Corruption in Pakistan

By: Muhammad Jamil

It is a matter of grave concern that corruption has deeply permeated in every strata of our society. Scandals about misappropriation and plundering of billions from the banks and other federal, provincial and semi-government departments abound. However, the Pakistani military has maintained its reputation of being the least corrupt, according to a recent survey released by the Transparency International Pakistan (TIP), as compared to other institutions in the country.

In the previous years, the police had topped the surveys. But now, according to TIP, “Land Administration has topped the list as the most corrupt department” – “land mafia” being one of the major reasons, while “the Police Department has been ranked as the second most corrupt institution in the country. Taxation slipped to the third rank from its previous eighth position, the judiciary stepped up into the fourth position from sixth in the previous year, while Customs and Tendering and Contracting Departments have shown alarming increase in the corruption trend.”

In the past, successive governments had launched anti-corruption campaigns, but to no avail. During the Ayub era, a number of corruption-tainted politicians were barred from participating in the elections under EBDO, but they were neither tried, nor punished. In Yahya’s martial law, 303 civil servants and government functionaries were dismissed; however, they were not prosecuted. During Bhutto’s era, services of around 1,100 government employees were terminated without holding any trial, and as a result all those involved in serious cases of corruption were let off the hook. Above all, under General (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s watch on April 30, 2000, the Central Board of Revenue announced the Tax Amnesty Scheme to legalise all the hidden assets and black money of corrupt politicians and government officials by charging 10 percent of the undisclosed income earned on or before June 30, 1999. In other words, no government had tried to set an example to deter others from pursuing corrupt practices.

Needless to say, a semi-feudal and semi-colonial system can neither endure, nor can it be salvaged by cosmetic measures. Therefore, honest and patriotic officials in the government should realise that such measures can and will not produce the desired results; only a radical reconstruction programme can change the situation for the better and they need to make sincere efforts no matter what it takes. According to the list, those who mostly benefited from the NRO belonged to the PPP and its coalition partners. As a result, mainly the PPP has lost its credulity. The question, however, being raised is about the more than 7,600 persons, who got relief under the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO)? Since the details provided in the list just include 34 politicians and around 220 government servants.

Against this backdrop, a three-member bench of the Supreme Court in May 2011 took suo moto notice of all the loans written off by commercial banks between 1971 and 2009 – an amount that was more than Rs256 billion over the 28-year period. In October 2011, a commission, headed by Justice (retd) Jamshed Ali Shah, was formed to investigate whether political influence was involved in loan write-off decisions. According to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), more than Rs256 billion loans were written off from 1971 to 2009 on political basis. So, the apex court directed the banks/DFIs to immediately submit the record of all the remitted, reversed and/or waived-off loans under various categories.

Despite this, unfortunately, corruption in Pakistan has not only deprived the national exchequer of its revenues and eroded the profitability of State sector enterprises, but also destroyed the very fabric of the society. Also, it has brought the country on the brink of economic disaster. In 1998, late Dr Mehboobul Haq had estimated tax evasion to the extent of Rs100 billion through the manipulation of accounts, in addition to the tax evasion of around Rs100 billion by the parallel of informal economy. Today, pathetically, the figure is around Rs500 billion. The tiny elite, comprising jagirdars, industrial barons, civil and military bureaucracy, and some rapacious politicians have kept the complete control over the State, its resources and all levers of power. Thus, Pakistanis should not vote for corrupt politicians in the next general elections specifically to rid the country from corruption.

The writer is a freelance columnist.

-The Nation

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