Pakistan: A Case For Over-Accountability

With a plethora of discussions regarding current tornado of accountability which started long before General Elections of 2018 in Pakistan and culminating in Nawaz Sharif’s arrest, the use of word ‘accountability’ has been more frequently employed than ever before in the history of Pakistan. But unfortunately, the dragon of ‘accountability mechanism’ doesn’t seem coming to an end and process keeps on moving forward at a volcanic rate with arrest of Abdul Aleem Khan who is a senior party official of PTI. This brings us to ask ourselves a very critical question that is whether we should call Pakistan a case for accountability or is this the problem of ‘over accountability’ which Pakistan is facing in current times.

At the onset of our discussion, I better throw light on over accountability. The term is self-explanatory i.e. an overdose of accountability is not accountability but raises the question of problem of over accountability. There are three situations of accountability. The first is that where there is no accountability at all. Indeed, that is extremely harmful and leads to abuse of authority. The second situation is when there is accountability more than it is required and the last situation is having the right amount of accountability which remains the ideal situation for good governance.

Coming to good governance, we must ask ourselves the question whether good governance has any relation with accountability. This would direct us to the problems created when there is an extra dose of accountability. What harm does it triggers and what can be the gravest repercussions? The very question makes us ponder whether is it possible for us to ‘root out corruption’? Is it a right objective to completely eradicate malpractices by officials and politicians? What if we say that a minimum amount of corruption is essential for good governance? Would saying that makes a case in favour of corruption?

The learned reader must realize the fact that for the cause of good governance, we stand in absolute need of constitutional restraints and exercising them with wisdom. If accountability mechanism is willing at the same speed to prosecute everyone then what alternatives do we have in absence of these actors? I emphasize strongly and reiterate that rooting out corruption must not be a goal rather our goal should be to balance corruption at minimum possible level. Would actors (institutions/political parties) be able to actually do actions beneficial for principals (citizens)?

Applying all this discussion to current scenario in Pakistan where PTI over threw Sharif government riding on wings of accountability, where judiciary is highly more concerned about legislative and executive roles instead of their constitutional role and where now NAB is moving their gun shots towards PTI officials, what good do we expect in case of good governance. If someone even honestly believes that they are fighting for the cause of Pakistan by completely wiping out corrupt, then I must say that they are not in their right wits rather it is nothing but an imaginary situation.

Keeping in view the current situation, the reader must also realize that institutions and individuals running affairs are entangled in fear. The over-accountability is a death bell that is hanging over heads. How could offices work when they know they may be struck from any direction any time? This seems like failing the entire machinery of government instead of making it work more efficiently. We are losing what we already have!

An ordinary reader may ask whether we should leave the corrupt to go dancing in the streets then. No! Obviously not! We already said that countering the problem of over accountability doesn’t mean that we are making a case in favor of corruption. As far as citizen’s approval is required to make executive acts seem successful and praised, we must be on watch to observe whether executive actions apparently beneficial and popular among popular masses are really going to impact positive in the long run? Given the situation in Pakistan, the laymen mostly relying on public opinion formulated through media taken over by political propaganda, is not a criteria to judge the success of policies through public approval. The problem of over accountability has toppled over the whole system and we can’t even rely on our own judgments.

Apparently, a lot of people in Pakistan are now talking against Imran Khan’s government owing to imposition of taxes and change of policies i.e let’s take the case of non-provision of subsidy for Hajj. The government must be allowed to take decisions relying on its privilege of being far sighted and fear of adopting a policy which could invoke anger and disapproval from principals (citizens) adding to fear of losing support from masses in next elections must be countered. The Government of Pakistan must take decisions which could bring country out of ongoing crisis situation at any cost. The problem of over accountability must not be a barrier to this!

I can’t at this point comment on how exactly the problem of over-accountability could be tackled in Pakistan. But a few insights gathered from experts in the area suggest developing third-party insight mechanisms but with checks and balances. Judiciary must perform as a third party over seer but within its constitutional role. The media, civil society & other watch dogs also need to introduce a flexible and informed approach towards accountability mechanism.  Our objective is not accountability for the sake of accountability but the case is for good governance in Pakistan.

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