Chips off the same block

The system obliges corruption

Reportedly PTI stalwart Sher Afzal Marwat during a live session on X Spaces admitted that corruption was rampant in the party’s previous government in KPK and people had made not billions but trillions through it. According to him, former Chief Minister Mahmood Khan earns Rs 2.5 million daily from one of his mines now.

What Marwat said has not surprised the people who are knowledgeable about the in-built avenues of corruption in the system of governance. Whoever ruled Pakistan has not only indulged in corruption himself but has also rewarded his cronies and supporters in perpetuating the culture of graft and entitlement.

Marwat’s Guru, who used to boast that he was a certified ‘ Sadiq and Ameen’ as per the verdict given by a former CJP, is already in jail for indulging in corruption. The fact is that he came into power through a corrupt process which is now an open secret.

It is not only in KPK but also in Punjab where Waseem Akram-Plus allegedly made billions through corrupt practices and shared the booty with the higher echelons of the party.

Corruption is generally defined as misuse of entrusted power or authority by elected politicians or appointed civil servants for private gains. It usually entails embezzlement of funds, nepotism, kickbacks, bribery as well as deliberate attempts to perpetuate a system with inbuilt avenues of corruption, graft and entitlement. Corruption has many forms but the major cause of concern are the systemic corruption and political corruption which generate other forms of corruption that eat into the social and economic fibre of a country besides generating social tensions and hampering  its economic progress.

Political corruption occurs at the highest level of the political system, usually at the policy formulation level, when politicians and state agents entitled to make and enforce laws in the name of the people, use their position to sustain their power, status and wealth leading to misallocation of resources and perversion of the process of decision making. Systemic or endemic corruption is an integrated and essential aspect of the economic, social and political system prevalent in a country, embedded in a wider situation that helps to sustain it. It is universally recognized that corruption invariably is related to lack of good governance.

There are no two opinions about the fact that we are a society completely immersed in corruption, which decidedly is the bane of our socio-economic development and national integration. Our rulers, both military dictators and politicians, are equally responsible for this detestable phenomenon, which due to its trickle-down effect has penetrated into the entire fabric of our society.

Law enforcing agencies, judiciary and government departments which are supposed to ensure rule of law, justice, checking corruption and promoting well being of the masses, are themselves afflicted with corruption to the core. And regrettably there seems no end in sight to this process of self-destruction.

Once the avenues of political corruption are plugged it will surely have a trickle-down effect and also help in eliminating the scourge down the ladder. People have had enough of the corruption by the ruling elite as the country has almost reached a tipping point. The prevalent system has only produced islands of affluence in the oceans of poverty and cannot sustain itself for long. 

We have often been hearing from the rulers their resolve to eliminate corruption from the echelons of the government and the society as and when it suited their political interests. But the fact is that whatever accountability mechanisms they put in place, were meant to target their political opponents rather than an arrangement for across-the-board accountability. Bringing   systemic reforms to curb the culture of graft and entitlement has never been their priority.

The military dictators who staged military coups citing corruption as the overriding consideration with the promises to put the genie in the bottle, themselves indulged in reckless misuse of power and corruption to prolong their rules, pushing the country further into the crucible of a precipice. No wonder Transparency International declared the Musharraf regime as the most corrupt government in the history of Pakistan.

The inference which can be safely drawn from the foregoing realities is that they all are chips off the same block.. The irony is that they relish dubbing the opponents as corrupt. Imran Khan was probably the most vociferous in hurling allegations of corruption on his political opponents. His conviction in a corruption case and the revelations about corruption in Punjab and now in KPK constitute a severe slap on the face of that biggest ever demagogue.

My considered view is that it is impossible to eliminate corruption under the prevalent system of governance particularly until we change the way we elect our representatives. Political corruption stems from the single constituency system in vogue to elect public representatives. To begin with, the system eliminates the chances of anybody belonging to the middle class or lower strata of the society to contest election because it involves astronomical expenditure which currently is estimated in the vicinity of Rs 100 million. Then these candidates have also to pay the parties for getting the ticket to contest the election. So, on the average a candidate has to spend at least Rs 150 million to get through the process. That makes it only possible for landed aristocracy and the elite to contest elections and maintain their grip on the political power. For them politics is an industry where they invest to multiply their fortunes.

Once elected, they blackmail the party leaders in the numbers game to protect their vested interests and oppose any reform agenda that threatens their privileges. The system also encourages horse-trading. It also allows the non-democratic forces to play their role in the making and breaking of regimes.

The country needs to switch over to a system of proportional representation to break the hold of the corrupt elitist classes and the landed aristocracy on political power to minimize the avenues of political corruption. In the proportional representation system,  people vote for the parties and not the individual candidates thus scuttling the prospects of any rigging. The parties get representation in the assemblies according to the percentage of votes cast in their favour. They then submit their lists of preferences for the potential candidates to represent them. They can withdraw any member because of his errant behaviour. This way the most competent people having expertise in different fields get the chance to enter the assemblies and play their role in the development of the country.

Once the avenues of political corruption are plugged it will surely have a trickle-down effect and also help in eliminating the scourge down the ladder. People have had enough of the corruption by the ruling elite as the country has almost reached a tipping point. The prevalent system has only produced islands of affluence in the oceans of poverty and cannot sustain itself for long. The political parties are better advised to end the culture of confrontation and use their collective wisdom to pull the country out of the economic mess and to introduce the much needed changes in the system if they want to remain relevant to the future political landscape of the country.

Malik Muhammad Ashraf
Malik Muhammad Ashraf
Malik Muhammad Ashraf is an academic. He can be contacted at: [email protected].

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