The Farce Of Accountability And PM’s Telltale Body Language
That arousing ‘accountability’ rhetoric and the highly charged hard-hitting hard talk managed to bewitch a nation that loves mawkishly stirring verbiage. Words that had left us joyfully misty-eyed before the 2018 elections, had also, ironically, rendered our vision misty.
Those promises of accountability and much more, dripping with emotional melodrama, is why so many of us opted for PTI. It was not the lure of PTI’s words alone though. It was more so disgust with the tried and tested ‘other parties’; PTI seemed liked the lesser evil at that time, also signifying imminent hope. Presenting an anti-corruption agenda, the like of which was never laid out by a political party before, quite befitting for a country rife with rampant unscrupulousness, PTI’s very existence rested on the foundations of an anti-corruption, fair, justice-dispensing manifesto that promised to come clean and sweep it clean. The righteousness mantra and the accountability sloganeering, however, has since left the nation in the greys of delusive contentment.
The PM’s latest bout of obsession with accountability, apparent through his scorching interview statements and sardonic references, seems to have been triggered by the opposition’s recent muscle flexing and power shows. A prime minister who doesn’t know how to keep his anger under control, easily gives himself away through his public appearances and addresses. Perhaps, the PM needs counseling in anger management and the nuances of non-verbal communication.
Well- spoken as he might be, exhibiting no poise and control over words and gestures makes our PM a classic example of diction without discipline. Political anger that seeps into his words communicates strong ‘showmanship’, rather than mature ‘leadership’. As opposed to righteous anger, his is spiteful rage, seeming to sprout more from personal vendetta than political discord. The polemic is paradoxically reflective of bad governance, selective accountability, spiraling inflation and institutions that are kaput.
Political theater thrives on the sound bite; the nastier, the better, it is held. This philosophy aptly represents the PM’s narrative since PTI came into power; political obstinacy that is displayed by directing loud scorn on opponents, while using insulting gesticulation and crude language to demean the latter may not bear much fruit, but is a befitting example of trying to make words speak louder than actions.
Apparently, suffering from lack of sincerity of purpose and unwillingness to deliver, the accountability shout-out is hurled at the nation every now and then, more so manipulatively, to appease the nation or as an eyewash for government’s incompetency; alternatively also to get back at opposition’s blitzkrieg, as has recently been the case. Infantile are claims of ‘foreign conspiracy’ and ‘India and Israel’ being behind the opposition’s uprising. A strong, vigilant opposition is key to a sound democracy, and yet, criticism or resistance is the last thing tolerated by this government.The mannerism in which accountability is supposedly being carried out so far has hardly borne any rewarding results for the country in real terms of either incarcerating the culpable or reclaiming looted national wealth that they managed to amass, both being the real aims of the drive and repeatedly touted by PTI before it took over. It is also quite clear that accountability is now being selectively and discriminatorily used only against the opposition and those challenging the writ and say of the state. This type of accountability is only vindictive, vengeful and rancorous, failing to deliver on the pre-election pledges made to the nation.
The most unfortunate part of this whole ‘promises VS. performance’ lapse is that if the present government fails to succeed in conducting the type of indiscriminate accountability that it had promised and make the system relatively corruption-free, people of Pakistan may never be able to trust another, while the grave process of accountability will be rendered a joke for all times to come.
The deluge of arrests, the mannerism in which NAB is being (mis)used, the revelations made by ex-DG FIA, Bashir Memon, that the PM had pressurized him to prosecute main opposition leaders on charges of treason though there was no evidence to do so, only makes the nation proclaim: Physician, heal thyself.
“In fact their entire family was expected to be booked by me in 56 fake cases which are now before the court. I told them that being a provincial matter this was beyond my mandate as the head of a federal agency,” the former chief of FIA is quoted as saying in an interview. Former senator Sehar Kamran also recently compiled a report on the performance of NAB, making public the shocking revelation that NAB is allegedly responsible for deaths of 12 suspects while they were within its custody, rendering the anti-corruption watchdog’s profile even more contentious.
We are, yet, awaiting the result of the investigation ordered by the army chief to identify those responsible for orchestrating the ‘forceful taking away’ of IG Sindh Police from his home in the wee hours, in order to compel him to issue Captain Safdar’s arrest orders. Whether the investigation is conclusive or not, the incident presents a sorry reflection of our undermined institutions that were assured immediate reform by the present government before it came into power.
One may ask if there are no corrupt leaders/ politicians within the ruling alliance, when a lot of those within the government are defectors from the same parties that PTI condemns of corruption and wrongdoing. The electables and some lotacrats that joined in are all credited with bringing PTI to power. What about the likes of JKT who leave the country the moment the sugar crisis whips up and they are in a tight spot? What has become of the aftermath of the sugar report— anyone?
This corruption of the anti-corruption brigade will dwarf the corruption of those that the corruption drive was initially targeted at. By fixating on unilateral discriminatory accountability and constantly threatening to jail political opponents, the PM is not only doing the undue, but is also further sidelining his primary responsibility of effective governance. Raging against his rivals’ alleged theft makes reverberating rhetoric, but only so if it evolves into accountability across the board.
Faryal Shahzad is an entrepreneur and a freelance journalist based in Lahore.