- The Islamic perspective
Islamic Republic of Pakistan is strategically located country with a valuable natural resource base. This includes an extensive natural gas supply, some oil, hydro power potential, coal, iron ore, copper, salt, and limestone. Despite having such a phenomenal amount of natural resources, Pakistan with a population of over 207 million (the world’s 5th-largest), and has a nominal GDP per capita of $1,641 (2018) which ranks 147th in the world. One of the basic reasons for the deplorable economic situation in Pakistan is the rampant corruption within the public sector institutions. Therefore, on the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International, Pakistan ranks 117/180 in the world.
Corruption can be classified in two major areas of social life. One is in the public domain, that is making money by siphoning off public funds or taking bribes for performing an illegitimate public function. Corruption in public sector causes loss to public exchequer and is a robbery on tax payer money. The second sort of corruption is in private affairs, where a person while dealing with individuals doesn’t do justice in his private affairs.
State collects taxes for meeting its obligations towards people, to ensure that they are provided with fundamental rights as guaranteed by Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973. Providing protection to people, provision of free education, better health facilities and food are amongst the rights of people, which a state should endeavour to make available. Corruption in public affairs is a theft on the treasury, state or on money collectively owned by people. Plundering public money is one of the offences which deprive the poor from availing basic needs of life.
Corruption distorts economic decision-making, deters investment, undermines competitiveness and, ultimately, weakens economic growth of a country. Additionally, when a corrupt public functionary plunders public funds, amount so stolen shall result in lessening state’s power to provide basic amenities and protection to its citizens. So, if for example government fails to provide basic health facilities or is unable to provide clean water to natives of Thar, Sindh, where women and children die each year for want of such facilities, person looting the tax payer money is in fact responsible for killing people and should be held accountable.
In Pakistan, NAB Ordinance, 1999 provides for maximum 14 years of imprisonment and penalty to the amount of bribe received by the corrupt
As regards the Islamic perspective on corruption, the Muslims account for about one-fifth of the world’s population, and form a majority of the population in over 50 countries. The stronger the faith one has in Islamic teachings, the lesser the possibility of being deluded. Corruption is depicted to stem from the abuse of judicial power, administrative power of any kind, political authority, and financial prowess. For example, Qur’an 2:188 states that, “And do not consume one another’s wealth by unjust means, nor offer it as bribes to officials in order to consume part of other people’s wealth illicitly, while you know.”
This ruling prohibits rulers, judges, decision-makers, and parties to a conflict from facilitating unjustified appropriation of property of others or public property by obtaining a favourable ruling. It calls such behavior as batil (false or deceptive) on the one hand and ithm (criminal, sinful, inappropriate) on the other hand. Condemned are those in authority who spread corruption and mischief (fasad) on land by conspiring racial divisions among people, bestowing benefits on some and oppressing others (28:4; 89:10-12). Also the rich are advised to seek with their wealth lawful bounties and not engage in actions that spread corruption (fasad) on land (28:77).
The Prophet (PBUH) declined many who sought a public appointment on the grounds that such positions are a trust and given only to those possessing appropriate attributes (merit). Disapproving a similar request, he said: “Authority is a trust, and on the Day of Judgment it is a cause of humiliation and repentance except for one who fulfills its obligations and (properly) discharges the duties attendant thereon” (Sahih Muslim, (Hadith, 4491).
As far as human nature is concerned, Islam does not admit the doctrine of Original Sin. According to it, all human beings are created in the best mould (Qur’an 30:30; 75:2; 95:4) i.e., inclined to truth, modesty, and compassion, and fearful of ultimate accountability on the Day of Judgment (22:35; 42:18; 70:27). Over time, however, a person is led away from this cast owing to conditioning by parents and society, i.e., from social interaction. This results in divisions in faith, racism, egoism, jealousy, miserliness, and deceit. In brief, a state of mind fixated with realising self – or group – interest interpreted within the limited context of the here and now, and at the neglect of or without being cognizant of the full repercussions of one’s actions that unfold over a much broader horizon of time and space. This is the sense in which man, who is by nature inclined to truth when brought up and immersed in a situational or social context, becomes weak in rising above these constraints and discerning absolute truth and justice. It is mentioned in the Quran that “God intends to lighten your burden, for the human being was created weak” Al-Quran (4:28).
To conclude, corruption is a problem that needs to be dealt with iron hand by the state. Better education for masses, strict laws and efficient administration can make a difference. In Pakistan, NAB Ordinance, 1999 provides for maximum 14 years of imprisonment and penalty to the amount of bribe received by the corrupt. Surprisingly in Singapore accountability law, a country which is among top of least corrupt states, has only seven years imprisonment for a corrupt convict. So not only we lack in educating the people about menace of corruption, our institutions do not have the lack capacity to clutch the corrupt, and if at all tried for a charge of corruption, to convict him. These gaps fizzle out the deterrence aspect of imprisonment, when people believe that one may spend a portion of looted money to get himself relieved from the public institutions, the situation would not improve.
NAB, being at the forefront of accountability of public functionaries, has a crucial role to play in keeping the country clean, and to prevent and control corruption. Strict laws, enforcement without fear or favour, tough punishment from the courts and effective government administration are pivotal to achieve this goal. The anti-corruption measures must be applied consistently across the board, regardless of whether it is petty corruption or high-level corruption. Recently, government has passed whistle blower act to identify the culprits which will again be an exercise in futility if the corrupt are not finally taken to task. Whatever the state of affairs may be, we all have a common duty to join hands with government to fight the disease of corruption.