Terror, Corruption And The ANP

The Awami National Party (ANP) began its campaign with the slogan ‘pur amn Pakistan’. However, in the aftermath of the attack on the Bilours of Peshawar, an unofficial slogan came to the fore and has since taken over – ‘watan ya kafan’ (country or shroud). This slogan sums up the ANP’s resolve.
One would assume that this would elicit praise from all quarters. But that is certainly not the case. Instead, there exists quite a strong sense of resentment. Polls indicate that, and my personal interactions corroborate it. By and large, the source of this resentment seems to be the ANP’s financial corruption.
This belief is mostly backed by anecdotes. And one particular line that is quoted as the ultimate proof is “Baba ta easy load ka”, alluding that during the ANP’s tenure bribing Haider Hoti’s father was necessary for getting things done.
Ironically, many of my friends who are utterly disgusted with the ANP’s corruption seem to have a different yardstick for their own financial integrity. One will claim a substantial inheritance from a father who was known for taking bribes. Another, a government servant, is infamous for not even pardoning relatives when it comes to ‘fees’. But then both are completely disgusted over Baba’s ‘easy loads’. And they have every right to be, because the hypocrisy of its critics should not absolve the ANP of its crimes.
It would be ridiculous to claim that the ANP government was not involved in any corruption, but by the same token it would also be naïve to rely just on anecdotes to associate it with corruption at unmatched levels. If the accusations are true and corruption that widespread in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, then some indicator somewhere should capture it – especially when compared with other provinces.
Transparency International Pakistan (TIP) is one such source. Its surveys for 2009 and 2010 provide estimates of the annual average provincial corruption expenditures. For both these years the sample from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had one of the ‘lowest’ corruption expenditures among the four provinces. For 2009, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa averaged at Rs3,454, while Punjab was Rs19,959. For 2010, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was the ‘lowest’ among all provinces at Rs3,528, while the highest ie Punjab was at Rs17,791.
The TIP didn’t consider these estimates in its provincial corruption ranking for 2010, as it was based on perceptions. It focused on just one question; for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the respondents were asked if the present government – of the ANP – was more corrupt than the previous government of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA). But here’s the twist; for some odd reason TIP chose Peshawar, Mansehra, Abbottabad and Haripur as representative districts for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
An anti-ANP verdict from the Hazara division was inevitable, and this was presented as the perception of the whole province. This result was then used extensively in the media to label the ANP’s government as the most corrupt. I had written a more detailed piece on TIP’s methodology for its 2010 survey on these pages on June 9, 2010.
While the jury is still out on the ANP, let’s focus a bit on this national obsession with corruption. Yes, corruption is a huge problem in Pakistan, but does it really overshadow terrorism? Last year, Pakistan had a total of 652 bombings leading to 1,007 deaths, that means an average of two bombings and three deaths per day! And this was one of our better years.
Yet survey after survey confirms that Pakistan considers corruption to be a bigger problem than terrorism. This is akin to a cancer patient citing a common cold as his biggest ailment. The difference between corruption and terrorism should be obvious from their respective units of measurement – rupees for corruption and deaths for terrorism. How big a bribe can outweigh the death of one human?
If the ANP had followed the MMA’s path, today some of its top workers and leaders would still be alive. Instead it took on the biggest monster of our times, and paid dearly. Ironically, those who are so eager to bestow the title of ‘Pakhtun resistance’ on the Taliban refuse to even acknowledge this non-violent defiance. Those claiming ferocity of felines and natural disasters feign complete oblivion to a danger that threatens the very existence of their proposed ‘roshan’ and ‘naya’ Pakistan.
Opportunism seems to be the only apparent reasons for their silence. A convenient excuse is to declare the war against the Taliban to be ‘someone else’s war’. But while Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan may have their own interpretations, Hakeemullah Mehsud has made it clear that his war is against Pakistan. Whether it is ‘roshan’ or ‘naya’ will not make a difference.
Today the ANP has been left to fight a war for the survival and continuation of Pakistan’s democracy. After every bombing its battered leaders reiterate their demand for a timely election, one that their party is very likely to lose. This principled stance remains unappreciated by most Pakistanis.
Supporting the ANP doesn’t necessarily mean that one votes for it. Regardless of party affiliations the need is to provide a united front against the forces bent upon destabilising democracy in Pakistan.
For those who still think the ANP’s corruption doesn’t make it worth the effort, I propose the following calculation.
Step 1: Put a price on the life of a loved one; Step 2: Multiply that price by 700; Step 3: From this total subtract the biggest possible estimate for the ANP’s corruption (make it Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s entire budget if you may).
Let’s see if the remainder is positive or negative.