Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NRO, Corruption and Democracy in South Asia

Indian and Pakistani democracies have a lot in common. Both systems of governance are a legacy of the British Raj; both have failed to deliver basic necessities, good governance, rule of law and speedy justice to the vast majority of their people; both have been marred by a close nexus between crime and politics; both have many criminals, including violent felons, as members of the legislature and the executive. But the big difference is in the top leadership; the Indian democracy is led by Dr. Manmohan Singh, also known as Mr. Clean; Pakistani democracy has Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, often labeled as Mr. Ten Percent, as its top leader.

The culture of rampant political corruption has come in sharp focus for Pakistanis with the recent release of the names of the beneficiaries of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), a euphemism for the 2007 US-sponsored amnesty decree by former President Musharraf. There are 34 prominent politicians, including President Asif Ali Zardari and his close associates, topping the NRO beneficiaries list of about 8000 people accused of corruption.

This is by no means a complete list of all the corrupt politicians in Pakistan; it's mainly a list of politicians and bureaucrats included in the "NRO" deal struck between President Musharraf and late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto under pressure from Washington. The PML politicians have been explicitly excluded from the pardon under the deal. For example, it does not include the Sharif brothers, who have had serious charges of crime and corruption leveled against them, as recently brought out by the affidavits of the PML leader Ishaq Dar, that implicated both of the Sharif brothers in money laundering. The NRO list is probably just the tip of a much larger iceberg threatening Pakistan's national security, current stability and future prospects.

Of the 278 current Indian MPs for whom records are obtainable, 63 have criminal backgrounds. Of those, 11 have been charged with murder and two stand accused of dacoity (banditry). Other alleged misdemeanors range from fraud to kidnapping, according to data collected by National Election Watch, the campaign group that has put together the data. Fortunately for India, none of these criminal politicians occupy the top leadership positions in New Delhi. The honest leaders at the top, leaders like Dr. Manmohan Singh, set a good example of honest, selfless public service for the rest of Indian society.

Unfortunately, the criminal justice system in South Asia is incapable of speedy resolution when the rich and powerful are accused of crimes. “The speed of the Indian judicial system means it can take 30 years to complete a case – easily long enough to live out a full political career,” Mr Himanshu Jha, of India's National Social Watch Coalition, told the Times Online recently. If the NRO were to be allowed to lapse on November 28 as expected, the politicians in Pakistan can easily avoid accountability by filing appeals after appeals in a slow-moving justice system, where it's easy to pay the lawyers and the judges to push out the trial dates, or to make deals to get the charges dismissed altogether.

Predictably, the PML party members led by Nawaz Sharif, who are waiting in the wings to grab power, are playing up the PPP corruption issue for their own benefit. At the same time, many pro-PPP advocates for democracy in Pakistan are counseling patience in the interest of "national security" and "political stability".

The fact is that these “democratic" leaders are so thoroughly corrupt that they can be bought for a fistful of dollars by any body, including the sworn enemies of Pakistan. The kind of stability that will come from these people will only encourage more crime by politicians and growing cynicism among the suffering people of Pakistan, as born out by a recent British Council survey that shows 80% of Pakistani youth are pessimistic about their future.

Rampant corruption by the top leaders is highly corrosive for the entire society. Ignoring the crimes and corruption of top leaders will neither boost national security nor political stability. In fact, it will do just the opposite, by eating away at Pakistan's guts from within. It will make Pakistan more vulnerable to complete failure and ultimate collapse without help from of any external enemies.

To pave the way for a more responsive, better governed, and modern industrialized democracy, the model that is most likely to deliver what Pakistanis need now in terms of political stability and economic opportunity is the ASEAN model, adopted by Suharto of Indonesia, Mahathir of Malaysia and Lee Kuan Yu of Singapore. These three benevolent, relatively honest and competent dictators of ASEAN, who were repressive and ruthless at times, transformed their nations from poor and backward agrarian societies to powerful, industrialized and democratic Asian tigers.

Given its large size, the Indonesian development model under Suharto should be of particular interest to Pakistanis. During Suharto’s three decades in power, Indonesia’s economy grew an average of 7 percent annually, and living standards rose substantially for the bulk of the population. Education and mass literacy programs were used to promote the national language, Bahasa Indonesia, and to unify the country’s disparate ethnic groups and scattered islands. While Suharto used unfettered dictatorial powers and his own family benefited greatly from Indonesia's crony capitalism and its rapid economic growth, the nation reaped huge benefits as well, and eventually, the significantly enlarged, educated and prosperous Indonesian middle class asserted itself and brought democracy to Indonesia after forcing Suharto out in 1998.

Here is an interesting video clip of a Pakistani minister's frank admission of the PPP involvement in bribery. Listen to Mr. Abdul Qayyum Khan Jatoi, Federal Minister for Defense Production, proclaiming that it is the “political right” of every politician to do corruption: “yaar, karrapshun pay humara haq nahiN hai, aur unn ka hai!”:

Here's a video clip on India's massive corruption:

Related Links:

Musharraf's Legacy


Challenges For Indian Democracy

Zardari Corruption Probe

Pakistan's Feudal Democracy

Blackwater Bribing in Pakistan

The Politics of NRO

Suharto's New Order

Money Laundering Charges Against Sharifs

The NRO Beneficiaries List


Anonymous said...

Indaian and Pakistani democracies have a lot in common???

Come on! we have had continuous democratic rule since independence the army is under civilian control.Yes a lot of corrupt MPs are in parliament but then again people are innocent till proven guilty aren't they?So till the courts find them guilty they cannot be called guilty,I am sorry but the media is not the entity who will decide if they are guilty or not an allegation is not a conviction.

Besides very few of our elected union ministers have serious charges against them.

Indonesia an industrialized country? per capita income of about USD 2000 is not industrialized sir and Suharto was implicated in massive corruption which eentually led to the indonesian economy crashing spectacularly declining 50% in 1997.
He makes Zardri look like a saint.

Vishal said...

Politicians in general and political organizations in particular represent the society to which they belong.

If for most South Asian countries the society in general is corrupt and uneducated, you are bound to have uneducated and corrupt politicians. US for instance has a widely educated society (well, at least there is value for education); no wonder most US presidents come from Harvard and other elite schools.

Well you are right, India has corruption, infact at a chronic level. But NRO in case of Pakistan seems like a political tool for vendetta, because if someone says that apart from these 30 something NRO listed black sheeps, rest are holy cows, that kind of looks a bit strange. Specially when, the likes of Nawaz Sharif have had no accusations even though they are billionaires and amongst the top 10 richest Pakistani's.


A politician earning a billion dollar seems like just too much compensation any country can afford :) Luckily India has missed such species (so far).

Anonymous said...

Another reasons for an unusually large number of corruption charges against politicians in India(I am not sure about Pakistan) is the complete lack of libel/defamation laws in this country.

Basically any NGO/activist/attention seeker can accuse an MP of corruption regardless of the quality of evidence and the case is admitted in court where it goes on and on.

In Singapore on the other hand you accuse someone of corruption without good evidence and you'll be sued to personal bankrupcy by the aggreived party.I think this is something we must adopt.

Another alternative is the french model of administrative courts where allegations against senior bureaucrats/the political executives/the french state are looked into ny separate dedicated courts which specialize in administrative law.

Riaz Haq said...

anon: "Indonesia an industrialized country? per capita income of about USD 2000 is not industrialized ..."

Indonesia gained independence after India and Pakistan. It is now quite industrialized, with 50% of GDP derived from manufacturing, as opposed to about 27-28% in India and Pakistan. Let's do a quick comparison with South Asia with 2007 figures:

Per Capita GDP (nominal IMF, not PPP):
Indonesia $2239
India 1017
Pakistan 1022

Human Dev Ranking:
Indonesia 111
India 134
Pakistan 141

Literacy Rate:
Indonesia 92%
India 61%
Pakistan 55%

Per Capita Electricity Consumption:
Indonesia 510 KW-hr
India 480
Pakistan 456

Global Hunger Index Ranking:
Indonesia 27
India 66
Pakistan 61

Manufacturing Output:
Indonesia $121 billion
India $167 billion
Pakistan $37 billion

Clearly, Indonesia is significantly ahead of both India and Pakistan.

anon: "Suharto was implicated in massive corruption which eentually led to the indonesian economy crashing spectacularly declining 50% in 1997.
He makes Zardri look like a saint."

Suharto was no saint, and yet he transformed his country from a mostly rural, agri-based primitive nation to an industrialized nation with high rates of literacy and human development compared to India, Pakistan and China in the 1990s. Zardari has done no such things for Pakistan. He's just been busy lining his pockets.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon:"Another reasons for an unusually large number of corruption charges against politicians in India(I am not sure about Pakistan) is the complete lack of libel/defamation laws in this country."

Apparently, you haven't heard of bahubaali. I understand that the nexus between politics and muscle men began when Indian politicians used them to intimidate people for money an votes. Eventually, these muscle men decided to become politicians themselves, rather than assist their client politicians.

Here's a piece from Times of India:


Anonymous said...

Indonesian /ASEAN model is not really sustainable in the long run.

Indonesia has not created any significant domestic companies and the manufacturing output compared to India is more screwdriver assembly of MNC products with a substantial % of subcomponents coming from Japan/South Korea.

It is the reason most of ASEAN has not seen any appreciable per capita income increases for the past 5 years because the MNCs will quickly relocate to places which offer relatively lower labour prices like Vietnam and India now.

The long term industrialization of any significantly large economy depends on its own domestic companies.There is not a single country which has been properly industrialized without having its own corporations.

That is why I think we got it right with our own MNCs like TATA,Reliance,L&T,Infosys etc taking the driving seat in industralization but I would again wait for 10 more years before celebrating.

Riaz Haq said...


The ASEAN nations are way ahead of India and Pakistan in terms of their std of living, economic, educational and industrial achievements. Having Tata is irrelevant, given that many highly industrialized rich European nations don't have big brand name companies of their own.

Universiti of Malaysia is ranked at 181 among the top 200 universities ranked by Times and USN&WR.

Beyond the top 200, there are several more universities on the list of top 400 from ASEAN nations. At 201, the University of Indonesia just missed the top 200 list. Indonesia's Universitas Gadjah Mada at 250, Malaysia's Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia at 291, Malaysia's Universiti Sains Malaysia at 314, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia at 320, Universiti Putra Malaysia at 345, Indonesia's BANDUNG Institute of Technology at 351.

By contrast,two campuses of the Indian Institutes of Technology make the list of top 200, down from three in 2006. IIT Bombay is ranked 163, up from 174 last year, and IIT Delhi at 181, down from 154 last year. Beyond the top 200, there are four more Indian institutions in the top 400 list. These include IIT Kanpur at 237, IIT Madras at 284, University of Delhi at 291 and IIT Kharagpur at 335.

So the ASEAN nations are coming up in building intellectual capital, as is India.

Anonymous said...

These rankings are irrelevant because they are biased towards purely US/UK model universitiy systems.

Australia has many more top universities than Germany.Is this intutively correct?
Germany's Max planc institutes and Fraunhoffer institutes are not rated but tech research in Germany/Russia etc is far ahead of Australia.

Similarly many advanced Indian research institutes like TIFR,CSIR,ISRO,IISC etc etc are not rated where we do the bulk of our advanced research.so...
Not to mention advanced research done by private companies like Tata(check out Tata advanced systems labs)

Please name me 1 major developed country(pop>20mn) which does not have its own companies.If these weren't important why do u think they go to such lengths to protect their national champions?

Besides ASEAN is not EU it also has Myanmar as its member.

Standard of living is a very transient thing long term economic strenght comes from advanced industrial capabilities which will not come from doing assembly work for MNCs.
It has to come from from nurturing your own large corporate houses.EVERY proper industrialized country US,Germany,Japan,South Korea etc industrialized behind high tarrif walls.

We were laughed at when we could only build ambassadors but due to that experience of building every screw,nu and bolt inside or territory we can today build
Tata prima:

Which ASEAN can't the best they can manage is proton which is loosing marketshare even inside Malaysia.
Going forward who do u think will have a better auto industry ASEAN where 90%+ output is license assembly of foreign cars or India?

Riaz Haq said...

anon: "ASEAN where 90%+ output is license assembly of foreign cars or India?"

You keep looking backwards to doing something that most nations can easily do but choose not to. It may make for sense for India to build a Nano, but that's not true for every nation. Meanwhile, the Chinese are focusing on leapfrogging with hybrids and electric cars.

Israel, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Switzerland are all very advanced nations, yet they don't build cars. In a globalized world, it doesn't make sense for every nation to build everything just for the heck of it.

Riaz Haq said...

anon: "Similarly many advanced Indian research institutes like TIFR,CSIR,ISRO,IISC etc etc are not rated where we do the bulk of our advanced research.so..."

Indians and Chinese are followers, not leaders. Almost every original idea and technology of this century has come from the US and Europe. What others have done and are doing is basically incremental stuff, not original research.

Anonymous said...

All the nations you mentioned have populations less than 10million and all of them have a disproportionately large number of MNCs given their size:
Swatch Group
Credit Suisse



Kogsberg etc.

I never said anything about building everything but the fact that long term national competetive advantage is WITHOUT EXCEPTION built on the back of your OWN companies NOT as a assembly plants of MNCs.

Our IT industry is built on the back of TCS,Infosys,Wipro,HCL,Techmahhindra,Mindtree consulting etc etc
NOT IBM,Accenture,EDS etc setting up centres in India(though they are welcome).

Japanese car industry is built due to Toyota,Honda,Nissan (which used to be junk in the 1950s and 60s) NOT BMW,Mercedes Benz opening plants there.

South Korea's consumer electronics industry is built due to Samsung and LG(very downmarket brands in the 90s)NOT Sony and Panasonic assembling things there.

Anonymous said...

Actually original research is the last thing on most emerging markets mind,the reason why Indians/Chinese do reseach is:

1.To circumvent critical tech denial regines by the west.The high preists of free market capitalism will send people to jail if they transfer tech to emerging economies in a whole series of things so we are forced to reinvent the wheel so to speak.

2.To build indiginous capabilities so that we are atleast in the position of absorbing tech if given to us.
3.Cost control

Anonymous said...

riaz, did you read this


Riaz Haq said...

Yes, I did. And I see no contradiction between Pakistanis decrying American policies, while at the same time seeking "the American Dream" for themselves.

The Pakistanis who seek the US visa are a lot smarter than Pam Contstable of the Washington Post, who doesn't seem to appreciate the distinction between love for American way of life and the policies that US pursues overseas which are often at odds with its values at home.

Anonymous said...

Riaz bhai,

You MUST watch this.


Anonymous said...

more here in the 4 part series.


He has completely exposed islamic civilization as good for nothing for the last many centuries.

Anonymous said...

So the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) beneficiaries list comes out. The media is happy that those persons who enjoyed taking advantage of the NRO have light casted upon them, while the government is trying to push forward the argument of how they have respected the Supreme Court’s judgment and have publicized the list. It seems to be a win-win situation for all parties. But is it really? Calls for the resignation of ministries and portfolios have echoed from all corners. How has this zero-sum game turned into a finger-pointing-name-calling battle?


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC report about "ghost worker" costing $43m a year in Delhi city government:

The government of the Indian capital, Delhi, has been paying salaries to 22,853 civic workers who do not exist.

Salaries for the missing Municipal Corporation of Delhi workers add up to nearly $43m a year, City Mayor Kanwar Sain said in a statement.

The "gap" was discovered after the authorities introduced a biometric system of recording attendance.

Correspondents say it shows some civic officials created a list of "ghost workers" to siphon off state funds.

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) employs more than 100,000 cleaners, gardeners, teachers and other workers.


City officials became aware there were thousands of "ghost workers" after introducing the biometric system in August last year.

Mr Sain said the civic agency has 104,241 "genuine" employees - while the records show the numbers at 127,094.

A press release issued by Mayor Sain's office said: "There is a gap of 22,853 employees in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi between the data given by drawing and disbursing officers, the head of the department and the number of employees enrolled for biometric attendance."

An "in-depth vigilance inquiry will be conducted into the matter to ascertain the facts," he said.

"Strict disciplinary action will be taken against officials who cooked the books," the mayor said.

It was long suspected that the city was being defrauded by "ghost workers", but the authorities had always denied the charge.

Riaz Haq said...

According to a report in a leading French newspaper, investigations have revealed that Zardari received 4.3 million dollars in kickbacks from the sale of three Agosta 90 submarines for 825 million euros (approx. 1.237 billion dollars at current exchange rate).

The newspaper said that Pakistani National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was alerted about the massive scam way back in 2001.

The British authorities told the NAB that Zardari had received several large payments into his Swiss bank accounts from a Lebanese businessman, Abdulrahman el-Assir, during 1994 and 1995.

According to a former official of French naval defence company DCN, French authorities had selected Assir to act as intermediary in the deal, The Nation reports.

He allegedly deposited a total of 1.3 million dollars in Zardari’s bank accounts between August 15 and 30, 1994, a month before the submarine deal was finalised. An additional 1.2 million dollars and 1.8 million dollars were deposited in Zardari’s account a year later.

The newspaper report also revealed that investigators believe that the non-payment of the full amount of the agreed kickbacks may have led to the deaths of 11 French national in a suicide attack in Karachi in 2002. (ANI)

Read more: http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/south-asia/zardari-received-millions-as-kickback-in-french-submarine-deal-report_100273313.html#ixzz0YMXa92Uc

Riaz Haq said...

Jang Group has just published a sensational story where Pakistani Ambassador to UK and NRO beneficiary Wajid Shams-ul-Hassan has paid a secret visit to Switzerland and has got possession of the original documents/evidence that were used President Asif Ali Zardari in money laundering case.

The News Reports:
Pakistani High Commissioner in Britain Wajid Shamsul Hasan headed a secret operation in Geneva and received at least 12 cartons comprising the original documents and evidences against some Pakistani high-ups in Swiss money laundering case, Geo News reported Tuesday.

According to Geo News correspondent, the Prosecutor General of Pakistan in Geneva deposited these cartons in the era of former President Pervez Musharraf.

The sources said the secret operation was carried out at the bidding of a top personality of Pakistan, as these evidences could be used if Swiss Money Laundering case is reopened after the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) terms comes to an end.

The sources at Pakistan embassy said if the concerned officials or the courts do not interfere by taking the evidences back from Wajid, then these documents would be wasted for good.

The secret operation begins at 9am on Monday when Wajid arrived in Pak High Commission’s car along with NAB’s senior official Danishwar Malik at the office of Prosecutor General in Geneva.

According to sources, the Prosecutor General kept refusing to give the documents for some hours, as nobody from Pakistan embassy was formally receiving them.

It should be mentioned here that after the NRO, these cases were closed. However now that the term of NRO is over, it was all the more likely that these cases could be re-opened and these evidences could be employed against Zardari.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's the transcript of an NPR report on feudal power in Pakistan and how it enslaves people on the large feudal estates in Punjab:

LAURA LYNCH: The midday sun throws a harsh spotlight on weathered faces. Women crouch low, searching for, then plucking out barely ripe tomatoes. Every crease and crevice in their feet, their hands, even on their faces is dusted with dirt from the fields they farm. They work from dawn to dusk - and the landowner gets most of the income. Nearly two thirds of Pakistan's rural population are sharecroppers. One of the male workers, Abdul Aziz, says they all owe their livelihood to their boss - so they support the political party he supports. He has always voted for the Pakistan People's Party he says; the party of the late Benazir Bhutto. Bhutto and other wealthy landowners like her had always been able to count on the loyalty of those who toil for them in the fields. At her gracious home in Islamabad, Syma Khar traces her lineage - both familial and political - through the photographs she keeps in the cupboard.

LYNCH: Khar is a member of the provincial assembly of the Punjab - the largest province in Pakistan. She is also a member of one of Pakistan's most powerful families. The pictures are from the Khar family estate just outside the city of Multan. The sprawling property includes fisheries, mango orchards and sugarcane fields. Thousands of people work there - most are loyal to their masters. Syma's husband, his father, brothers, nieces and nephews have all turned that to their political advantage to gain office. The workers are by and large, poor, landless and uneducated. Pervez Iqbal Cheema of Pakistan's National Defence University says that's the way most feudals want to keep it.

PERVEZ IQBAL CHEEMA: A feudal, in order to maintain his influence, will be probably not very happy for extension of education or health facilities because as long as they have a minimum interaction with the outsiders then the chances of new ideas germinating or causing some trouble are relatively less.

LYNCH: That star power was evident when Benazir Bhutto staged her return from exile in Karachi in October of 2007. Though it was later marred by a suicide bomb attack, the Bhutto power base in rural Pakistan bussed thousands of loyal followers in to cheer her arrival and dance in the streets. Even after she died, Bhutto's political machine ensured her husband eventually became President. And her son, Bilawal, inherited the party leadership even though he's only 20 with no political experience. In a back alley off a busy road in Rawalpindi, boys are just starting a late afternoon game of cricket. Aasim Sajjad Akhtar, rights activist and professor of colonial history at Lahore University of Management Sciences, keeps an office a few floors up. Akhtar sees the staying power of the feudals - and gives credit to the military. It is Pakistan's other power centre - staging four coups in the country's 62 year history. Akhtar says the military, interested in holding onto its own sphere of influence, finds a willing partner in the feudal class.
KHAR: If they don't' keep that attitude then people will be doing daytime robberies because they are illiterate people. They will, you know, kidnap the daughters they will take away the children they will take away the properties, they will kill each other. So a boss has to be a boss. He has to have that sort of attitude.
LYNCH: As a farm worker empties her bucket of tomatoes into a crate there is no smile of satisfaction - the day's work is still far from over. There's little chance her life will change soon. Several land reform programs have failed to change rural life in Pakistan. And failed to loosen the grip of Pakistan's large landowners on the country's politics.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a 2008 Guardian story by Dilip Hiro on Pak feudal power:

The roots of feudal dominance lie in history. The Pakistan Muslim League, the parent of its present two versions, is the descendant of the All India Muslim League (AIML). Formed in 1906 to promote loyalty to the British Crown while advancing Muslim interests, the AIML was led by Muslim grandees and feudal lords. It was not until 1940 that it demanded partition of the Indian sub-continent, with Muslim majority areas constituting independent states. Unlike the anti-imperialist Indian National Congress, it lacked an economic programme favouring small and landless peasants, and trade unions for industrial workers.

Given the traditional peasants' servitude to landowners, and almost universal illiteracy in rural Pakistan, where most people lived, electoral politics became the privilege of large landlords, who controlled vote banks. During elections their choice of a party depended on self-interest: which one will supply or raise government-subsidised irrigation water and/or fertiliser; or build roads to the villages they owned.

This continues. A recent report in the Observer from Old Jatoi (population, 3,000) in Sindh is illustrative. While the peasants working for the local grandee, Mustafa Jatoi, live in shacks, his spacious house is surrounded by green lawns and high white walls, with its driveway chocked with Toyota SUVs and Suzuki Mehrans, now deployed to transport him to drummed-up rallies.

His electoral rival, Arif Jatoi, too has similar assets. But he takes time off to fly to Islamabad to seek extra development funds for his area from the prime minister, allied with the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League-Q.

In the more populous Punjab province, the Lahore-based Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, a PML-Q candidate, charters a helicopter to campaign in his rural constituency, promising to bring a gas pipeline to the villages. The family's fortunes have come from textile factories. Likewise, Nawaz Sharif and his brother, the leaders of the opposition PML-N, have amassed millions from their industrial assets.

It would be naïve to expect such super-affluent Pakistanis to advance the interests of landless peasants or poorly paid factory workers.

The near-monopoly of power by the Pakistan Muslim League was broken in 1967 when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, father of Benazir, established the Pakistan People's Party. He coined a catchy, all-embracing slogan: "Islam is our faith, democracy our polity, socialism our economy; and all power to the people." It won him the sobriquet of "a socialist demagogue".

While advocating socialist economy, he never uttered the term "land reform". He could not. He possessed 12,000 acres of rice-growing land. He behaved as haughtily as any other feudal lord. So too did his daughter, Benazir. The corruption and the affluence of her and her polo-playing husband, Asif Zardari, are widely known.

Just as with the Jatois elsewhere in Sindh, any electoral rivalry is between competing estate owners. In the Bhutto-Zardari case, it is Benazir's cousin, Mumtaz. Owner of 15,000 acres of arable land worth £12 million, he earns an annual tax-free income of £345,000 in a country with per capita income of £350 a year.

In a recent interview, Mr. Bhutto waxed eloquent about his last summer holiday at Hotel Splendido in Portofino on Italy's Amalfi coast while his peasants suffered the humid heat needed for rice to grow. It was a break from his normal summer forays to apartments in London's posh Mayfair or Knightsbridge.

The glaring scandal of the present election campaign is the total absence of the long-overdue debate about land reform, where the state takes over the land above the legal ceiling and distributes it among landless peasants.

Riaz Haq said...

President Asif Zardari's total assets are estimated at $1.5 billion, according to a NAB filing with Pakistan Supreme Court, reports the News:

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on Tuesday submitted in the Supreme Court the list of the NRO beneficiaries, which showed President Asif Ali Zardari possessing assets worth $1.5 billion (Rs 120 billion) abroad and worth Rs 24.14 billion in the country.

Deputy Prosecutor General Abdul Baseer Qureshi presented the list of 248 NRO beneficiaries before the full court, hearing the petitions challenging the infamous ordinance, promulgated in 2007 giving legal cover to the corruption of politicians and bureaucrats

A 17-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, had directed the NAB the other day to submit authentic details of the NRO beneficiaries. According to the list, there are at least seven abolished references against President Zardari. The list indicates that the assets of President Asif Ali Zardari in foreign countries stand at $1.5 billion, including houses and bank accounts in Spain, France, the US and Britain while his assets in the country stand at Rs 24.14 billion.

In the list, President Zardari’s assets worth Rs 22 billion were mentioned as beyond means and the cases in this regard were withdrawn by the Accountability Court on March 5, 2008, under the controversial NRO.

Similarly, cases of corruption of Rs 268.3 million regarding the purchase of Ursus Tractors (Awami Scheme) and illegal construction of the polo ground at the PM House at the cost of Rs 52.297 million were terminated under the NRO in March 2008.Likewise, the list also includes allegedly causing loss of Rs 1.822 billion to the national exchequer by President Zardari by granting licence to the ARY Gold. The said case was also terminated under the NRO ordinance.

The NAB deputy prosecutor general told the court that information regarding the misuse of authority in affairs of SGS PSI Company by Asif Ali Zardari as well as illegal award of contract to Cotecna for pre-shipment was being collected.

The NAB list included names of Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Pakistan’s Ambassador to United States Hussain Haqqani, Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, former NWFP chief minister Aftab Sherpao Khan, ex MNAs Nawab Yousaf Talpur, Anwar Saifullah Khan, Sardar Mansoor Leghari, Haji Nawaz Khokhar, Pir Mukarramul Haq, Brig (retd) Imtiaz, Usman Farooqi, Salman Farooqi, former president Habib Bank Younus Dalmia, Mirbaz Khetran and many others.

He submitted that the National Assembly’s standing committee approved the NRO, however, the concerned minister took it back from the assembly. During the proceedings, advocates general of the Punjab, the NWFP and Balochistan informed the court that under Section 2-A of NRO, no review boards were constituted in their respective provinces to decide the murder cases.

Advocate General Sindh Yousaf Leghari, however, informed the court that 8,000 cases were dropped under the NRO in Sindh, of which 3,000 were murder cases. He sought time to provide details of the cases decided under Section 2-A of the NRO in Sindh. The court directed the AG Sindh to submit report before the court today (Wednesday).

Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, counsel for Dr Mubashar Hassan, submitted the ordinance as whole was void because it was a fraud ordinance as it violated many substantial provisions of the Constitution.

He submitted that reconciliation meant reconciliation between husband and wife, between parents but this National Reconciliation Ordinance had trampled the rights of the entire nation. Pirzada contended that all stakeholders were not taken into confidence before its promulgation. “The nation is threatened with fragmentation,” Pirzada maintained.

Riaz Haq said...

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has declared NRO null and void ab initio, according to Dawn News:

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has declared the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) null and void in a short order.

In a landmark decision, the apex court unanimously decided that the ordinance was unconstitutional.

All old cases that had been dismissed under the NRO stand revived and can now be reopened as per the court orders.

The court said that all orders that were passed and all acquittals under the NRO were illegal and never existed.

The apex court in its order also said that all convictions that were held prior to the enactment of the NRO stand revived as well.

Now the Zardari camp is expected to argue that, under the constitution of Pakistan, President Zardari is immune from prosecution as long as he is in office.

Riaz Haq said...

The corruption of Pakistani politicians is exceeded only by their incompetence. With economy in virtual recession, the FDI is dropping as reported by The News:

Thursday, December 17, 2009
KARACHI: Net foreign investment in Pakistan fell 25.6 per cent to $1.08 billion in the first five months of the 2009/10 fiscal year compared with $1.45 billion in the same period a year earlier, the central bank said on Wednesday.

Out of total foreign investment, foreign direct investment fell 52.2 per cent to $774.0 million in the first five months of the fiscal year which began on July 1 from $1.62 billion for the same months last year, the State Bank of Pakistan said.

But foreign portfolio investment flows reversed, with a $311.3 million inflow in the July to November period compared with an outflow of $162.9 million in the same period last year.

Authorities imposed a floor on the Karachi Stock Exchange benchmark index in August last year as political uncertainty and economic and security worries drained investor confidence.

The floor discouraged new investment and also led to a sharp outflow of funds, as foreign investors sold holdings in off-market trade.

The floor was removed in December. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) saved Pakistan from a balance of payments crisis with a $7.6 billion emergency loan package in November last year. The loan was increased to $11.3 billion on July 31.

Pakistan’s economy is in virtual recession as gross domestic product growth in the 2008/09 fiscal year of 2 per cent is about the same as population growth. The IMF has projected GDP growth flat at 2 per cent this fiscal year.

Security concerns over a Taliban insurgency based in the country’s northwest and chronic power shortages have also put off investors.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a World Bank assessment that corruption retards investment in Pakistan:

ISLAMABAD: The World Bank finds corruption a serious and growing obstacle to the investment climate in Pakistan besides expressing dissatisfaction over the issue of governance in the country.

In its 128-page draft report on Pakistan’s Investment Climate dated March 16, 2009, the WB said that corruption is largely associated with business-government interface and reveals that the menace is more widespread here as compared to other countries though the bribe rates here are lower. Referring to a survey conducted for the formulation of the draft report, the Bank says that results show that perceptions about corruption in Pakistan are based on actual experiences with paying bribes by the investing firms. It reveals that the firms making investment in Pakistan have to pay bribes even to get water, telephone and electricity connections.

In view of WB clarification to The News Wednesday’s report on power sector and its observation that this correspondent has drawn inferences from the Bank’s draft report, select portions of the report pertaining to governance and corruption are being reproduced to end any confusion being deliberately created about the findings of WB in its draft report.

On the issue of government, the report in its page 64 and para 135, said, “Consistent interpretation and application of rules and regulations is an important reflection of good governance. Discretion or lack of predictability and consistency in the interpretation of rules and regulations (by government officials) is indeed a severe problem in Pakistan. Only 46 per cent of firms in Pakistan believe that the officials interpret rules consistently, compared with 60 per cent in comparator countries.”

On the issue of corruption, the report’s para 136 states, “Corruption, a serious and growing obstacle to the investment climate, is largely associated with business-government interface. Corruption is considered a severe constraint by more than half of all the firms (57 per cent) in Pakistan, significantly higher than the 40 per cent figure from 2002 and much higher than those of the comparator countries, with the exception of Brazil and Bangladesh. It is common for firms in Pakistan to pay informal payments to government officials to get things done. In 2006, three out of every four firms strongly agreed or tended to agree with the preceding statement.”

Para 137 of the report says, “Results show that perception about corruption in Pakistan are based on actual experiences with paying bribes. In other words, the probability that a firm reported corruption as a serious obstacle rises by 29-percentage point (against 57 per cent in the full sample) if the firm experienced at least one incident of bribe. As with perceptions of corruption, bribe incidence in Pakistan has increased 20 per cent over time-from 40 per cent in 2002 to 48 per cent in 2007.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an OpEd by Prof Radhakrishnan on recent scandals in Andhra Pradesh:

SPS Rathore, a top police officer as sexual tormentor and killer of a young student; ND Tiwari, Governor of Andhra Pradesh who was caught on the camera in his sleazy sexual exploits, and forced to resign on 'Moral Grounds' - as the Congress party would have it, and Dinakaran, Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court, involved in another scandal, but continues to be fortified, using among other things, the anti-Dalit bogey of Udit Raj, will continue to haunt Indian democracy and its psyche for a long time.

The sexual perversity of SPS Rathore, former police officer convicted of molesting Ruchika Girhotra after nearly two decades of the inhuman event, which caused her suicide and snuffed out a young life of playful innocence must have shaken all people of any conscience. It has raised more questions about the credibility and integrity of our law and order system and of men occupying responsible positions in India's governance's structures.

While, the debate on the issue anchored by Barkha Dutt on the NDTV channel was moving, serious and comprehensive, what of next, and how do we protect our more vulnerable children from the poacher-turned game-keepers, are serious questions which have no answers yet.

Though different yet related are the sexual exploits of Andhra Pradesh Governor, ND Tiwari [in Congress-Gandhi cap?], which going by reports have been going on for several years. That raises larger questions about what goes on in the Raj Bhavans, whether they are dens of sleaze, and the relevance of gubernatorial positions in the country. Should a democracy where about half the population are illiterate, homeless, and struggling to eke out a living, be allowed to waste its scarce resources on them who seem to make no positive contribution to the nation calls for a fresh look at our Constitutional provisions.

The claim of the Congress party that Tiwari resigned on "moral grounds" is a national joke! He resigned on "immoral grounds" as a person of depravity and debasement. One is not sure if he was caught on the camera with his Pyjamas and depressing things down and in what sort of perverted acts. The nation has a right to know what went on in the Raj Bhavan and the media should show it to the viewers so that they will know what kind of debased democracy we are living in. Tiwari should also be prosecuted for misusing his power and position and should return all the perks he enjoyed as Governor to the national exchequer.

The electronic media will do well to expose his exploits, contempt of court or not, which again is a fig-leaf and big national joke.

Though not related to sex as yet, Justice Dinakaran's scandal of corruption is also deeply immoral and anti-social. When hapless persons are picked up in thousands and harassed by the police and the judiciary on flimsy grounds, it is a national shame that this person continues to be fortified. Impeachment is no answer, as it has never worked and is not likely to work in India. He should be treated like any other criminal and prosecuted. That the scandal against him is "anti-Dalit" is a bogey. He crossed the Dalit Rubicon several years ago, and cannot be treated as a Dalit, in any sense of the term. In this context one might also probe who is funding Udit Raj, a self-proclaimed Dalit upstart.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn editorial about wasted aid in Pakistan:

AND we wonder why our friends abroad are so hesitant to help Pakistan in its time of need. USAID’s inspector general recently posted audits of two Washington-funded programmes collectively worth $145m that apparently yielded little or no results. One sought to improve governance in Fata while the other was aimed at reforms in the education sector. In both cases, the auditor found that the money was funnelled into an administrative void where the programme’s existence on paper was more important than its implementation. Computers purchased remain boxed to this day and laptops have gone missing. The Obama administration’s shift in strategy, which envisages a more prominent role for NGOs rather than government organisations in the disbursement of aid, has only added to the confusion. Instead of fast-tracked implementation, what we have seen is statis. Hundreds of thousands of administrative dollars have gone into pondering over which NGOs and charities should be chosen, often without any tangible result. ‘Let’s meet again in Islamabad or Karachi, flying in delegates and putting them up in five-star hotels, to talk some more. Surely we’ll find a way to spend this money before July 30’ is the refrain.

It is understandable that the US and other foreign donors want to bypass a government accused of corruption and inefficiency. Pakistan’s bureaucracy is a quagmire where even the most mundane of tasks are either lost in a log-jam that has been decades in the making or are ignored until palms are greased in keeping with the ‘stature’ of the beneficiary. But here’s the rub. A few reputable organisations aside, Pakistan’s NGOs have perfected the art of racketeering. A new grant usually means more four-wheel drives for the head honchos whose output is largely limited to paper — to raising ‘awareness’ as opposed to working in the field. Funds received have to be spent within a given framework, even if the final product is redundant. Hundreds of thousands of rupees are paid to inept ‘consultants’.

Given this mess in both the public and private sectors, what is the way forward for foreign donors? One, demanding transparency in all interactions with the Pakistani government. Every dollar must be accounted for — possibly in bi-annual audits — and work on the ground must take precedence over publications or administrative costs. Two, being selective in the choice of NGOs, giving particular emphasis to their ethical mores and capacity to deliver. It’s not impossible.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's more from the BBC about power theft at Nawaz Sarif's Lahore rally and the low-level official being made the fall guy:

A low-ranking Pakistani official has been punished for stealing electricity to provide power for lights used at an opposition night rally.

An inquiry by the Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco) blamed the theft on a junior municipal officer.

The unnamed official has been fined 3,000 rupees ($35) for ordering illegal connections for powerful searchlights.

The discovery that power was being stolen came as opposition leader Nawaz Sharif was denouncing corruption.

Lesco says it has also suspended a low-ranking official for failing in his duty to ensure that power supplies to the rally were not illegal.

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says critics are bound to see the inquiry as a whitewash because the officials involved have been made into scapegoats.

Our correspondent says that electricity theft and other forms of corruption plague Pakistan but it is generally only poorer or less influential people who are arrested for it.

Live wires

Mr Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party governs Punjab province, whose capital is Lahore, and was widely accused of siphoning off power to provide lighting for the rally.

Television footage showed that metal hooks had been illegally connected to live wires to secure the electricity supply.

The PML-N denied wrongdoing, saying the power supply had been arranged by Lahore administration officials to ensure security at the rally. Mr Sharif denied being personally responsible for the theft.

The allegations were embarrassing for the former prime minister, who indirectly denounced President Asif Zardari in his speech for making illegal money and stashing it away in foreign bank accounts.

Both men have denied persistent accusations of corruption over the years.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an opinion from Forbes India special about India's next ten years:

There was considerable hoopla when the Indian economy crossed the trillion dollar mark for the first time three years ago. Over the next 10 to 15 years, it is now almost inevitable that our economy will touch $3 trillion. Last week, I had an interesting chat with K.V. Kamath, ICICI Bank’s non-executive chairman, about the implications of such phenomenal growth. Perhaps with the exception of China, nowhere in the world has one seen such a large mass of people go through a period of unprecedented growth. Even though China’s march began in 1978, the real boom in that economy started in 2000 and lasted for more than 10 years. During this period, per capita incomes have trebled there.

On the other hand, India began its charge in 1991. And by 2025, per capita incomes are likely to move up three fold from the current base of about $1,000. Yet Kamath raised a significant question: How much do we really know what happens to a society that goes through such rapid change? China could have offered some clues, but no one is sure whether this transformation has been credibly recorded there. Now, when India steps up for her moment in history, it’ll perhaps offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for researchers and media to chronicle this massive surge.

Set against the backdrop of last week’s Union Budget, that’s exactly what this special edition attempts to do. Associate Editor Dinesh Narayanan and Principal Correspondent Udit Misra lay out the big challenges facing the country over the next decade. Their essay picks up clues from the Budget speech and then focusses our attention on four hot-button issues that will keep our policy-makers awake at night.

We then pick up the four big bets that this government has made — education, homeland security, climate change and roads — and look at how each minister in charge is using a new approach to drive his agenda.

Finally, the concept of inclusive growth suggests that the benefits of development must touch all our states in ample measure. Yet in states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the human development indices are almost as bad as that of African countries. So why can’t we learn to replicate the success in one state in another? We’ve picked out two important stories of transformation that offer critical lessons. Associate Editor Malini Goyal’s family quit Bihar more than a decade ago. Quietly but surely, under Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Bihar has undergone a huge upheaval for the past four years. Malini returns to her home state to discover why good governance can make a difference even in a seemingly hopeless situation. Make sure you read her personal account on page 68.

The agricultural crisis has tormented the minds of policymakers and farmers alike. Some weeks ago, we found the answers in unexpected quarters: The state of Gujarat. In the last few years, Gujarat’s agrarian sector has grown at three times the national average. Consulting Editor R.N. Bhaskar travels to the hotspot to bring you an amazing story of agricultural revival. It underscores my belief that we don’t need new solutions. All we need is political will and foresight.

Riaz Haq said...

Here is a Christian Science Monitor report about politicians' corruption and violence in India:

New Delhi, India

When Ajay Kumar asked New Delhi authorities last fall why a local politician had authorized the construction of private houses and shops on public land, he didn’t imagine the question would land him in the hospital.

The activist had inquired using India’s 2005 Right to Information (RTI) Act, which allows any citizen to ask for information from any level of government, from village leaders to the office of the prime minister. It presents a cultural sea change in India, where for more than 60 years state bureaucrats have acted more like colonial masters than servants of the people.

Mr. Kumar was stonewalled by the public information officer at the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, so he followed procedure and appealed to a higher-level public information office in the MCD. When he still heard nothing back, he went to the federal authorities, the Central Information Commission, which directed the MCD together with the police to jointly inspect the property.

But when Kumar arrived on site in January, he was attacked by a mob of two dozen that backed the local politician.

“Neither the police nor the people helped me,” says Kumar, who was beaten in the head repeatedly by an iron rod, leaving him unconscious and bleeding profusely. Kumar is now pursuing the matter in court.

Despite the attack, Kumar says, “RTI is the only tool that can bring an end to a corruption in India. Previously there was no point in asking [for information] because the applications were not replied to. At least now, since 2005, these public authorities are in some way compelled to answer queries of the public. It is a starting point.”

Kumar is optimistic that he will one day see justice, but critics say attacks like these are becoming increasingly common. In the past two months two respected information activists have been killed, and reports are emerging of many others who are threatened, bullied, and intimidated to silence their inquiries into government misconduct.
Attacks will likely increase

The RTI Act is among the most robust for information seekers around the world, and its strength is becoming clear in the backlash against people seeking to expose corruption.

"What has happened with the RTI Act is that it is threatening people in power,” says Colin Gonzalves, a Supreme Court lawyer and director of the New Delhi-based Human Rights Law Network. “We cannot underestimate how hostile the administration is to the implementation to this Act – not just the politicians but also the judiciary. RTI empowers people to say that the administration is the servant of the people that you are answerable to us. The physical attacks on the people I think are going to increase over the years."

In rural areas, the act is often utilized to uncover scams involving federal- and state-funded initiatives to provide employment, housing, food, and other services to the poorest segments of society. “You ask for a list of beneficiaries," says prominent New Delhi-based RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal. "Then you check that list and find out that many peope are dead and the list is bogus.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here is a Times of India report on how India's ruling Congress party politicians have been enriching themselves:

NEW DELHI: Being in power pays. Congress's declared assets of Rs 340 crore for 2007-08, with an opening balance of Rs 271 crore, puts the party way ahead of rival BJP and regional powerhouses like Samajwadi Party, BSP and CPM. Even for the assessed year, BJP lagged Congress by more than Rs 100 crore.

According to income tax returns of political parties for the assessment year 2008-09 - for which an expenditure-income account
of 2007-08 is considered - Congress spent more than Rs 110 crore on elections, meetings and publicity. Its expenses under just these three heads are more than the total income generated by smaller parties. CPM showed Rs 69 crore as income while BSP and SP showed Rs 79 crore and Rs 22 crore. BJP's earnings at Rs 120 crore were only slightly higher.

Clearly, being in power since 2004 has seen the Congress coffers swell. Its total assets were valued at Rs 65 crore in 2002, rose to Rs 136 crore in 2004, to Rs 229 crore in 2006, Rs 271 crore in 2007 and touched Rs 340 crore in 2008. Also, while Congress made nearly Rs 200 crore just from sale of coupons and donations in 2007-08, BJP earned Rs 120 crore from donations and membership fees.

The figures shown by parties are believed to be a fraction of actual expenses, but serve to reflect a trend. IIM-Ahmedabad alumnus and national coordinator of Association of Democratic Reforms Anil Bairwal said there was a huge gap between bottomlines of parties and expenditure incurred during polls.

Congress's income swelled to nearly Rs 500 crore, taking into account its Rs 270 crore opening balance. BJP's opening balance was Rs 104 crore, BSP's was Rs 68 crore, SP's Rs 140 crore and CPM, Rs 102 crore. It is clear Congress's income appreciated most sharply. BJP's balancesheet for this year read Rs 177 crore, for CPM, it was Rs 156 crore, SP Rs 144 crore and BSP Rs 118 crore.

The SP's lead over rival BSP may be attributed that it was still in power in UP, a situation that changed during the course of the year. With I-T returns reflecting the electoral fortunes of parties, the assessments may change if SP remains out of power for longer. CPM's relatively sound finances may be based on its wins in Kerala and West Bengal in 2007. BJP's assets in 2004 were worth Rs 155 crore while Congress's were Rs 136 crore but the situation changed dramatically after NDA was ousted.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report from The News about Pakistani politicians assets:

The PPP leadership has also added millions upon millions in just one year and they also have to explain it either to the tax authorities, the FBR, the NAB or even the Public Accounts Committee, if these organisations have to disprove that they are not just impotent forums.

For instance, Prime Minister Gilani claims that he bought a house by selling his property but his wife, under a plea bargain, paid off Rs 570 million loan by giving Rs 45 million. Where did that huge chunk come from is not explained.

The few politicians who have almost doubled or quadrupled their declared assets in just one year have to do a lot of explaining. These include PPP Minister Aijaz Jakhrani (Rs 15.6m to Rs 61m), Syed Khurshid Shah (Rs 24.6m to Rs 51.6m), Manzoor Wattoo (Rs 74m to Rs 156m) and Hazar Khan Bijarani (Rs 34.4 to Rs 40.7m).

Assets have grown by leaps and bounds in some other cases. For instance, Farahnaz Ispahani has added US$466,000 (a cool Rs 4 crores) to her income, some of which was used to pay off mortgage ($300,000) or invested in stocks ($60,000); MQM’s Dr AQ Khanzada has shown an increase from Rs 6.2 million in 2008 to Rs 17.7 million in 2009 or more than a crore; Khushbakht Shujaat owned property worth Rs 6 million last year which has grown to Rs 18 million in a year while her loan has come down from Rs 14 million to Rs 9 million, or a net gain of Rs 17 million; MNA Faryal Talpur’s income jumped by Rs 23 million while sister Azra also added Rs 11 million.

Likewise, Babar Ghauri of MQM has a declared worth of just under Rs 200 million. We all know how he started in the KPT before joining the MQM but will he or his party explain whether he was such a rich man before he joined the party and how he has amassed this much wealth and property and whether he has paid the due taxes. His declarations do not mention any private business, so how is his wealth snowballing.

In comparison, a known businessman of the Sharif family, Hamza Shahbaz Sharif, has declared his net assets as Rs 211 million and he gives all the liabilities and loans that he owes plus his assets. Whether Hamza Sharif can justify his assets before the tax and accountability authorities is another matter but he is ahead of Babar Ghauri by a few million only.

Another curious admission has come from Water and Power Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, who is under fire for the rental power plants. He says he has to receive Rs 8 million from his brother, why and for what has not been explained. Astonishingly, the famous Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the JUI, known better for his petrol and diesel links, only has a worth of Rs 3.5 million.

All these random examples prove that the declarations of assets are a total fraud and a farce unless it is backed up by credible and serious efforts to counter check the claims and pin down the culprits.

For instance, these assets are not supposed to reflect the ill-gotten wealth by anyone. But if people of modest means, at least a few years ago, are now confident enough to claim that they own millions, it is but obvious that they have not declared their full worth. So if someone has Rs 20 crore to declare, how many more would he or she be hiding in local, Benami (fake names) or foreign accounts.

The process of declaring assets is absolutely essential, no matter how deceptive the claims are. This process needs to be extended to all sections of the society; the judges, generals, journalists (I am ready to file at any time), lawyers, businessmen, Ulema, bureaucrats and even non-elected politicians.

But more important is the need to set up a national structure where these claims are scrutinised. Either the tax authorities could do the job or the proposed independent and autonomous NAB should automatically take this responsibility. If these institutions are not trustworthy, let the Supreme Court name one judge to carry out this annual exercise.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Newsweek calling for overhaul of India's judicial system after the ludicrous Bhopal verdict:

More than 25 years after a pesticide plant in the central Indian city of Bhopal spewed a toxic cloud that killed as many as 25,000 people, an Indian court last week finally sentenced seven former executives involved in the disaster. They’ll receive two years in prison (pending appeal) and pay fines equivalent to $2,100—the maximum punishment allowed under current law, but one considered so lenient that many in India are demanding far tougher corporate liability laws.

But what India really needs is an overhaul of its judicial system. The Bhopal case is hardly unique in its length: the country’s trial courts have a backlog of close to 30 million cases, and Delhi alone has more than 600 pending civil cases and 17 criminal ones dating back 20 years or more. The Delhi court’s chief judge estimates that it would take 466 years to work through the backlog. A major reason for the pileup is that there are simply too few people on the bench: India has only 11 judges per million citizens (America has 110 per million). India likes to call itself a nation of laws. But as the Bhopal verdicts prove, having laws is one thing—delivering justice is quite another.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a commentary by Jawed Naqvi of Dawn on corruption in Indian democracy:

The rot in the legislature was again on display recently when opposition MPs offloaded bundles of currency notes in the Lok Sabha, alleging that the money had come from Dr Singh’s party to enable him to win a vote on his nuclear tie-ups with the United States. His Left Front allies tried to block the vote and so they were eased out in the second UPA government.If the lure of lucre could corrupt ordinary MPs we can only imagine the devastating consequences it would have for the executive. There was a time when Indian ministers were cited as examples of probity. With committed activist-politicians like Feroze Gandhi keeping vigil, scams were unearthed promptly and punishments meted out instantly. Nehru’s cabinet minister Rao Shiv Bahadur Singh was jailed as early as in 1949 for accepting a mere 25,000 rupees for forging a mining document.

In 1958, Finance Minister T. T. Krishnamachari resigned for helping place state-owned insurance funds with a private banker. The businessman, Haridas Mundra, was jailed. Other tycoons were punished with regularity those days. In 1959, Ramakrishna Dalmia, head of Bharat Insurance Company, was jailed for two years for misappropriating 22 million rupees from the company. Businessman Dharam Teja siphoned 220 million rupees for a spurious shipping company. He was arrested in Europe and jailed for six years. The father of the current chief minister of Orissa was forced to resign for favouring his own company in awarding a government contract. That was the system which today is denounced variously as populist, socialist and inefficient.

Today the honest Dr Singh can’t get rid of a telecommunications minister who is widely accused of large-scale corruption, because if he did his government would fall. From Harshad Mehta to Satyam, the journey of Indian financial sandals has dotted the reforms agenda. The defence deals scandal of the Vajpayee government is not entirely unconnected to the lure of lucre. A former socialist, the then defence minister had to resign though all too briefly. He signalled a new brazenness in blunting public outcry by shooting the messenger. Tehelka.com was shut down for exposing the defence deals and its journalists hounded by various agencies.

However, the free-market genie was to get even with the prying eyes of the media. It simply co-opted the main players. Thus we recently saw the income tax department naming two of India’s most popular TV anchors — a man and a woman — for involvement as lobbyists for a tainted minister. That rules governing conflict of interest were bent to allow newly set up as well as older media houses to perform their sleight of hand is by now axiomatic. One day the hub of India’s free-market architecture — the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) — realised that its business was getting mired by spurious reporting.

Riaz Haq said...

The bumper sticker of the century reads as follows:

"Be nice to America Or we'll bring democracy to your country!"

After seeing failure of democracy in delivering basic services, security and human development in India, Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a growing suspicion among the poor that America's push to get democracy installed in third world countries ( knowing full well that it will fail) is a ploy to keep them in chaos and from making any kind of progress.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Incompetence Worse Than Corruption in Pakistan

Pakistan's Decade of 1999-2009 in Review

ASEAN Architect Suharto Passes On

NRO and Corrupt Democracies in South Asia

Malaysia National Front Suffers Setback

Musharaf's Economic Legacy

Pakistan's Corruption Indexes

Return to Bad Old Days in Pakistan

Shaukat Aziz's Economic Legacy

Daily Carnage in Pakistan

Riaz Haq said...

I think Indian corruption is grossly under-reported. If India weren't so highly corrupt, the Indians wouldn't be poorer than the poorest of the poor sub-Saharan Africans as reported by Oxford researchers multi-dimensional poverty index report.

India's TI reports only a fraction of the massive corruption among Indian politicians, bureaucrats and judges who are no better than their counterparts in Pakistan.

Last year, Indian Ambassador Mera Shankar wrote a letter to Delhi complaining that no action had been taken by Delhi against a number of corrupt Indian officials whose names were disclosed in guilty pleas by US companies convicted under Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by US courts.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report of French Defense Minister confirming bribes paid to Pakistani officials on a submarine deal in the 1990s during the PPP regime:

Former French defense minister has confirmed bribes on arms deals with Pakistan, the cancellation of which prompted the deadly Karachi bombing in 2002.

Charles Millon, on Wednesday, told a hearing tasked with probing into the killing of French engineers that he was sure there were kickbacks on ammunition contracts with Pakistan.

“For the Pakistani contract, looking at the secret service reports and analyses carried out by the (defense) ministry services, one has the absolute conviction that there were kickbacks,” AFP quoted Millon.

Former President Jacques Chirac had tasked him with ending bribes on arms contracts shortly after coming to power in 1995.

However, bribing between officials and corporations in France continued until an incident involving arms deals eight years ago allegedly resulted in a deadly bombing in Pakistan.

The bomb attack took place in Karachi, in May 2002, in which 15 people died, including 11 French engineers and technicians from the Directorate of Naval Construction, working in the construction of submarines.

Since 2008, French persecutors are examining charges that the cancelling of commissions for one of the arms deals prompted the attack.

Riaz Haq said...

India's corporate mafia is fuelling corruption, says Prashant Bhushan, according to newKerala.com:

"The corporate mafia has come to control every institution of power and governance, be it politicians, bureaucracy, police and, to an extent, judiciary also," Bhushan told IANS in an exclusive interview.

"The corporate houses have become monstrously large and a law unto themselves. They get the law and policies made and decision taken including judicial decisions," he said, adding "very often they decide what the media will report or not report".

Bhushan, the son of eminent jurist and former law minister Shanti Bhushan, said any fight against corruption and for redeeming democratic institutions had to commence with transparency.

"The situation today is much worse than what it was in the early 1970s. At that time we did not have the corporate mafia controlling all the institutions. That was a situation when a powerful prime minister temporarily choked off democracy. Today, this corporate mafia is accountable and more dangerous," Bhushan asserted.

"This system is so bad. There is no point in preserving the illusion of functional democracy when it is clear that most institutions of democracy have crumbled or are non-functional. We need to restore proper democracy in the country and not preserve an illusion of democracy."

The lawyer said the only prescription for rescuing Indian governance from "corporate mafia" was "transparency" and people's right to know about the functioning of the state apparatus.

"Unless we wake up and start engaging in public issues and affairs, we are heading towards disaster," said Bhushan, who is facing contempt of court proceedings for highlighting the alleged misconduct of an apex court judge.

It was Bhushan who convinced the Supreme Court to monitor the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the allocation of 2G airwaves to telecom companies. He also spoke on his fight against corruption and allegations against Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) P.J. Thomas.

He said India was in a "very serious situation" and the "biggest threat was corruption that had spread in every vital sphere of the state's functioning".

The crumbling democratic institutions could be "repaired and restored" provided there was a "very strong people's movement in the country that would bring pressure on the institutions".

"Though the judiciary can play a useful role in that process", in the final count it needed the backing of a strong people's movement, he said.
"I think all problems have to be dealt with simultaneously. You cannot shut your eye to a problem in one institution in order to highlight it in another institution. This is a shortsighted policy which does not pay in the long run," he said.

Advocating an independent media, he said that the media should not be controlled by corporate houses or those who have a direct or indirect interest in other business.




Riaz Haq said...

Cash for votes is a common feature of democracies in South Asia and other developing nations. Latest publication of Wikileaks by The Hindu reveals vote buying by India's ruling party in a 2008 confidence vote:

The ghost of bribes for MPs’ votes returned to haunt the government on Thursday with the entire Opposition demanding its resignation over allegations that UPA-I purchased the support of lawmakers to survive the trial of strength at the height of crisis over Indo-U.S. nuclear deal in 2008.

On top of several scams that had surfaced in the last few months, the government faced a torrid time in Parliament on Thursday with Opposition targeting it on the manner in which it won the vote of confidence in 2008 after the Left parties had withdrawn support to it opposing the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal.

Both the Houses of Parliament were repeatedly rocked by uproar and adjournments by the Opposition members who demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his government saying it did not have any right to continue even for a moment as it was surviving on “political and moral sin“.

The Right and and the Left combined in Parliament whenever it met during the day to launch an assault armed with the claim in a U.S. diplomatic cable revealed by WikiLeaks that an aide of former Union Minister Satish Sharma had shown to the diplomat currency chests that were part of Rs.50 crore to Rs.60 crore money collected by Congress for purchase MPs for the vote in the Lok Sabha.

The only defence that the government came out with was when Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told Parliament that a diplomat’s cable enjoyed immunity and he could not confirm or deny its contents.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's another glimpse of vote-buying Indian democracy:

New Delhi: The head of whistleblower website WikiLeaks Monday accused Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of deliberately misleading the public by claiming that leaked US diplomatic cables allegedly pointing to payoffs to MPs during a 2008 parliamentary trust vote were not authentic."The comments I have been hearing from Prime Minister Singh these, to me, seem to be a deliberate attempt to mislead the public by suggesting that governments around the world do not accept the material," Wikileaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange told to a news channel in an interview.

As per the WikiLeaks cables published in The Hindu, a US diplomat was told that Rs.50-60 crore was kept aside by the Congress party to get some opposition members of the Lok Sabha on board before the trust vote in July 2008 during the first tenure of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

The prime minister said in parliament that the government could not "confirm the veracity, contents or even the existence of such communications", and added that many persons mentioned in the cables have "stoutly denied the veracity of the contents".

Assange asserted that there "is no doubt, whatsoever, that the cables are authentic", which was the reason why the US government has been very upset over the leak of the diplomatic cables.

He said that there was "no doubt that these are bonafide reports sent by the American ambassador (in India) back to Washington and these should be seen in that context".

That does not mean every fact in them are correct, you have to look at their sources and how they have this information," added Assange.

He said that the defence argument was "actually the behaviour of guilty men".

"A man who is innocent doesn't tend to behave like that. That doesn't mean people making those statements, like Prime Minister Singh and so on, are guilty of this particular crime. It suggests something that how Indian parliamentarianss and politicians respond to very serious allegations. They respond through indirection and attempting to cover up the issue for the public rather than address it fully and frankly," Assange asserted.

He felt that if the cable on bribery was incorrect, the US envoy in India "has a lot to answer" for sending cables to Washington "about senior politicians and the behaviour of Indian parliaments, which is cast in very negative light".

"Either he has committed a grave error that would damage Indian and American relations and should resign on that matter; or the report was correct and he was reporting correctly and he had checked his fact before reporting back to Washington," Assange said.

He suspected that the "most serious issue in the cable, I suspect, is yet to be revealed". "There is quite a bit of time to go through the material: the material from Pakistan, China. It is likely to be of interest to the Indian population," he said.

There are about 6,000 cables from the US embassy in India.

"What we are looking at more carefully are the cables from Pakistan and those are something that are yet to be published. We are working to have those published," he said.

Riaz Haq said...

India's democracy is facing serious challenges, argues Soutik Biswas of the BBC:

Nearly a third of MPs - 158 of 524, to be precise - in the parliament face criminal charges. Seventy-four of them face serious charges such as murder and abduction. There are more than 500 criminal cases against these lawmakers.

These MPs hail from across the political spectrum.

Twelve of the 205 MPs or 5% of the lawmakers in the ruling Congress Party face criminal charges. The main opposition BJP fares worse with 19 of 116 - or more than 16% - of its MPs facing charges. More than 60% of the MPs belonging to two key regional parties, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party - who profess to serve the poor and the untouchables - face criminal charges.

Many of these MPs say that false charges have been filed against them.

Then there are allegations of rampant vote-buying by parties, especially in southern India.

The Election Commission seized more than six million rupees ($13.3m; £8.3m) in cash in Tamil Nadu in the run-up to the state elections in April. It believes that the money was kept to buy votes.

In an US embassy cable leaked by WikiLeaks in March, an American official was quoted as saying that one Tamil Nadu party inserted cash and a voting slip instructing which party to vote for in the morning newspapers - more innovative than handing out money directly to voters. The party concerned denies the charge.

Independent election watchdogs believe that candidates routinely under-report or hide campaign expenses. During the 2009 general elections, nearly all of the 6753 candidates officially declared that they had spent between 45 to 55% of their expenses limit.
India's most respected election watchdog Association For Democratic Reforms (ADR) has rolled out a pointed wish-list to clean up India's politics and target corruption. I am sharing some of them:

* Any person against whom charges have been framed by a court of law or offences punishable for two years or more should not be allowed to contest elections. Candidates charged with serious crimes like murder, rape, kidnapping and extortion should be banned from contesting elections. India's politicians have resisted this saying that opponents regularly file false cases against them

* To stop candidates and parties seeking votes on the basis of caste, religion and to stop divisive campaigns, a candidate should be declared a winner only if he or she gets more than 50% plus one vote. When no candidate gets the required number of votes, there should be a run-off between the top two candidates

* Voters should have the option of voting "none of the above"

* A law against use of excessive money in elections by candidates

* Despite the clamour for the state funding of elections, it is still not clear how much elections cost in India. Political parties do not come clean on their revenues and expenses, and until there is a clearer picture of how much they spend, it will be difficult to fix an amount. So political parties should give out verifiable accounts, which should be also available for public scrutiny.

The desire for electoral reform is not new.

Since 1990, there have been at least seven hefty comprehensive government-commissioned reports for such reforms.

The Election Commission of India has been saying since 1998 that candidates with pending criminal cases against them should not be allowed to contest.

If there is an overwhelming consensus about these reforms, why have governments sat on it for more than two decades? Ask the politicians.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts of BBC's Soutik Biswas's review of Pulitzer-winning New Yorker reporter Katherine Boo's "Beautiful Forevers":

"We try so many things," a girl in Annawadi, a slum in Mumbai tells Katherine Boo, "but the world doesn't move in our favour".

Annawadi is a "sumpy plug of slum" in the biggest city - "a place of festering grievance and ambient envy" - of a country which holds a third of the world's poor. It is where the Pulitzer prize winning New Yorker journalist Boo's first book Behind the Beautiful Forevers is located.

Annawadi is where more than 3,000 people have squatted on land belonging to the local airport and live "packed into, or on top of" 335 huts. It is a place "magnificently positioned for a trafficker in rich's people's garbage", where the New India collides with the Old.

Nobody in Annawadi is considered poor by India's official benchmarks. The residents are among the 100 million Indians freed from poverty since 1991, when India embarked on liberalising its economy.
She used more than 3,000 public records, many obtained using India's right to information law, to validate her narrative, written in assured reported speech. The account of the hours leading to the self-immolation of Fatima Sheikh derives from repeated interviews of 168 people as well as police, hospital, morgue and court records. Mindful of the risk of over interpretation, the books wears its enormous research lightly.
The local councillor runs fake schools, doctors at free government hospitals and policemen extort the poor with faint promise of life and justice, and self-help groups operate as loan sharks for the poorest. The young in Annawadi drop dead like flies - run over by traffic, knifed by rival gangs, laid low by disease; while the elders - not much older - die anyway. Girls prefer a certain brand of rat poison to end their lives.
Boo has an interesting take on corruption, rife in societies like India's. Corruption is seen as blocking India's global ambitions. But, she writes, for the "poor of a country where corruption thieved a great deal of opportunity, corruption was one of the genuine opportunities that remained".

On the other hand, Boo believes, corruption stymies our moral universe more than economic possibility. Suffering, she writes, "can sabotage innate capacities for moral action". In a capricious world of corrupt governments and ruthless markets the idea of a mutually supportive community is a myth: it is "blisteringly hard", she writes, to be good in such conditions. "If the house is crooked and crumbling", Boo writes, "and the land on which it sits uneven, is it possible to make anything lie straight?


Riaz Haq said...

Here's ET on management of Punjab development budget under Sharifs:


The Punjab government has spent just Rs70 billion of its Rs250 billion development budget for fiscal 2012-13 in the first seven months of the year, around half of it in Lahore alone, The Express Tribune has learnt.

Under finance rules, the Punjab government should have spent around Rs145 billion on development by the end of January, but had only spent Rs70 billion. Of this, Rs34.19 billion was spent on projects in Lahore, the vast majority of it, Rs31 billion, on the Metro Bus Service.

A senior Finance Department official said it was normal for utilisation of the Annual Development Programme (ADP) to remain low in the first six months of the financial year, and for spending to pick up in the remaining six months. He said that the low utilisation was due to the poor financial position of the province.

Last year, the Punjab government utilised only Rs150 billion of the Rs220 billion ADP presented for 2011-12.

In Lahore in 2012-13, apart from the spending on the Metro Bus Service, the Punjab government has spent Rs1.65 billion on the Kalma Chowk underpasses and Rs540 million on the Model Town underpass. Another Rs1 billion came out of the provincial kitty for the purchase of 100 buses, originally meant to be plied on the MBS corridor, but later given to girls colleges.

Other notable expenses included Rs4 billion for the procurement of 100,000 laptops, which are being handed out to students who perform well in exams. The Energy Department spent Rs2.5 billion on solar lamps, being handed out to 240,000 students under the Ujala programme.

Around Rs1.447 billion has been spent on the Pirwadhai Mor underpass and flyover project.

Another Rs1.25 billion has been spent on the Abdullahpur underpasses in Faisalabad, which involved the construction of three underpasses beneath the Tariqabad bridge leading to Chak Jhumra Road.


Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of Stephen Kinzer's NPR interview on his book about Dulles brothers:

On the Dulles' ability to overthrow regimes in Iran and Guatemala but not in Cuba or Vietnam

They were able to succeed [at regime change] in Iran and Guatemala because those were democratic societies, they were open societies. They had free press; there were all kinds of independent organizations; there were professional groups; there were labor unions; there were student groups; there were religious organizations. When you have an open society, it's very easy for covert operatives to penetrate that society and corrupt it.

Actually, one of the people who happened to be in Guatemala at the time of the coup there was the young Argentine physician Che Guevara. Later on, Che Guevara made his way to Mexico and met Fidel Castro. Castro asked him, "What happened in Guatemala?" He was fascinated; they spent long hours talking about it, and Che Guevara reported to him ... "The CIA was able to succeed because this was an open society." It was at that moment that they decided, "If we take over in Cuba, we can't allow democracy. We have to have a dictatorship. No free press, no independent organizations, because otherwise the CIA will come in and overthrow us." In fact, Castro made a speech after taking power with [Guatemalan President Jacobo] Árbenz sitting right next to him and said, "Cuba will not be like Guatemala."

Now, [Vietnamese Communist leader] Ho Chi Minh was not establishing an open society ... the fact is, he had a dictatorship, he had a closed, tyrannical society, and that made it much more difficult for the CIA to operate. So we find this irony that if [Prime Minister of Iran Mohammad] Mossadegh and Árbenz had been the tyrants that the Dulles brothers portrayed them as being, the Dulles brothers wouldn't have been able to overthrow them. But the fact that they were democrats committed to open society made their countries vulnerable to intervention in ways that Vietnam and particular North Vietnam then were not.

On how things might have been different had the Dulles brothers not intervened

It's quite possible, even likely, had the Dulles brothers not been [in Vietnam] or had acted differently, there never would've been an American involvement in Vietnam at the cost of a million lives and more than 50,000 Americans. Guatemala wouldn't have suffered 200,000 dead over a period of 35 years in the civil war that broke out after they intervened in Guatemala and destroyed democracy there. Iran fell under royal dictatorship and then more than 30 years of fundamentalist religious rule as a result of the Dulles brothers' operations. Had they not intervened in Iran we might've had a thriving democracy in the heart of the Muslim Middle East. ...

So you look around the world and you see these horrific situations that still continue to shake the world, and you can trace so many of them back to the Dulles brothers.


Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan’s #Sharif brothers, #Zardari figure on NAB’s list of 150 ‘high-profile’ #corruption cases. https://shar.es/1qUoYH via @sharethis

Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has reportedly submitted a list of 150 mega corruption cases, involving high-profile figures such as, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, former premiers, ministers and top bureaucrats, before the country’s Supreme Court.
The report said that an inquiry was being carried out against the incumbent prime minister and his brother in a case pertaining to the construction of a road from Raiwind to Sharif family House worth Pakistani rupees 126 million, reported the Dawn.
Former Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf is also being scrutinised for the rental power plants (RPP) case.
Also, a case has been launched against former President Asif Ali Zardari for possessing assets beyond resources.
It also mentioned 50 cases of monitory irregularities, misuse of powers and land scams.
Among the monitory irregularities, inquiries were being conducted in 22 cases, with probes launched into 13 cases and references in 15 cases.
In land scams, on the other hand, 29 cases were under inquiry, 13 cases were being investigated and references had been filed in eight cases.
The report also showed that inquiries were underway in 20 cases of abuse of power, while a probe had been launched into 15 cases and references filed in 15 cases.

The case, which was filed by Manzoor Ahmed Ghauri earlier this year against NAB chairman and other officials, is being heard by a three-member bench headed by Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja.
The report was submitted after the court expressed disappointment over what they claimed was an extreme form of ‘maladministration’ in the anti-corruption body.

Riaz Haq said...

#India’s court system offers little hope of #justice. #democracy #ruleOfLaw https://www.ft.com/content/e3e31e4e-0015-11e7-8d8e-a5e3738f9ae4 … via @FT

On a hot June afternoon in 1997, a fire broke out at New Delhi’s Uphaar cinema, which was full for the opening day of a Bollywood blockbuster. Smoke engulfed the hall, and 59 people, including children, died of asphyxiation. Most were trapped in the balcony, where one of the exits was blocked by the addition of extra seats, while the other doors were bolted shut from the outside.

Twenty years on, one of the two powerful property developers who owned the cinema hall — and pushed the controversial building modifications that turned it into a fire trap — has been imprisoned.

Gopal Ansal, and his elder brother Sushil, were convicted of criminal negligence leading to the fatalities back in 2007, and sentenced to two years in prison. They appealed, launching another decade of legal battles when judges repeatedly upheld the Ansals’ culpability but differed on the appropriate punishment.

Last month, a Supreme Court panel upheld the Ansal brothers’ conviction, and affirmed that Gopal, now 68, would be sentenced to a year’s imprisonment, due to start this week. His brother Sushil Ansal, now 76, was spared incarceration, with the judges citing his advanced years.

It was a galling outcome for parents such as Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy, who lost two children in the Uphaar fire and went on to become campaigners for justice. Worse may yet come. Gopal Ansal has filed a last-ditch appeal that he is also too old and ill to be imprisoned.

New Delhi often touts the rule of law as a factor that distinguishes India from its richer neighbour China, and ostensibly makes it an attractive investment destination. But the Uphaar cinema case is a powerful reminder of how the rule of law is collapsing in India under a backlog of 33m criminal and civil cases, which one judge estimated would take 320 years to clear.

Underpinning this breakdown is an acute shortage of judges, a severe problem in a society where litigiousness seems on par with the US. India has just 18 judges for every 1m people. Many fast-growing economies have between 35 to 40 judges per million people; in the US, it is more than 100.

India’s judge shortage is exacerbated by many unfilled vacancies, the lack of modern technology in courthouses, lawyers’ deliberate delaying tactics to stall cases, and an abundance of relatively frivolous litigation.


Among New Delhi’s demands is a new requirement that investors in India must exhaust all domestic legal remedies to resolve disputes before moving to international arbitration. What that could mean for foreign companies ensnared in disputes with local partners or Indian government entities can be seen in another recent Supreme Court verdict on a high-profile case from the same era as the Uphaar fire.

In 1996 I wrote my first stories about the arrest for alleged corruption of the powerful Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa, a film star turned politician who owned thousands of saris, hundreds of shoes, and a trove of precious jewellery. It drew comparisons with the Philippines’ Imelda Marcos.

In 2014, 18 years after her arrest, Jayalalithaa was convicted of possessing assets exceeding her known sources of income. She spent 22 days in jail before being freed on bail pending her appeal. The Supreme Court effectively upheld her conviction last month, sentencing her long-time companion and co-accused, VK Sasikala, to four years in prison. The wheels of justice turned so slowly, however, that Jayalalithaa managed to elude them. She died last December.