Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Accountability is must in public life

Accountability is must in public life
Dr Shabir Choudhry 16 April 2006

"Hold yourselves accountable before you are held accountable", said Umar Ibnul Khattab, more than fourteen hundred years ago. There will never be another Umar. He was, by any one’s standard, a great administrator, a great ruler and a great God fearing Muslim.

He set up great examples in administration and accountability. Because he was honest and God fearing person himself he established a system which was fair and simple; and even encouraged those to challenge rulers to get their rights who were poor and disadvantaged people in the society. They did not fear any intimidation or reprisals and that is why they even dared to question the Caliph himself in public.

Muslim rulers of that time were honest and they set up a system which was fair. There was no corruption or nepotism of any kind in Muslim societies of that time; and now Muslim societies are perceived to be the most corrupt and dishonest in the world.

All kinds of dishonesty, fraud and malpractices are associated with Muslims; and we cannot escape the responsibility by saying that it is propaganda of Jews, Hindus and other non- Muslims. It is not a good practice to always shift the blame and accuse other for our blunders. We have to accept that there are serious faults in the systems we have set up, these systems are not democratic in nature; and do not encourage transparency and accountability.

In fact these systems are deliberately designed to perpetuate the rule of elite, which generally breeds more corruption, nepotism, unaccountability and make people and nations hostage to the interest of foreign powers. And to support that out of date, anti people, and anti democratic system, a political culture is established that those who demand changes or criticise rulers are perceived as ‘agents’ of foreign powers.

Unfortunately we have closed doors to accountability and transparency and discourage discussion and analysis. Criticism on leaders is perceived as crime and treachery. Most Muslim societies have no political parties, and those which have some political parties are encouraged to build them around the cult of a leader rather than any principle or ideology. These political parties clearly lack democracy and tolerance; and leaders will not allow any independent or different thinking within the party, as is the practice in the political parties in Pluralistic Societies.

Pakistan became independent in 1947- ‘liberated’ as some people like to say. In reality it has never been independent or liberated, and some other countries which were liberated after Pakistan are far ahead of Pakistan. Has anyone wondered why? It is no good blaming outside conspiracies or foreign hand - all conspiracies had roots in Pakistan.

Pakistanis have a reputation of being emotional people, and that reputation has been systematically strengthened by inciting religious sentiments; and by using good offices of religious leaders. And on each such occasion Pakistan’s image suffered seriously and in some cases it cost Pakistan enormous amount in money as well.

I might end up upsetting some Pakistani friends when I say this. Some of Pakistan’s problems are directly related to its founder and the Party which he presided. That party was controlled and dominated by feudal landlord and aristocrats who provided funds for the political events. Of course aristocrats don’t encourage liberal and democratic values, if anything; they hold back the progress in order to enjoy power and influence.

Mohammed Ali Jinnah himself was a liberal minded person, but I am not sure if he encouraged democracy and liberal thinking within the Muslim League. Unlike Muslim League the Indian National Congress had well established democratic system, of course they also had rich people with them who supported them financially but they were not strong enough to hold back the progress of the party.

The result is before us. A party which had well established democratic system passed that system on and established a democratic system in India. The other party did not have such a system or even desire to pass on anything like this.

The party which believed in democracy and plural society abolished landed aristocracy and rule of Rajas and Nawabs, as their powers and influence was deemed to be obstacle as it had potential to hold back the progress of democratic and liberal society.

The other party, especially after the death of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, under strong influence of landed aristocracy, strengthened their own position and held back progress towards democracy and pro people policies. Pakistan and even its neighbours still suffer for that policy. There is no democracy, no transparency and no accountability, and landed aristocracy and military elite have joined hands to rule the country and the society.

India could be criticised for other things, and I have to do that as well otherwise I will be accused of being ‘pro India’ for praising a good thing of an ‘enemy’; but India stands with pride in the comity of nations as the biggest democracy in the world. They have set up a system that encourages Multi National Companies to invest in India; and it motivates other countries to issue visas to Indian professionals.

A system of government or corruption what Pakistan had, it ‘honestly’ and ‘sincerely’ transferred that in Azad Kashmir, area under its indirect control; and we can say that a system of government in Azad Kashmir is not much different to that of Pakistan. India on other hand has been less than ‘honest’ in this, they have developed a democratic and somewhat transparent system inside India proper, and despite claims to Jammu and Kashmir encouraged a system of politics which is known as ‘proxy politics’ and full of corruption.

Tolerance is a major ingredient in a system of democratic government, and we people of Jammu and Kashmir have rich history and culture of tolerance. We must endeavour to reunite the State of Jammu and Kashmir and set up a system which suits our requirements, and which encourages transparency and accountability.

If we fail to reunite our homeland and set up a system of accountability and transparency then I fear we might not have our name among those nations who are there to stay and prosper. In my opinion it is still not too late, we Kashmiris can still resolve our differences that are encouraged and exaggerated by those who occupy us; and the best way forward is to acknowledge our past shortfalls, and make a new start with sincerity.

It will surely help us if we hold ourselves accountable before our conscience, and encourage a system of check and balance in political parties. And inside parties we must strengthen a democratic system rather than individuals, because individuals, no matter how talented and sincere could make wrong decisions- which could prove disastrous for the parties and movement.

Writer is a Chairman Diplomatic Committee of JKLF, Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs and author of many books on Kashmir. He could be reached at:

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