“Our carefully constructed system of checks and balances is being negated by the rise of a fourth branch, an administrative state of sprawling departments and agencies that govern with increasing autonomy and decreasing transparency”—Jonathan Turley
Moving from simple to complex and from mere rudiments to advanced technologies, bring within its folds complications that are both foreseen and unexpected. In order to circumvent the fear of being exposed, innumerable measures are taken to safeguard both actions and speeches, especially when it is within the confines of the corridors of power. If they possess honest characters, ordinary persons on the streets have hardly anything to hide from others. They go about their usual routine with full confidence knowing very well that they are open books who refrain from engaging in shady businesses and are just interested in leading a steadfast peaceful life. So, no matter whatever profession they may choose, whatever trade they indulge in or whatever occupation they enjoy, they perform their work with sincerity. They have no worries about potential blackmailers because their open and loyal nature functions as a shield against intruders. Alas, if only one could say the same about our governments led by leaders with dubious characters!
During election campaigns we hear loud promises about transparency, accountability and the need to establish public’s trust but once the votes are secured then transparency turns into haze, accountability is restricted to eliminate political opponents and as for gaining the public’s trust, a couldn’t-care-less attitude is displayed. In the words of Jeffery Weiner, Executive Chairman Linkedin: “I’ve come to learn there is a virtuous cycle to transparency and a very vicious cycle of obfuscation”, but who is listening?
Rather, we have learnt all the negatives in the game of politics, starting from lies, false hopes, hypocrisy to various forms of exploitation, cunningness, selfishness and the desire for perpetuation at the expense of both the country and the nation. Whereas many insinuating acts would pass unnoticed in the twentieth century, today even the slightest motion or utterance is not only recorded but is also widely publicized within no time. Those wishing to grab the seats of power must first get a thorough insight into the working of the Dark Web and also be conscious of the fact that their acts and words will come under scrutiny, not that of the innocent voters but that of the Dark Web’s nefarious operators. Apparently, fear of the Al-Mighty may not be as pronounced as that of these cyber criminals.
Those who have given lessons in governance have always emphasised upon the need to cater for the common man before anything. This means that unless and until, assurance is not given to the ordinary folks that their lives would not be disturbed and they are provided with the bare minimum without having to face too many bureaucratic hurdles, no state can expect a reasonable level of peace and harmony. It also implies that where any injustice occurs, it is to be resolved on merit regardless of the status of the parties involved in a dispute. It further assumes that all would be equal before law with none, irrespective of their social standing, given any privileged treatment. Above all, the most vital aspect, transparency in dealings by the government and the right to information for all citizens are given the priority they deserve.
At the end of the day, what do the people of Pakistan want? Just like all relationships require mutual understanding and trust, the citizens’ connection with their state also demands the same. As they nurture their country through taxes (whether paid voluntarily or by extortion), abide by the laws and remain loyal, in return they too have some expectations to the extent of fulfillment of their basic needs, security and timely justice. They would also like to see their legislators carry out their duties first as residents of this country and then as policy-makers. They are least interested in the cacophony caused by mud-slinging against opposing candidates vying for the top slots or whatever they have to do to run the state machinery as long as they are getting their daily meals and their children are safe from harm. Whatever happens behind closed doors does bother the ordinary denizens who are already over-burdened with their own daily affairs what to talk of problems created by their irresponsible leaders. Barring the few devout and dedicated loyalists, the majority that nowadays throng the venues of political meetings has probably nothing constructive to do because these moots are not heading anywhere except giving mileage to political leaders who are prone to forgetting their vows once they get married to power.
In Pakistan, two major political parties, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz)—PMLN—and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) have been ruling the roost for the last many decades with short stints by Muslim League Quaid-i-Azam (PMLQ) and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI). During this period, historians would confirm how the entire political and governmental structures transformed from public to elitist, from open to secret, from accountability to impunity and from nationalistic to individualistic. When these things happen in the lifetime of a nation, a vacuum is created that sucks in dark and negative forces causing mayhem, discontent, restlessness and mistrust. Amazingly, the parties that were being strongly supported by their loyal followers stand fully exposed before them, not because their leaders had opened up but rather, the veil of these very leaders has been torn away by audio leaks, secrets supposed to be well-guarded by whosoever is in charge of the prime minister’s internal security.
Radware, a security software company explains the dark web in these words: “Tor, which stands for ‘onion router’ or ‘onion routing,’ is designed primarily to keep users anonymous. Just like the layers of an onion, data is stored within multiple layers of encryption. Each layer reveals the next relay until the final layer sends the data to its destination. Information is sent bidirectionally, so data is being sent back and forth via the same tunnel. On any given day, over 1 million users are active on the Tor network.”
For how long will the people be denied the right to know the truth? Whatever is decided by the chosen few have immediate impact on the common people so when the elected resolve on behalf of their voters, they must contemplate its repercussions and also take full responsibility instead of blaming others. Even in seclusion they must learn to check their conversations as now, nothing would be hidden from the hearing range, thanks to the dark web. Besides, their behavior in legislative assemblies is now under the public’s scrutiny therefore they must learn to check their outbursts if they want to remain popular among their people.
“There can be no faith in government if our highest offices are excused from scrutiny—they should be setting the example of transparency,” says Edward Snowden
The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), member Advisory Board and Senior Visiting Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE)