By: Agha Haider Raza
So the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) beneficiaries list comes out. The media is happy that those persons who enjoyed taking advantage of the NRO have light casted upon them, while the government is trying to push forward the argument of how they have respected the Supreme Court’s judgment and have publicized the list. It seems to be a win-win situation for all parties. But is it really? Calls for the resignation of ministries and portfolios have echoed from all corners. How has this zero-sum game turned into a finger-pointing-name-calling battle?
As we all now know, the NRO was a ‘bail-out’ for politicians and businessmen, giving them a clean sheet. This not only cleared the way for billions of rupees to be kept in the hands of defaulters, but also allowed plenty of politicians to get re-elected as their corruption charges were taken out of the court as well. Though many readers would say that I am playing the ethnic card here, I’d like to know why 96% of the beneficiaries are Sindhi’s? Secondly, if the PPP, claims itself to be a liberal-democratic party, why have they not asked for a majority vote on such a sensitive issue? After all, the billions of rupees that have been siphoned through this ordinance are Pakistani’s money, not the beneficiaries’. Why should this debt be written off?
What I find more ironic though after following up on the July 31st Supreme Court verdict, and the publication of the NRO beneficiary names, is how no one wants to own up to actually using the advantages of this disgusting piece of legislation. Prime Minister Gillani made a bold statement by openly declaring how he would tender his resignation if it could be proven that his wife was a beneficiary. Our Minister for Defense has today also articulated that he has nothing to do with the NRO, while Pakistan’s High Commissioner in London Wajid Shamsul Hasan “feels hurt by mention of his name with reference to NRO beneficiaries”. Furthermore, the Presidents right-hand man, the quintessential wazir , Mr. Salman Faruqui has also articulated that has not taken any relief under the NRO and is an “innocent victim”.
Why the embarrassment, my respected statesmen? The Ordinance was drafted so that you could finally show your innocence to the rest of the nation. If my understanding is correct, the NRO only cleared those cases that were “politically motivated”. So if you have nothing to be ashamed about, since the cases were only initiated as a political vendetta, why bother if your name is found on the list? I mean, here we are, having the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the world’s 38th most powerful man, offering to resign if his wife can be proven to have taken advantage of the NRO. Mr. Prime Minister, if you are willing to go to such lengths and give up the most sought-out job in Pakistan, why not solve the problem, since you have obviously identified it?
Hopefully we won’t be seeing a repeat of the judicial crisis, which in the end only became a battle of egos. But alas, we have politicized yet another piece of legislation. Here we thought years of dictatorship would teach our Parliament a lesson, and they would, for once; listen to what the very people who elected them have to say. The Chief Justice has given a half volley to the government by throwing the NRO ball in the court of the Presidency. Either the President smacks it for six or is clean bowled. Rarely in politics is one given so many chances to redeem themselves, but here, President Zardari has been handed yet another a golden opportunity to side with the people of Pakistan and annul the NRO. One can only hope that the rumor of President Zardari using the powers given to him under Article 89 of promulgating ordinances will not become a reality.
Sacrificing for the greater good seems to be what is really required at this point. Article 58 2(b) and the 17th Amendment are two other sensitive issues that require a Pakistani stance, not a Presidential one. Frankly speaking President Zardari, no one is going to forget your title of Mr. 10 per cent, and although you may have never been convicted of corruption charges your money laundering stories will always remain tied to you. But I can tell you this much Mr. President: if you become the bigger man, rise to the occasion and annul the NRO and bring accountability to Pakistan, you will get the political limelight you strive for, and Pakistan will get the honor it truly deserves!