Dec 16, 2009

Moral renaissance begins

The author of the black NRO has already fled the country. The legions of its beneficiaries, including those prancing in the power corridors, were too cowered by public sentiment to even dare defend it before the Justice Iftikhar Chaudry-led Supreme Court. The outcome, therefore, was given, with a historic verdict correcting a shameful historic wrong. But more important than the legal interpretations and ramifications of this verdict, and there shall be many, is the clarion message sent out by the court today: corruption shall no longer be tolerated, and if you commit a crime, you shall be made to pay your debt to society. The political monopoly game of Pakistan has just lost its free ‘get out of jail’ card. On the contrary, the time has come for many to start preparing for their jail yatras.

Hopefully, the adamant NRO beneficiaries including ministers and super bureaucrats, still clinging to their power perches, shall read the emblazoned writing on the wall telling them to resign. And resign they must if they possess the slightest modicum of decency or any sense of ethical propriety. They would be doing themselves a favour by taking a cue from the court ordered action against a former attorney general and the immediate sacking of the NAB chief prosecutor and his deputy. The mills of accountability have started to grind slowly, but surely. And this is just the beginning.

While the real implications of the judgement shall be revealed in the yet to be released detailed order, the contours of all that would, or should, be coming are fairly visible from the tenor and substance of the Dec 16th verdict. Amongst other factors, the court has also shot down NRO for clashing with Article 62 of the Constitution, pertaining to eligibility qualifications of a parliamentarian, which incidentally also apply to the president. This has added a new and worrying dimension for the incumbent president. On top of that, the court’s laudable direction to the government to ask the Swiss authorities to revive the corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, has already unleashed academic speculations about the future of Article 248 itself which grants immunity to an incumbent president from any legal action within Pakistan. A fresh petition, making the current decision a basis and challenging this very article as being tantamount to violating the now settled concept of all being equally accountable before law, could well sire another historic decision. Hardly good news for an increasingly cornered President Zardari. Let there be no doubt, moral renaissance has begun in the shamelessly looted and criminally misruled Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

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