The Pakistani government’s uphill corruption battle

Zamir Awan

By Zamir Awan December 31, 2018

In general, corruption is a form of dishonesty or criminal activity undertaken by a person or organization entrusted with a position of authority, often to acquire illicit benefits.

Corruption may include many activities, including bribery and embezzlement, though it may also involve practices that are legal in many countries. Political corruption occurs when an office-holder or other government employee acts in an official capacity for personal gain. Corruption is most commonplace in kleptocracies, oligarchies, narco-states and mafia states.

Corruption is an international phenomenon and a major cause of poverty in developing countries around the world. Naming countries may offend them, so I will not identify any particular one. But there is a growing realization among the general public that there is a need to fight against corruption.

Today the media is a strong pillar of power in the world and it exposes evil acts of corruption as well as the identities of corrupt elements in society. Some governments are trying to censor such media to hide their criminal acts. But social media is equally powerful and some governments may not be able to block them. Members of the general public have a good understanding of corruption and how to counter it.

Many countries have initiated drives to fight corruption, but few of them have made much progress. China leads in this area, successfully eliminating a high percentage of corruption. During his state visit to China,  Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan learned about the Chinese experience rooting out corruption.

Pakistan, like many other developing nations, is severely cursed by corruption. Pakistan ranks 117 out of 180 countries in the International Transparency report for 2017. Since its independence, Pakistan has witnessed corruption regularly, but during its 70-year history, the most corrupt era was 2008-2013, when it amounted to US$94 billion.

For decades the anti-corruption laws failed to address the problem. However, on November 16, 1999, Ordinance XIX, which later came to be known as the National Accountability Bureau Ordinance, was passed. It called for the establishment of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) as an autonomous federal institution to drive efforts to combat corruption, financial crime and economic terrorism in Pakistan.

According to the ordinance, the NAB was granted the authority to launch investigations, conduct inquiries, and issue arrest warrants against individuals suspected of financial mismanagement, terrorism, and corruption in the private, state, defense and corporate sectors, and direct such cases to the accountability courts. Individuals convicted under the National Accountability Bureau Ordinance are prohibited from holding political office for 10 years.

Theoretically, Pakistan has the legal institutions and laws needed to control corruption. But some individuals are so powerful that they can flout the law

Theoretically, Pakistan has the legal institutions and laws needed to control corruption. But some individuals are so powerful that they can flout the law. In fact, the bureaucracy (civilian as well as military) has been involved in and supported corruption. Politicians have also been a major major cause of corruption. They have practiced nepotism and appointed their friends to important posts and used them as front men for corruption. They have even appointed their loyal friends to sensitive positions responsible for fighting corruption. Under such circumstances, it was impossible to eliminate corruption.

Fortunately, Prime Minister Khan is completely honest. Not even his political opponents can question his integrity. During his election campaign, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf pledged in its manifesto to eliminate corruption in this country. After winning the general election on July 25, the chairman of PTI became the prime minister of this country and after taking the oath, he launched a campaign against corruption as per his party’s manifesto.

Pakistan’s judiciary disqualified Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister, and now he is behind bars on corruption charges. Asif Ali Zardari, the former president, and his team are under investigation for alleged corruption. It seems that the current government is determined to spare no one in its drive against corruption.

This campaign against corruption will be widened and may encircle senior bureaucrats, serving or retired, both civil and military. Politicians are already under investigation. Khan enjoys support from the masses and due to his strong personality, it is expected that he will succeed in his ongoing fight against the menace of corruption.The dailyReport Must-reads from across Asia – directly to your inbox Asia Times is not responsible for the opinions, facts or any media content presented by contributors. In case of abuse, click here to report.

Zamir Awan

Zamir Awan Professor Zamir Ahmed Awan is a sinologist at the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) Chinese Studies Center of Excellence, Islamabad, Pakistan. Posted to the Pakistani Embassy in Beijing as science counselor (technical affairs) from 2010-16, he was responsible for promoting cooperation between Pakistan and China in science, technology, and higher education.

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