Hajj corruption” last year.
Instead of questioning the dysfunction of Pakistan’s criminal justice system, the media has run away with allegations that the three acquittals are the result of a “deal” between the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and the opposition PPP. Much contortion was exhibited on TV trying to prove how the PPP had benefited by making some as-yet-unknown concession to “rascally” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is currently threatened by possible unseating in the Panama Papers case.
Someone must pay for the miscarriage of justice in a country that is not even corrupt by Transparency International’s reckoning. The released persons should be suing the state for reparations in billions, and the courts should suo motu indict the prosecutors for the bad job they did of the cases prepared against the three. TV channels in Pakistan also need to mend their ways and apologize for allowing their anchorpersons—primarily women—to heap sarcasm on Ali with Bollywood songs as the soundtrack.