Pakistan has an ingress of certain factors in its polity which is eroding its governance strength and multiplying the challenges of its economic viability, stability and sustainability. Where some of them may have limited implications, souring Corruption crawls beneath the surface of every institution that is highly revered in terms of its effect-circle and responsibility to dispense public service through the best means available at the disposal. Pakistan derives its story from the same ground of nepotism, corruption and mismanagement at the government and in bureaucracy. According to 2016 results of Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International, Pakistan ranks 116th place out of 176 countries with its previous score of 127 out of 175 in 2013. Nevertheless, it is the highly-practiced mantra to flaunt claims of poverty reduction and eradication of corruption by every political party in pre-election warm up cycle, sadly the situation is usually found to be totally opposite to what is buzzed in the ears of electorate.
Thinking of the reasons and the causes of this rampant graft in Pakistan, we usually come across two different reasons. One is of the institutes to manage their affairs in local capacity. Usually it is that the departments are not able to take decisions on their own, which negates their share of role in most critical national development projects. This can be attributed to centralization of resources and authority. Once the decisions are just relegated to the lower hierarchy only to carry out the execution, this affects their capacity to maintain any say in the affairs of the state which usually turns out to be counterproductive to the overall governance of country. Pakistan is facing the same challenge where either there is a redundancy of departments to carry out the similar task or they don’t have the authority to the same subject. In this Connection, Devolution of Power Act 2000 brought about good changes in the socio-economic uplift of the country on a very wider level. Through this Act, a system of local bodies was established in order to mushroom growth by relegating the administrative and financial authority to Zila Nazim and Union councils’ levels to the effect of the most under privileged segment of the country. The system is still in vogue and recently the local body elections were held in December 2015.
The second reason is that the public institutions of the country do not have any systems available, in local scope, to keep a check on the performance and the level of service delivery. We hear of NAB and FIA chasing the tycoons for major fraud activities, nevertheless their own performance is usually a question mark, does not seem to be effective in curtailing the menace of corruption which is nibbling on every quarter of almost every institution of the country. Whereas NAB and FIA exercise a federal level or autonomous authority to do their homework of eradicating corruption, it’s also imperative to understand that this menace is watered from the very bottom of the power and authority matrix and, then it travels up on the hierarchy with a higher impact. Therefore, what is needed is to keep it under control in lower hierarchies so that it does not find any breathing space inbounds. Police Service of Pakistan, presents a relevant example in this study, where SHO stationed at a local police stations abuses his authority to usurp money from the parties involved subject to a case filed in his jurisdiction. In most instances, this money travels upwards to the levels of SI, ASI and further. What this costs is that the public loses trust in these institutions of the country and they take law in their hands without paying any regard to its sanctity and supremeness. Similar patterns can be found elsewhere. The situation demands that an accountability force needs to be present in the most primary level of governance structure. We suggest the idea of a totally different Autonomous federal institution which should have representatives in all the public service delivery departments of the country to the most basic level. This would help in keeping things under watch to ensure higher levels of accountability. it is fully understandable that Bureaucracy usually finds friction and a commandment on its authority once it is put under vigilance but the gains this may bring in to strengthen the national institutions are many fold compared to the challenges.
While the government may play its role uprooting graft and suffrage of national resources, civil society also needs a play an active role in inculcating this narrative to the general public. Social media, electronic media, workshops and other such means could be used to enlighten people about their responsibility to put a stop to this menace which is eating out the foundations of our institutions. The public should be made aware of the drain our national exchequer bears when corruption is so rampant and, when there is no mechanism in place to stop its tentacles desecrating public trust in their national institutions. Once properly themed and instilled, the narrative would soon translate into self-accountability of the government departments who consider themselves above law and abuse their administrative powers and financial authority to personal gains of the officials. The government of Sindh, which presents the highest track record of corruption and abuse of vested authorities can be an eye opener to all of us in this case. Start it from the Police Department to the Sindh Coal authority, there is blatant graft and nepotism which has brought the province to this dismal state. Very Recently, The Supreme Court of Pakistan had to take notice to revoke the instatement of officials in Sindh Coal Authority which did not follow the due process of selection on merit. Moreover, a government official of as authority as of CM directly throwing garbs at FIA and NAB for their Anti-Corruption drive in the province indicates the seriousness of this syndrome which has blind folded the government and bureaucracy of this province. One could call this some of the pros of a rigged definition of democracy in Pakistan, where the Political elites would take their government offices as immunity quarters which can save them any accountability and the right of public to question their actions and decisions.
In my personal opinion, a 5-year term is not really suitable for a country where the institutions are yet to reach the stage of maturity laid with good structure of accountability and service level. The time President Musharraf held the office, his drive against graft and looting kept ramping for the first 3 years, then it slowed down because of political pressures increasing at home and the boycott of Bureaucracy. A period of 3 years is more like a considerable time frame to try and test a government as this would also put enough pressure on the incumbent government to deliver gains at the highest pace with sense of integrity and regard to the public. This is one of few pitfalls of our ways of sustaining democracy in Pakistan. The presidential system of US and France sounds of its robustness and accountability because of strong institutions and competitive governance. While it is not easy to reenact everything in a very short time, but it is important to understand that there are some inherent flaws in our system which need to be addressed seriously and with priority.
Privatization of state owned companies which are not performing up to the mark can be privatized to make up for any losses in their operations. The CCoP (Competition Commission of Pakistan) is already playing an active role to chart out the subject corporations to finally hand them over to private sector. Pakistan Steel Mills and PIA basically are two players of the same story but the prior is merely running at 8% of its production capacity while the later has conspicuously bloated its cumulative losses to PKR 103 Billion. It also worth noticing here that compared to Turkish Airlines, PIA has a higher number of staff with a fleet size smaller than Turkish Airlines. We can relate this to the Corporate culture of an organization which has a direct bearing on its operations, service levels and its general outlook to its consumers and customers.
Also, last year in February, we saw a surge of protests by the labor unions of PIA when government was weighing options on its privatization proposal. Eventually the government had to acquiesce to the demands of labor unions which also had political backings in their arsenal. While the CFO of PIA Mr. Nayyar Hayat, in his recent statement to the Public Accounts Committee, cited ill thought managerial decisions to be the reason behind the current state of the airline, we also need to acknowledge the fact that this Corporation has been over used for political mileage, where in thousands of workers were illicitly staffed during the times of different political governments. So, the fate of this once the top airliner with world class exuberance was marred into political adventurism with no feel for country. If anything, the government must take bold steps to revive the operational structure of these national assets without succumbing to any political duress. Also, the Judiciary should also take a lead in installing watch dogs to keep a check on the performance of these big elephants and, provide a framework for them to recuperate.
This is a day light fact that Corruption is directly or indirectly feeding terrorism and fanning violence in Pakistan. The recent operation in Karachi, conducted by Rangers and the Intelligence Agencies, unearthed mafias and their networks playing in the love affair of political shelter and Black money. So many innocent lives vapored for no reason; many families were deserted for no prejudice, just as sacrificial to this nexus of corruption and terrorism. The case of Dr. Asim, a very close aide to the former President Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, who allegedly embezzled billions of rupees during his time of Minister for Petroleum – Rs450bn through the fertilizer scam, Rs9.5bn through land fraud and Rs3bn through money laundering, shows the derelict condition of our state affairs where the elite finds a way out of this system with nothing to be guilty or embarrassed of. Dr. Asim was also charged for supporting terrorists and providing them shelter and medical care in one of the busiest public hospital of Karachi. In another example, People’s Aman Committee (PAC), a militant group raised by PPP in Lyari, one of the most volatile neighborhoods of Karachi, was a concoction of drug cartel and extortions business. Therefore, it is always a new exercise to check on the starters and terminals of graft which is so overtly alluded to home grown style of politics.
The Panama leaks and its inquiry also proved to be a mere white wash where the Prime Minister and his family simply found a way out of an important case with the Judiciary scaling the whole tough of tongue thing to the creation of JIT. I personally find it to be a mere exit strategy of the apex court where otherwise, it had a chance to write a new preamble to its much-disputed history. The Courts’ ruling to form a JIT, which would also contain people from the intelligence agencies, is merely face hiding and a very subtle trick of law to trigger collisions among the institutions. Moreover, this is also a clean chit to the people who have earned those ragtag elite tags on public money.
Tax Evasion is a very serious thing and US Obama administration had to launch a crackdown on companies which were running offshore businesses. While in domestic scenario, the graft money cycles and absorbs into the system, but money laundering and investment in offshore entities is a mere vacuum of national wealth to achieving private luxuries and interests. The matter has attracted global condemnation in general sense and it needs a broader framework to circumvent this menace. Pakistan which faces loss of billions of rupees to its national kitty on yearly basis demands a more wholesome effort to curb this menace of graft and tax evasion where the individuals and businesses not fulfilling their national duties to pay back to the state should be put to tougher sanctions and, in extreme cases imprisonments to higher degrees of labor. Until we don’t find a fixate remedy to this loophole, we would not be able to progress forward, even with the inclusion of CPEC into the National Broadway.
While many agencies at the federal and provincial level might be toeing hard to bottle this devil of graft, the situation on ground is in fact very different. A very recent headline story of the former finance secretary of Baluchistan pocketing billions of Rupees in Cash and other valuables, who was able to secure a reprieve with the Anti-Graft Authority is just a smudge to the amplified claims of bringing corrupt individuals to book. What is really required is that every individual taking on public service, a public servant, should take oath to disenfranchise this practice from every quarter of Pakistan, be it any department. Public Broadcast messages would just bring in fan following with nothing substantial to be proud of. Also, Public servants with bright cadres and tidy career profiles should be show cased on media, to serve a different narrative to the nation which has already so much on moral grounds to even feel embarrassed about this misdeed.
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