CORRUPTION is generally defined as misuse of entrusted power or authority by the elected politicians or appointed civil servants for private gains. It usually entails embezzlement of funds, nepotism, kickbacks, bribery as well as deliberate attempts to perpetuate a system with inbuilt avenues of corruption, graft and entitlement. Corruption has many forms but the major cause of concern are the systemic corruption and political corruption which germinate other forms of corruption that eat into the social and economic fibre of a country besides generating social tensions and hampering its economic progress.
Political corruption occurs at the highest level of the political system usually at the policy formulation level when politicians and state agents entitled to make and enforce laws in the name of the people, use their position to sustain their power, status and wealth leading to misallocation of resources and perversion of the process of decision making. Systemic or endemic corruption is an integrated and essential aspect of the economic, social and political system prevalent in a country, embedded in a wider situation that helps to sustain it. There are no two opinions about the fact that we are a society completely immersed in corruption, which decidedly is the bane of our socio-economic development and national integration. Our rulers both military dictators and politicians are equally responsible for this detestable phenomenon, which due to its trickle-down effect has penetrated into the entire fabric of our society.
Law enforcing agencies, judiciary and government departments, which are supposed to ensure rule of law, justice, checking corruption and promoting well being of the masses, are themselves afflicted with corruption to the core. And regrettably there seems no end in sight to this process of self-destruction. We have often been hearing from the rulers about their resolve to eliminate corruption from the echelons of the government and the society as and when it suited their political interests. But the fact is that whatever accountability mechanisms they did put in place, they were meant to target their political opponents rather than an arrangement for across-the-board accountability. The so-called movement against corruption that the opposition parties including PTI and PPP unfurled in the wake of Panama Leaks was quintessential of the politics of hypocrisy and self-aggrandizement. They desperately tried to make the public believe that if the alleged corruption against Nawaz Sharif was established and he and his family were held accountable, the country would become free of corruption. It was a typical witch-hunt against Nawaz Sharif and his family because the Panama papers also named other Pakistanis who owned off-shore companies but the buck stopped only on the Sharif family. Now that Nawaz Sharif has been disqualified, has corruption vanished from country? Surely not.
The reality is that those who campaigned for accountability of Nawaz Sharif on account of Panama Leaks, were also guilty of the same crime, if at all, merely owning an off-shore company was a crime. One really wondered at their audacity to hurl allegations of corruption at others while morally and legally speaking they were also standing on the same pedestal. Echoes of Swiss accounts and Surrey Palace still resonate in the country and people are also aware of the corruption cases against two former Prime Ministers of the PPP and scores of other leaders. PTI is also a conglomeration of disgruntled political carpet baggers.
Actually these parties are out to create chaos in the country to settle political score with the government. The exit of Nawz Sharif has undoubtedly pushed the country into an ambience of uncertainty. One wished that they would have also campaigned with the same ferocity for systemic reforms and collectively devising a mechanism for across the board accountability. Unfortunately it never has been the aim of our politicians and some of them even have been working against democracy for their access to the corridors of power through back doors, perpetuating the culture of corruption.
As far as the present government is concerned, no mega corruption scandal has been unearthed against it and its leaders during the last four years. It can rightly boast of the fact that the Transparency International in its three consecutive annual reports has corroborated the fact that corruption in the echelons of the government in Pakistan has gone down by ten points on the corruption index. It would be intellectual dishonesty not to acknowledge this development, which goes to strengthen government claims of transparency in public affairs. Nevertheless, systemic reforms still need immediate attention of all the political parties if they are honest and really mean to eradicate corruption from the public entities and the society. We often talk about the level of development achieved by other countries which achieved independence about the same time as us, like China and Malaysia but never bother to emulate their examples. They owe their phenomenal success to their systems of governance which discourage corruption and have in-built mechanisms to ensure across-the-board accountability.
The political parties can make a beginning by having all the written-off bank loans retrieved, which is very much doable, to prove their honesty and anti-corruption credentials. The government and the opposition can easily legislate on the issue. That must be followed by formation of a National Anti-Corruption Commission (a constitutional body comprising retired Supreme Court judges appointed on the basis of seniority instead of consensus between the government and the opposition parties) vested with the powers to probe cases of corruption against any citizen of Pakistan belonging to any profession.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.