Iftekhar A. Khan Legitimacy of the NRO is for experts to judge, but its moral aspect if it has any to stand on is for the public to decide. Does the instrument benefit the nation or a privileged clique? Was it an indigenous document or it had input by outside actors who later stood its guarantors? However, the honourable court has pronounced its verdict, leaving the rest to the Parliament. Would the Parliament debate it? If it does, would the chosen men and women notice sleaze pasted all over the document. Else, would the lawmakers for their own murky motives observe craven silence? Silence on their part would mean they were uninterested in purging corruption of their ranks, which would raise a question mark against their own integrity. The NRO is all about monumental corruption and it stinks. It's time to recapitulate how PPP returned to power as result of a tripartite deal between the PPP, General Musharraf, and Americans as the usual powerbrokers. Americans may not allow corrupt practices in their government but they condone the same in third world countries because they find corrupt more pliable. Salient points of the deal: PPP government would carry out US agenda in the region willy-nilly, protect the former dictator from prosecution and keep CJP Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in suspension. In return, Musharraf would exculpate top PPP leadership on all charges of plunder and money laundering. Unfortunately, part of the script went awry. CJ Chaudhry returned as result of mass movement by the lawyers, civil society and public at large. Were Justice Dogar still in chair, there would have been no ripples in the putrid political pond. It's quite clear. Noah Webster (1758-1843), author of Webster dictionary, had this wretched nation in mind when he wrote: "If the citizens neglect their duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made, not for the public good so much as for selfish purposes. Corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute the Laws; the public revenues will be squandered on unworthy men; and the rights of the citizens will be violated or disregarded." Obviously, Webster could not foretell what was to come more than a century and half later, he only explicated the circumstances that would forge a Machiavellian document - the NRO. NRO benefited a select few; it absolved them of heinous crimes and financial misdeeds from 1986 to 1996, encouraging them to start afresh. It's now turn of the Corporate Rehabilitation Ordinance (CRO) reportedly in the making, which will likely be the mother of all NROs. Its beneficiaries again would be a select group. As reported, a minister of state is the linchpin of the vile plan to save his relation, a bank loan shark, facing a legal action in the court. CRO will not only protect the loan defaulters but also the defaulters of utility bills, income tax and sales tax. In other words, the nation with a begging bowl will be a haven for defaulters of all hues. Mischievous part of the document is that judiciary would be involved into it. Even if it considered the clauses of the document unjust, it would not be able to interpret the laws outside the ambit of the ordinance. Thus, defaulters and villains would have the last laugh. Recall what happens to a small borrower having no political connections. Third page of this newspaper twice a week carries about two dozen notices by banking courts to defaulters of small amounts ranging from two hundred thousands to a million or about. Most of them belonging to small towns had mortgaged their smallholdings to obtain loans from one or the other bank. When they later couldn't return the loan mainly due to high mark-up, the banks declared them defaulters and referred the cases to the court. The court ordered auction of the collateral's, which were borrowers' only means to survive. One set of laws deprives the poor of their property while another benefits the crafty defaulters. CRO, the perfidious ordnance, when proclaimed would be tantamount to a broad-day robbery. But NRO at the bottom remains the culprit. Without it, CRO couldn't be envisaged. The NRO and CRO gambit benefits a clique of the elite in power or those close to it. Lately, PM Gilani met PML-N leaders to ask them to go easy on the NRO. In fact, Mian Nawaz Sharif has already relented on some of his popular demands, missing persons being one that was atop his election slogans. Consequently, his popularity graph has plummeted. Nawaz Sharif is missing the point. If he compromises with the ruling party and brings himself at the same level, he will be as unpopular as Mr Zardari whose popularity according to recent Al-Jazeera survey is merely 9 percent. People want to see a transparent government on the top and not wheeling-dealing products of shady deals - NROs, CROs. Nawaz Sharif will do well to listen to perspicacious Nisar Ali Khan. He's principled. It's perhaps the last time that the PPP enjoys power. The bond that PPP ranks had with either ZAB or BB doesn't exist anymore. The party will likely disintegrate into factions soon after it is out of power. Within the party, there are powerful contenders like Aitzaz Ahsan and Reza Rabbani who are capable and deserving compared with innumerable who are banal and verbose. Imran Khan among other parties has the right stance. If fair election were to hold, he would have a dominating position in the Parliament. His unequivocal stand against corruption in government and against following American agenda blindly endears him to the people, while on the last count Nawaz Sharif has compromised his position. The writer is a freelance columnist. E-mail: pinecity@gmail.com