Pakistan is not the only country, which has been stigmatized with corruption. However, Pakistan is one of the countries where lack of accountability at many levels rules supreme.
If we want to analyze reasons for corruption- we need to see it in context with the factors like policies followed by a country, internal political parties dynamics, the cultural traditions of bureaucratic set up, political history of a country and it’s developments.
A simple definition of corruption is ‘the abuse of public office for private gain.’ Public office misuse in different forms is global. It can be in form of bribery, kick backs, theft of official resources so on and so forth. In government, corruption takes place both at bureaucratic and political levels. Corruption flourishes when institutions are weak and policies the maidservant of few individuals. Appointments of blue eyed to the exclusion of merit. Causes of corruption must be viewed in the context of strength or weakness of institutions springing from political developments, a nation’s policies (or lack of it and bureaucratic traditions.
Corruption in systematic manner may be seen as being institutionalized with informal manner of working superseding the formal rules, which are relegated to being a piece of paper only. It becomes extremely vital for a strong legal system to be in place aimed to check any corruption taking place. Governance must be strong to stymie corrupt practices, disallow informal rules from taking over and promote accountability.
According to a report by Transparency International in 2014 published in a local newspaper South Asia is the ‘most corrupt region in the world. The watchdog group found serious problems with anti-corruption efforts in Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. All six countries have public bodies charged with stopping corruption, but “their hands are tied by political control over the staff appointments and budget,” the group said in a report.’
The negative cascading effect of the massive alleged corruption is brain drain, frustration, fertile ground for recruiting candidates for terrorism and lack of investment in the country. Doug Bandow in an exclusive report for Forbes states, “The practice of democracy has been consistently corrupt, incompetent, and disillusioning. The political system is essentially authoritarian with a democratic veneer. Despite the presence of an educated and talented elite, Pakistan lacks the lush civil society that characterizes most Western nations. The government is simultaneously ubiquitous and ineffective, discouraging individual and communal action. Attempts by the Pakistani government to micro-manage the economy have failed. The ill consequences of government economic control have been exacerbated by political instability. Only brave or foolish outsiders enter the Pakistani economy. In fact, foreign investment has collapsed since 2008, dropping by more than four-fifths. Unemployment and inflation are high; economic infrastructure is decrepit; even Islamabad suffers routine power outages.” (May 20, 2013)
He quotes Vali Nasr, author and former State Department adviser, Pakistan “is nuclear-armed, in near conflict with India, has a dangerous civil war with its own extremists, is now subject to one of the most brutal terrorism campaigns against its population, and is now coming apart along sectarian lines.”
Countries like Pakistan must target towards strengthening institutions, going strictly by the formal rules, inculcate accountability and develop long term sustainable policies geared to support economic and social development. The government needs policies that co-relate with the needs of the citizens. Energy shortages have serious fallout effect on production, exports, and jobs. Yet it has not been addressed effectively. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
A strong legal system in form of courts and laws is needed to curtail corruption. Excessive taxations on sectors already under burden lead to people look towards loopholes in system it to exploit to their advantage. Illegal cash flow internationally must be checked to curtail corruption. Hiding of looted wealth abroad must be checked across the board without exceptions. European Union for example, approved the 4th Anti-Money Laundering Act “which requires EU member-states to create registers of the beneficial owners of companies established within their borders.”(Transparency International March 10, 2016) Freedom of Press, Social Media and easy access to Information is an important aspect of building confidence of the government with the public. According to a World Bank report, smart technology use can reduce corruption. “Perhaps one of the most fertile sources of corruption in the world is associated with the purchasing activities of the state. Because the awarding of contracts can involve a measure of bureaucratic discretion, and because most countries have long histories of graft, kickbacks, and collusion in public procurement, more and more countries have opted for procedures that guarantee adequate levels of openness, competition, a level playing field for suppliers, fairly clear bidding procedures, and so on. Chile is one country that has used the latest technologies to create one of the world’s most transparent public procurement systems in the world. ChileCompra was launched in 2003, and is a public electronic system for purchasing and hiring, based on an Internet platform.” (May 14, 2014 on Six Strategies to fight Corruption)
Was it not Niccolò Machiavelli in his masterpiece The Prince wrote, “It is much safer to be feared than loved.” However, the benchmark of good leadership is much higher in the modern day world. A leader must be respected.
“Choose a leader who will invest in building bridges, not walls. Books, not weapons. Morality, not corruption. Intellectualism and wisdom, not ignorance. Stability, not fear and terror. Peace, not chaos. Love, not hate. Convergence, not segregation. Tolerance, not discrimination. Fairness, not hypocrisy. Substance, not superficiality. Character, not immaturity. Transparency, not secrecy. Justice, not lawlessness. Environmental improvement and preservation, not destruction. Truth, not lies.” (Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem)
The days of Machiavelli are over. Power can no longer me attained by deception, coercion, navigating through lies and high handed tactics. British historian Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Sirs, this is the era of Wiki Leaks. This is the era of Panama Leaks. Honesty and accountability has to flow from the top.
The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book, ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media and Media Laws in Pakistan.’ Her mail ID is [email protected] and tweets at @yasmeen_9