PanamaLeaks touch every problem that Pakistanis face
ISLAMABAD: The Panama Papers whistleblower, though still anonymous, in his message has raised some key questions that perfectly befit the Pakistani system, where the mighty are powerful than the law, where lawyers plead the law to defeat the law for the powerful, politicians cannot move without backing of the rich, where media is ever ready to save billionaires and where financial transparency is an alien thing.
The Panama Papers source seems to have lived in Pakistan because he has tried to touch every problem that Pakistan faces and the leaders do not want to address.
The person who has shaken almost half of the world with his leaks of record of off-shore companies of people of all sorts from all over the world, has highlighted the exact questions that people in Pakistan are asking.
For instance he says, “The prevailing media narrative thus far has focused on the scandal of what is legal and allowed in this system. What is allowed is indeed scandalous and must be changed. But we must not lose sight of another important fact: the law firm, its founders, and employees actually did knowingly violate myriad laws worldwide, repeatedly. Publicly they plead ignorance, but documents show detailed knowledge and deliberate wrongdoing.”
In his 1800-word write-up, the PanamaLeaks whistleblower has called upon the European Commission, the British Parliament, the United States Congress, and all nations to take swift action to put an end to the global abuse of corporate registers.
“In the European Union, every member state’s corporate register should be freely accessible, with detailed data plainly available on ultimate beneficial owners.
The United Kingdom can be proud of its domestic initiatives thus far, but it still has a vital role to play by ending financial secrecy on its various island territories, which are unquestionably the cornerstone of institutional corruption worldwide. And the United States can clearly no longer trust its fifty states to make sound decisions about their own corporate data. It is long past time for Congress to step in and force transparency by setting standards for disclosure and public access”.
This is the demand every politician makes when he is in opposition in Pakistan. The military dictators, in the past, took advantage of shabby financial affairs hidden from the public and came to power in Pakistan in the name of accountability with a loud yell of ending financial secrecy. However, what has happened in the past seven decades is another story.
Had there been no financial secrecy and everything was available to the public, there would have been no need of commissions and committees to probe financial affairs of Pakistanis either named in Panama Papers or otherwise.
The source of Panama Papers has written what every Pakistani thinks today. “But the issue is finally on the table, and that change takes time is no surprise.
For fifty years, the executive, the legislative and judicial branches around the globe have utterly failed to address the metastasizing tax havens spotting Earth’s surface. Banks, financial regulators and tax authorities have failed. Decisions have been made that have spared the wealthy while focusing instead on reining in middle- and low-income citizens”.
Regarding the lawyers and judiciary, the whistleblower has said that hopelessly backward and inefficient courts have failed. Judges have too often acquiesced to the arguments of the rich, whose lawyers—and not just Mossack Fonseca—are well trained in honouring the letter of the law, while simultaneously doing everything in their power to desecrate its spirit. Pakistan faces similar challenges today where the rich hire senior advocates who turn the tables for them, no matter what the spirit of the law is.
The Panama Papers source has further held that the media has failed. “Many news networks are cartoonish parodies of their former selves, individual billionaires appear to have taken up newspaper ownership as a hobby, limiting coverage of serious matters concerning the wealthy, and serious investigative journalists lack funding.
The impact is real: in addition to Süddeutsche Zeitung and ICIJ, and despite explicit claims to the contrary, several major media outlets did have editors to review documents from the Panama Papers. They chose not to cover them. The sad truth is that among the most prominent and capable media organizations in the world there was not a single one interested in reporting on the story. Even Wikileaks didn’t answer its tip line repeatedly.” In Pakistan too, the billionaires, prima facie to protect their businesses, have opened media outlets that are controlling the flow of information besides influencing the governments and public departments for their personal benefits. The Panama source seems to have lived in Pakistan too. The whistleblower has demanded from the world to digitize the financial affairs and make them public for transparency. This is a much need thing for Pakistan otherwise allegations of corruption and tax-evasion will continue forever.
About the legal profession, the Panama source has mentioned the problem perhaps existing in every country of the world. It says, “But most of all, the legal profession has failed. Democratic governance depends upon responsible individuals throughout the entire system who understand and uphold the law, not who understand and exploit it. On average, lawyers have become so deeply corrupt that it is imperative for major changes in the profession to take place, far beyond the meek proposals already on the table. To start, the term “legal ethics,” upon which codes of conduct and licensure are nominally based, has become an oxymoron. Mossack Fonseca did not work in a vacuum—despite repeated fines and documented regulatory violations, it found allies and clients at major law firms in virtually every nation.
If the industry’s shattered economics were not already evidence enough, there is now no denying that lawyers can no longer be permitted to regulate one another. It simply doesn’t work. Those able to pay the most can always find a lawyer to serve their ends, whether that lawyer is at Mossack Fonseca or another firm of which we remain unaware. What about the rest of society?
The collective impact of these failures has been a complete erosion of ethical standards, ultimately leading to a novel system we still call Capitalism, but which is tantamount to economic slavery. In this system—our system—the slaves are unaware both of their status and of their masters, who exist in a world apart where the intangible shackles are carefully hidden amongst reams of unreachable legalese.
The horrific magnitude of detriment to the world should shock us all awake. But when it takes a whistleblower to sound the alarm, it is cause for even greater concern. It signals that democracy’s checks and balances have all failed, that the breakdown is systemic, and that severe instability could be just around the corner. So now is the time for real action, and that starts with asking questions.”