Corruption defined as misuse of entrusted power for private benefit is unfortunately endemic in Pakistan. No structure, no tier and no office of public sector is immune from it. Its spread is enormous. It has reached every organ of state – beyond executive it has put its claws on judiciary and legislature even. It would be no exaggeration to say that the whole body of the state of Pakistan is suffering from this malaise and wailing under its dead weight. To eradicate the corruption in Pakistan, the law implementation bodies and Judicial and Accountability systems should be made free from political pressures and “rich people” influence.
Political turbulence and insecurity have dominated Pakistan over the last 50 years, marked by frequent regime changes and unrest. Between 1990 and 1999, four different democratically-elected governments held power under the same two political leaders. Each administration was either dismissed or overturned, often as a result of corruption charges and allegations of power misuse. According to Ahmad (2018), Pakistan is the 117 least corrupt nation out of 175 countries, according to the 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International. Corruption Rank in Pakistan averaged 108.68 from 1995 until 2017, reaching an all time high of 144 in 2005 and a record low of 39 in 1995 (Ahmad, 2018).
Corruption manifests itself in various forms in Pakistan, including widespread financial and political corruption, nepotism, and misuse of power. Both petty and grand corruptions are prevalent in the country. Citizens commonly face demands for bribes in their dealings with government institutions to access basic public services. According to Islamabad (2009), the frequency of petty bribery is alarming and has shown little improvement over time, as evident in the national corruption surveys conducted by TI Pakistan in 2002 and 2006. Survey results for 2002 indicated that a remarkable 100 percent of the respondents who had any type of contact with the police over the previous year were confronted with corruption. In terms of basic services, 44 percent of the respondents were only able to access electricity by paying a bribe, while the rest had to rely on other forms of influence to obtain a connection. When it came to the country’s tax authorities, nearly every respondent (99 percent) had encountered corruption.
According to Khan et al. (2018), the three most corrupt government agencies are the police, power sector and judiciary. The three main reasons for corruption are the lack of accountability, low salaries and discretionary powers. Measures suggested for combating corruption included more adequate salaries and a speedier judicial process.
The country’s tax and public finance administration has also been affected by corruption. The World Bank’s Public Expenditure Management report on the country showed widespread collusion between taxpayers and tax officials, a situation that has led to tax evasion and lack of tax compliance (Islamabad, 2009). The legal framework for addressing corruption include the Pakistan Penal Code of 1960 (PPC), the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1947 (PCA) and the National Accountability Ordinance of 1999 (NAO).
Pakistan’s main anti-corruption body is the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), which has preventive, enforcement and public awareness functions. Its mandate is to investigate and prosecute corruption cases and it publishes annual reports on its progress. However, it is important to note that the judiciary and active military personnel are not subject to the NAB‘s oversight. Although it is formally independent, the NAB has always been strongly influenced by the military. The dilemma is tha NAB’s own employee are drowned in the sea of corruption. A while ago, a news surfaced on every Pakistani News Channel that 33 Crores (2372564.37$) are recovered from a 16th Grade NAB’s employee whose monthly salary is around 400PKR or 400$ (Samad, 2008).
The ex Chief Minister, Shehbaz Sharif said: “No accountability was held during the last 70 years; and if it was ever held, it was not transparent, but used as an instrument to victimise opponents” (Ahmed, 2018). A ruthless accountability which is much needed was never carried out. It is a pity that the worst kind of oppression is committed in police stations in the name of justice. Justice is a saleable commodity in police stations and courts. Helpless people often leave this world without having justice while the rich buy justice with the power of their money.
A very famous example of this brutal injustice was the case murder of “Shahzaib Khan”, a brother of two young sister. The Shahrukh Jataoi, a son of an influential personality killed Shahzaib Khan, when he tried to confront Shahruk because he was misbehaving with Shahzaib’s sister (Baloch, 2013). The courts and political pressure forced Shahzaib’s family to pardon the accused and Shahruk Jataoi is still roaming freely in Pakistan.
According to Javaid (2010), the Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi under (again) PPP Government allegedly dropped 7000 pilgrims’ application for performing the Holy pilgrim in 2010 and on their place hired accommodation for government officials. Those Government officials didn’t stay at the hired accommodation bringing a loss of PKR 200 million to the national exchequer. He was sentenced to 16 years of jail but later after his appeal to Supreme Court of Pakistan, he was set free in addition of other involved.
There are a number of areas in Pakistan where corruption is institutionalized. In country, enough tax and legal lacunae exist through which black money can be laundered. The most salient in this regard is the ‘no questions asked’ private remittance in foreign exchange. According to law, an individual can get as much foreign exchange into the country tax-free as they wish without being questioned over the source of funds. This is the most-used conduit for laundering money obtained through land transactions, tax evasion, and criminal activity. In addition, the state periodically provides a window through which to ‘whiten’ black money at a nominal rate of taxation by announcing a ‘whitener scheme’ where black money can be declared at a minimal rate of taxation that is lower than for those who earn legitimate taxable income. The state provides this facility every few years and creates an incentive for accumulating black money rather than investigating the source and punishing the criminals.
The other form of institutionalized corruption is land grants given to military personnel. Officers of the armed forces are entitled to residential, commercial and agricultural land at highly subsidized prices. In the case of residential land, numerous societies developed by the armed forces dot Pakistan’s urban landscape where infrastructure is developed (largely at state expense) and land is allotted to military personnel at subsidized rates, who in turn can sell it at the market rate and extract a hefty premium. Similarly, developed agricultural land is provided at subsidized rates and in some cases army personnel are deputed to tend the land at state expense.
While there are issues remaining for the improving of capacity and for better strategizing on anti-corruption mechanisms, corruption is inextricably linked to socio-political imbalances in Pakistan. If the country is to embark on an effective and sustainable anti-corruption drive, some level of agreement among different power wielders is necessary to ensure that accountability will be across the board. Only then will there be broader societal legitimacy for anti-corruption practices. Once such an agreement is reached, a future anti-corruption program requires us to:
1. Bury the past and start a new beginning: Bringing up corruption cases from the past will open a Pandora’s box, from which demands for accountability of all manner of powerful sections of the elite will emerge. Not only will this be divisive but it will also consume valuable time. Moreover, those in powerful positions (including formulators of the state’s security policy) will resist such a move. If catharsis is needed, then a process of truth and reconciliation, like that in South Africa, should be initiated.
2. Create a constitutional body to oversee all aspects of corruption, with no group or entity outside its ambit. The creation of such an entity would also mean that the duplication in mandates of several agencies could be rationalized.
3. Enhance the capacity and oversight functions of the auditor’s office to ensure that corruption in service delivery—which is the most important for the citizen—is minimized.
4. Carry out civil bureaucratic reform to strike a balance between security of tenure and credible penalization for wrongdoing.
To conclude, no Country can succeed as long as it is Judicial and Accountability systems are discriminating between rich and poor. The Pakistani people should have to make an effort and raise their voice against this dilemma of corruption and authorities should make NAB, Federal Investigation Agency and Adminstrative and Judicial Departements free from any pressure. Towards the achievement of this goal, a committee is proposed to be constituted, consisting of Chief Justice of Supreme Court, all Chief Justices of High Courts and leader of the opposition of National and all provincial assemblies, for appointing on a tenure post, all heads and key personnel of NAB, FIA and Provincial anti-Corruption departments. Moreover, no person in the country from civil, military, judiciary and any other department should have the immunity from interrogation on corruption matters before these departments. It is earnestly hoped that the above said mechanism if put in place, will strike such a fear in the hearts of all and sundry, that no one will dare even think of doing corruption in Pakistan.
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