The Admirals “MEA CULPA”

After reading a heart-rending and a sad news that Admiral Mansurul Haque also succeeds in sabotaging the process of accountability by securing a plea bargain settlement by returning probably less than one tenth of the plundered amount, which means corrupt has won again and hope of teeming million has lost. National Accountability Bureau in accordance with its policy of distributive justice is allowing release of Admiral (Retd.) Mansurul Haque on plea-bargain subject to return of US $ 7.50 million to national exchequer. Wisdom of a Latin proverb “corruption optima pessima meaning corruption of best is worst ” not in their reckoning. An arrangement similar to one offered to politicians, technocrats and other involved in acts of financial improprieties and misuse of powers. The whole process being subjective, not following a uniform code of application and based on “compulsions and compromises” of the government. The compass of this write up, aims neither to critically analyze the modus operandi of NAB and nor does it attempt to lay down basis of much needed orientation of accountability process. The present thrust of NAB wherein its rationale following the adage that ” Best solution is the enemy of good solution” merits a separate more incisive and profound undertaking. The aim of this write up is specifically to focus on the case of Admiral Mansurul Haque, a former Naval Chief and the highest ranking Armed Forces officer indicted on corruption charges and proven to be guilty by his acceptance of plea bargain for his release. More importantly, it attempts to delve on the genesis of the problem wherein an individual in honorable profession of arms could rise from within a well structured system to its highest ranks, find supportive environment for his corruption and ultimately achieve redemption in material and perhaps moral terms to a affluent life thereafter. Option of window of vindication open to him subject to a pliant subsequent political dispensation or legal maneuverings.

As a member of Federal Anti Corruption Committee (FACC). Apart from Mian Nawaz Sharif group of Industry, I had also investigated dozens of other cases including Banks, CBR, PIAC, PTCL, KPT and Air Marshal Waqar Azeem and Tawakal Group in which billion and billion were siphoned off by these group of people with active collaboration and patronage of bureaucrats, bankers and corrupt political masters. Probably our rulers have taken a leaf from Japans book where a jail is not the ultimate end of a criminal act and so in Pakistan we have given it the fair name as plea bargain settlement. In other words permit me to say that the corrupt have defied the laws with impunity. The statute books of Pakistan are full of laws against corruption, but it requires only a will to operate them, and unless the will is there, corruption will run supreme as long as Pakistan exists.

The study of the present case may possibly be better comprehended if following two model processes, relevant and peculiars to Navy are reviewed.

The Organizational and cultural matrix: The Admirals rise to the highest office within the Navy despite early indications of his moral turpitude and professional inadequacies are a serious reflection on the systems within the Navy. Pakistan Navy being the smallest service in the armed forces, one dare say has professional, cultural and ethical problems that needs to be addressed in aftermath of the case. The smallness of its size vis-a-vis the Army and Airforce places it in a difficult predicament. Single station location at Karachi has encouraged an urban and not a martial ethos in its organization. This problem is further accentuated by dichotomy in its ability to undertake its role in national defense due to constraints of assets and its assertions to the contrary. A difficult professional and intellectual paradigm thus unfortunately becomes intrinsic to it. This paradox is further aggravated by its desire to find equivalence atleast, in form if not in content with Army and Airforce. Vital, since it also involves quest of frills under a praetorian environment that has occupied larger part of our national existence with Army being the main beneficiary.

Furthermore since its peacetime operational undertakings unlike Army or Airforce have distant proximity to real dangers (except in its modest air and under water wings), a laid back approach is inherent. Limited population of its officer’s rank and inevitable close interaction predicates vertical development on person to person loyalty, than institutional and qualitative benchmarks. . The direct result of the above situation – almost a crisis ” utility and identity” is growth of a leadership structure that is compliant, professionally mediocre and entrenched to self-survivability with absence of a ” espirit de corp.” that atleast in the army is its panacea for survival. Ceremonial content legacy of past with no relevance to present occupies a large space in its culture. In this backdrop the rise of Admiral Mansurul Haque and facility under which he could undertake massive corruption can be better analyzed – Not to resort to ” en bloc” condemnation of the Navy but to establish underlying reasons for it. A review of his record of service would establish his strength and weaknesses and means recourse by him to reach the higher ranks. . His conduct and behavioral mode on anvil of army or airforce assessment systems may have had greater possibility of his elimination at middle tier levels. This is not to say that within Navy the individuals of great uprightness and professional ability are far and few or that all is ” Kosher” in Army or Airforce. It simply highlights in environmental context greater possibility of getting away in the Navy . Also to underline the fact that by its very genre Navy has to establish higher institutional standards in moral and professional values to accomplish its national defense role, find relative effect for equivalence with other two services and mitigate its denigration that case of Admiral Mansurul Haque entails.

The Plea bargain ramifications: The very size of the plea bargain is astounding. The fact that Admiral forfeited US $ 7.57 million confirms the extent of the plunder and possibility of a substantial balance in liquid assets stashed some where else. Relate this to allowing him the use of his palatial residence and holding of plots and car and we have only one Latin proverb that best describe the reaction ” Ill est mort – this is death,” Death, not in physical sense but in context of implications that embody this compromise. Without going in the imperatives of NAB’s decision, certain vital fallouts of the plea bargain need to be highlighted.

The effects of the plea-bargain and his release in tangible terms gives Admiral the right to live comfortably on the basis that he has suffered physically and has been perhaps condemned morally. The later part irrelevant to him since moral structures do not form a part of his value systems. The former incomprehensible since he sets an example of guaranteed affluent life style for people to re course to his ways and get away too. Relate this to losing of jobs of many lower rank employees who have resorted to unethical for sheer survival, some times accepted their misdemeanors, were indicted and never given a chance for such redemption or succor, the good Admiral got.

The silent partners in crime, without whose help the Admiral could never indulge in this massive loot, today are relieved and vindicated. They are in position of power and will possibly be targeting the Admiral with spite and hate as a measure of their disassociation with him. Actually since the accountability of their subservience to Admiral, has not even been brought to question, they would genuinely believe in the correctness of their behavioral mode and righteousness of their means to survive and succeed. The doctrine of ” resistance to wrong” has heard its death knell.

Those who witnessed Admiral Mansurul Haque’s corrupt practices and got eliminated either by him or his cohorts and were condemned later to be “controversial and guilty by association and perception” notwithstanding their defiance and uprightness are left nowhere to go. A fair trial would have given them a forum to establish themselves as men of honor and probity who resisted the wrong to protect a system and suffered for no fault of theirs.

Navy redeems itself as an organisation by passive disassociation with the Admiral conveniently considering his actions as personal moral turpitude’s with no guilt syndrome whatsoever on its active connivance with him as an institution. The “dishonesty of the honest” wins once again. Introspection necessary to invigorate and establish a self-renewal on sound moral and professional basis is removed from the anvil.

NAB will eulogize its performance of recovering the plundered loot and take credit for protecting good name of armed forces and the impartiality of the accountability process. No cost accounting will be done putting US $ 7.50 million recovery to loss of hope of millions, whose future rested on hope of returns of their merit and integrity. Loss of faith in system is not dollar centric by any standard.

In house, deep analysis of corruption that plagues at professional, intellectual or moral level within the armed forces, a dire need of time will have a routine priority. Palliatives will be provisioned in place of surgery and the march to preserve with status quo will remain the call of the day – The elite clubs win again.

How sickening! A country with all its unbound natural resources and toiling and well meaning people is again deprived of more than millions and billions of dollars through plea bargains, the so-called enlightened political leaders, civil and military bureaucracy of the impoverished land, stands exposed miserably but still have the temerity to keep denying wrong doing, thanks to plea bargain and business friendly policy of our accountability system.

While the world is talking about war against terrorism, let us arrest the financial terrorist of our country first, because our enemy number one has been the plunderers of our national exchequer, who have all this money safely deposited in their safe heavens i.e. the USA and the UK. Will our coalition partners in war against terrorism cooperate in seeking indigenous financial and economic relief by nabbing those who have their bank accounts in Western banks and fictitious offshore companies.

Corruption at the highest levels simply legitimizes itself at all strata gnawing the entire moral and economic fabric of the society through a systemic cancer. A few middle class dissenters or sleuths may dutifully raise the dust but fail to awaken the conscience or translate it into a corrective mechanism. Consequently, the rot multiplied leading to a pervasive disillusionment and despair. That is where the social banditry goes on rampage justifying itself in the name of Pakistan. However, redemption is possible though the path is fraught with challenges. Thoughtful Pakistanis both inside and outside the country need to harness their efforts to make it a moral and political urgency.

In truly Islamic essence, wage and labour must have a relation. Punishment should be commensurate to crime and redemption to individuals and organizations, resisting the wrong and doing the right is the call of the day. Active and acquiescent partners in crime should be accountable and their success curtailed. Hope must be reinvigorated and honest must win approbation and those who suffered for doing the right must be Vindicated. Has the NAB action fulfilled these requirement is either for posterity to decide or be left to day of accounting, as we are prone to say by our inaction and religious dogmatism. Meanwhile we remain condemned to hell herein and hereafter for deeds of others and our own. That is the destiny of individuals or nations that betray the laws of God. Expecting anything to the contrary is in accordance with our present mind set but will not delay the inevitable decline towards nothingness.