Krishna Bahadur Mahara. Mohammad Aftab Alam. Parvat Gurung. Over the past one month three federal lawmakers have been linked with grave crimes, from mass murder to attempted rape. Other lawmakers also routinely get into fishy stuff. Abuse of office and corruption are even more pervasive. What does all this say about the state of our politics? One obvious answer is that those in positions of power feel they can get away with literally anything in a country steeped in a culture of impunity.
Our lawmakers, after all, represent the society they inhabit. When nearly the whole bureaucracy and political leadership are corrupt, we cannot expect our lawmakers to be saints. Yet how could someone like Alam, with documented evidence of burning people alive against him, walk as a free man for over a decade? Even more egregiously, how was he elected to the federal parliament? An optimist might argue that justice, though late, has been done. Tell that to the families of his victims.
Even so, they are comparably lucky. The families of those who were killed or forcefully disappeared during the decade-long conflict have waited for justice for even longer. The former Maoist guerrillas have always argued that even the most heinous crimes from the conflict period should be treated as part of a political movement rather than as punishable offenses. The army is as averse to seriously investigating war-era crimes. By design, the two transitional justice bodies have been rendered toothless.
The rape and murder of Nirmala Panta is still unresolved, more than a year after the fact. The police then botched the Mahara rape investigation. How do people believe they live in a law-abiding society? There is now a widespread belief that our politicians and MPs have only gotten richer and more powerful after the advent of the federal democratic system; the police, meanwhile, are thoroughly corrupt.
The best way to clean up our parliament and political system is to set strict criteria on candidate selection for provincial and national elections. All those with criminal backgrounds should be strictly barred. But that is not enough. Along with this, there should be a hard cap on campaign financing. Our elections have gotten more and more expensive with time. It is now impossible for someone to contest a seat in the federal parliament without at least Rs 20 million.
It is said that democracy is an imperfect system, except that all other political systems are even more flawed. It is the responsibility of its supposed custodians to ensure they do not destroy it beyond repair.