A former Minister for Religious and Haj Affairs, Hamid Saeed Kazmi, alongwith two top bureaucrats, was sentenced to 16 years imprisonment by a Special Judge in the mega Hajj Corruption case of 2010. This is a welcome development in a country where corruption has become pandemic, and even the matters pertaining to religious acts and like Umra and Haj, are not spared. The case has exposed the ugly reality of misuse of public office by some public officials for their private gains.
The worthy Judge deserves appreciation for awarding punishment to those who misappropriated public funds and robbed the pilgrims of their hard earned money – all under the cloak of religious piety. Earlier, Mushtaq Raeesani of Balochistan government had also shamed the public office he held by stashing hundreds of millions of rupees of public welfare in his house.
Shady deals and financial malpractices like these, shatter the trust of public in state institutions. It is an alarming fact that corruption, from the highest to the lowest level, has become a malignant tumour for our system – sucking funds of public welfare and blighting the performance and growth of public departments.
Sentencing the Ex Religious Federal Minister has set the right precedent for those involved in loot and plunder of national exchequer and misuse of the public office. It also reflects that Pakistan has finally began to tread on the right path of accountability and transparency. Pakistan needs to introduce efficient check and balance mechanisms to curb corrupt practices and punish those who are involved in any fraudulent deals.
Although Pakistan’s ranking has little bit improved in Corruption Perception Index (CPI) in the recent years, but it should not induce complacency in the anti-corruption departments. Instead, the improved rating should act as an impetus for change in a system infested by corruption. Corrupt officials, whether in the lower or higher echelons, need to be awarded punishments like in the Hajj Corruption case. I urge the government to introduce more transparency in public dealings and matters of public importance by introducing necessary checks and balances.