Weekly Reflections: Narratives of self-accountability
By Dr. Abdul Saboor,
There are as many narratives of accountability as suited to a specific group of people. Whatsoever suits to an assembly of law makers and their vested interest groups, the debate is turned to that direction with the tag of complex philosophies. Every time the nation is given new direction with novel narratives, but with more number of fresh questions and concerns than the fair response of previous queries. The fundamental question “who is accountable to whom and for what” remains unaddressed at legislative and judicial tables. Unfortunately, it has become a popular impression that the ruling authorities often attempt to use the tool of accountability as a threatening weapon against opposition.
This is high time to wipe out the impression that accountability is only being made functional against political leaders sitting in opposition benches. Across the board application is equally important for the ruling class in general and for the country in particular. There is a need to break the network of elite mafias who make collaborative efforts for practicing many kinds of corruption through the composite association of bureaucracy, establishment, media groups, business community and judiciary.
Like many other public institutions, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is not fairly enjoying a good repute among public in terms of its functioning and governing mechanism. There is lack of consistency in the make-up and decision of cases registered over there. The Bureau has been facing the dilemma of serious anomalies as well as objections from within and from outside. People within the system might be operating NAB machinery in severe grudges as we have learnt the defaming handcuff and interrogation of some dignitaries. Outsiders always look into the internal affairs with the eyes of doubt. Part of the problem is inherited due to weak governance while the rest is additive due to new entries with new ways and means.
Two decades back when NAB was set up during dictatorship era, the fundamental goal was not really making a drastic change in socio-economic fabric for developing a corruption-free nation but to separate the ‘good guys’ from ‘bad guys’ for winning political scores. This is not only the fate of NAB, but many other legislative experiments we did during last seven decades regarding addressing the issues of corruption, could not bear fruit. The reasons are more or less of similar nature. Now there is a daunting challenge to redress the dwindling image of NAB and renovate its judicial correlates by taking bold decisions. A fresh start needs to be taken up by demonstrating zero tolerance against all kinds of corruption.
One may appreciate that some mega corruption cases are being taken in the forefront under the auspices of NAB. One can watch harassment not only among opposition leaders but some political leaders within the ruling party are also feeling a fear of accountability. Some are not comfortable in this new wave of accountability. For the first time in Pakistan’s history, the screw is being tightened against fraudulent mind pursuing corruption of many kinds. In this new wave of accountability, an undue fear among bureaucracy and ‘Public Men’ should be avoided as the same may cause sufferings for the economic, social and political efficiency.
The individual and social character of our nation has taken a complex shape of staying unaccountable to any authority. We hardly realize the odd we commit at several occasions, but when it is pinpointed, we try to justify it with fabricated arguments. In this way, in the realm of accountability, everyone has his own truth which no one else is ready to accept because his own typical narrative does not fit in it. When one goes on coining new narrative of accountability, many counter narratives come up. As one mechanism of accountability is drawn, the potential party likely to be affected brings a new social justification.
Most of the ‘Public Men’ in many of the public institutions are directly or indirectly responsible for the fraudulent practices happening around them. This implicitly shows that the internal regulatory arrangements in any public institution may not be up-to-the-mark on the one hand while fair implementation is lacking due to external influence of some nature on the other hand. These anomalies can only be addressed if the spirit of self-accountability is registered for all the stake holders.
The whole wisdom of operating accountability lies in the domain of self-accountability. If the natural check of self-accountability is not activated, none can be made truly answerable before any court of law. Self accountability is thus a sort of necessary condition for maintaining ‘impartial accountability’. As for instance, it is important for all the law operators working under NAB to be answerable to some authority for the good or bad implementation of law. Whenever we apply the codes of conduct and rules of the business for the sanctity of law, high level of wisdom is required to fit a particular rule for a particular situation quite fairly.
The best part of that authority is the self; so is the case for self-accountability. All the human resource working under the umbrella of NAB (insiders) should be well trained for observing self-accountability. Similarly, when the insiders are well groomed and motivated for self accountability, the impression and expectation among the outsiders for any likely favour would automatically be evaporated. This may leave a good message for the potential culprits to be more careful in their crooked deals and deeds. The rollback of irregularities is quite likely.
All out efforts will have to be made to design a plausible strategy for enhancing the framework of accountability drive that could maintain consistency and transparency. Besides strengthening the integrity domain of NAB, there is thus dire need of launching country wide campaign of self-accountability. The character of realization of good and bad must be incorporated among the masses through formal and informal training exercises. Media and civil society can play a key role in establishing the writ of the State for honesty and integrity which may ultimately solve the purpose of self-accountability. State machinery and general masses may be sensitized for taking self-accountability as their national responsibility rather than considering it a political jargon.
As a matter of fact we all are accountable to Allah Almighty for all of our deeds. The Constitution of Pakistan has settled this narrative that the whole authority lies with Allah and we are His vicegerents on earth. Our self or spirit is the core representative of the Creator. So, every one of us should be accountable to oneself as per constitution and Divine Principle. To this end, let us try self-accountability and stay optimistic that everyone around us is going to be more and more accountable. We should take a benefit of our sub-conscious which always displays a red signal for all the wrong we commit.
Government’s role is to make a level play field for ensuring everyone tending to be accountable for his actions to his own self. Not merely an oath but a judicial “Declaration of Self-accountability” may be taken from all Public Men any violation of which should be speedily trialed and tested. Bottom down approach might be more effective and practicable. In this regard, a great deal of demonstration is required at the top level for the message of self-accountability to take the route of a national character. This is not only the last opportunity but also the only viable chance to settle accountability affairs on the basis of Natural Principles.
The writer is Professor of Economics, Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, PMAS Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi