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PM Imran’s Aggression Against Corruption Is Meant To Cover Up Govt’s Failures

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During his ongoing visit to China, Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his desire to follow in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s footsteps and put 500 ‘corrupt people’ in jail. “One of President Xi Jinping’s biggest crusade has been against corruption,” the PM said, adding that he had heard that some 400 ‘ministerial-level people’ had been convicted on charges of corruption and put behind jail in the last five years in China.

While this is not the first time the PM has vowed to expedite his so-called anti-corruption drive, one cannot help but point out the absurdity of his continuous outbursts against corruption at international forums.

The accountability drive in Pakistan that Imran Khan never forgets to mention during his official visits abroad has been denounced as ‘witch-hunt’ by opposition as well as neutral observes back home. Judges have been accused of taking dictation from the powers-that-be and issuing biased judgments against members of the opposition. Imran Khan’s government has failed to come clean on any of these allegations.

The PM’s wishes of expanding this ‘accountability’ drive by arresting 500 ‘corrupt people’, therefore, rings alarm bells. Because the government’s track record indicates that the ‘accountability’ drive is being used as a pretext to victimize political rivals.

Moreover, even if the PM means well, it may not be a smart idea to replicate the Chinese model of punishing the corrupt individuals – for two main reasons. First, the action against corruption in China initiated in 2012 (which PM Imran Khan was referring to) has seen 1.5 million people punished for corruption, but the process has not been backed by any long-term fixes such as institutional reforms. For action against corruption to be effective, it must be followed by efforts to strengthen the rule of law and democratic process of accountability – something that remains missing in China.

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Secondly, in carrying out the process of punishing the corrupt individuals, the Chinese president has gone as far as cracking down on human rights lawyers and activists in the country, which has raised eyebrows.

Needless to say, civil society watchdogs and journalists ought to have a role in overseeing such a process in order for it to be transparent and fair. But the Chinese government’s disregard for transparency and due process in its steps to curb corruption is evident. And this breaches the credibility of Xi Jinpinh’s anti-corruption drive. 

It is therefore no surprise that PM Khan would want to replicate the Chinese model of running the affairs of the state. Because he does not seem to believe in due process either. After all, his desire to lock up all his critics and rivals in order to crush any and all forms of dissent is fairly apparent.

In July, a hashtag (#ArrestAntiPakistanJournalists), calling for the arrest of a few journalists critical of the government and state institutions, was initiated on Twitter by an account claiming to be affiliated with the ruling party. It went on to become a trending topic on Twitter thanks to troll armies and various propaganda accounts. The trolls were convinced that most of Pakistan’s problems will solve when those journalists are put behind bars.

The PM’s wish to arrest ‘corrupt’ people and his followers’ demands of putting the ‘anti-Pakistan’ journalists in prison are pretty much inter-linked. This all-too-familiar narrative entails dolling out certificates of treason in response to criticism – all in the name of ‘accountability’.

Instead of delivering on the countless promises that he had made prior to his election as PM, Imran Khan continues to sell the flawed narrative of ‘accountability’ and punishment.

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The fact of the matter is that the accountability process under PTI government is selective and reeks of political vendetta. Members of opposition parties are being arrested left, right and centre, but members of the ruling party who have been accused of similar misdoings are given clean chit. The status of ‘holy cow’ that some state institutions enjoy has been strengthened under the PTI government, which has made it clear that the accountability drive is anything but fair.

And it appears that the PM’s aggression against corruption is a tactic meant to divert public attention from his government’s complete failure on various fronts.

 

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