Monday, 16 April 2012

Corruption In Pakistan

Corruption is one of the greatest challenges of the contemporary world. It undermines good government, fundamentally distorts public policy, leads to the misallocation of resources, harms the private sector and private sector development and particularly hurts the poor

Like other developing countries, corruption is not new for Pakistan. It started in an organized manner when some ‘smart’ migrants or refugees from India at the time of partition filed fake claims and got property allotted in their names in collusion with some members of bureaucracy. Having that said, nobody could raise a finger of accusation towards any of the seven Prime ministers – Liaquat Ali Khan, Khawaja Nazimuddin, Muhammad Ali Bogra, Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar, Chaudhry Muhammad Ali, Hussain Shahid Suharwardy and Feroz Khan Noon – so far as corruption is concerned. Of course, they were criticized for entering into defense pacts with the US and the West. 

Looking in hindsight, one could observe the meaninglessness of those pacts, as the allies did not help during 1965 and 1971 wars. Coming back to the subject, former President Ayub Khan and members of his cabinet were clean. The eighth prime minister of Pakistan Z.A. Bhutto, who was honest, kept an eye on members of his cabinet to control corruption. Incidence of corruption, however, enormously increased during Zia era when American dollars flooded the market in the name of Afghan jihad. It is a matter of grave concern that corruption has deeply permeated in every strata of our society. Anyhow, magnitude of corruption by the PPP and PML-N governments in 1990s had no parallel in the history of Pakistan, and it paled before the corruption by some members of civil and military bureaucracy. No wonder that the period was described as a ‘lost decade’, and it was in this backdrop that in 1996 Transparency International had declared Pakistan as the second-most corrupt country in the world. There is a perception that politicians invest in the election process to get elected to the assemblies and to enter into corridors of power. The major reason behind this widespread corruption by the politicians and bureaucracy is that it is difficult to control white collar crimes. And therefore, they invariably get away with it and safely come out of the scandals without any punishment. Hardly, there is any political eminence who got punishment for his frauds or scandals during the last 64 years. If there is a will, it is not difficult to unearth the cases of corruption and the assets held by members of the ruling elite. And the easiest way is to compare their income tax returns to see the manifold increase in their assets. But Federal Board of Revenue or Income tax department cannot take any action against these leaders because they are powerful.

Musharraf government not to act tough because otherwise it would result in flight of capital and the economy will collapse. Secondly, he cobbled together a political party namely PML-Q to get legitimacy. The problem is that in sham democracies of developing countries, people can only cast their votes, as even person from upper middle class cannot afford to take part in elections. Mostly those who have amassed wealth through illegal means can afford the luxury of participating in elections. Such elements first invest to reach the corridors of power with a view to increasing their wealth, and then they want to be re-elected to protect that ill-gotten wealth. But there is need to take measures to stop unethical and corrupt practices, and to block the corrupt elements’ entry to the corridors of power. But who can bell the cat, when a great majority of the robber barons are sitting in the assemblies? They did not pay taxes due, and opposed every move to impose income tax on income from agriculture. Yet they lead luxurious lives on the indirect taxes paid by the broad section of the people. 

“The country was being eaten up with corruption and anti-social activity at all levels. In all my recent travels in Asia I have nowhere seen corruption quite so widespread, and going so high up, as I saw it in Pakistan…” 

The controversial NRO was promulgated by former president Pervez Musharraf when late Benazir Bhutto insisted on ‘sterling guarantees’ to come back to Pakistan to participate in elections, as she did not like to be prosecuted and unseated later. The spirit behind the NRO was indeed national reconciliation and the pretext was that the PPP and the PML-N had instituted cases against each other as a tool of political victimization and vendetta, and the cases were not decided by the courts for more than a decade. After signing the Charter of Democracy with late Benazir Bhutto, Mian Nawaz Sharif had said that the cases instituted during their two stints were framed. Corruption has indeed destroyed the moral fabric of the society, and is also responsible for having brought the country to the brink of economic disaster. The tiny elite, comprising jagirdars, industrial robber barons, bureaucracy and rapacious politicians have kept the complete control over the state, its resources and all levers of power. It should be borne in mind that the semi-feudal, semi-colonial system can neither be endured nor can it be salvaged by cosmetic measures, but only through radical reconstruction programme.

Corruption is particularly in the government and lower levels of police forces. The country has had a consistently poor ranking at the Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index with scores of 2.5 in 2011, 2.3 in 2010, and 2.5 in 2009 out of 10. In 2011, Pakistan ranked 134 on the index with 42 countries ranking worse.

(Thanks and regards)
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