Monday September 25, 2023

A downward spiral

November 03, 2017

An eye-opening report issued by Transparency International (TI), recently brought to my notice, listed Pakistan among the top five most corrupt countries in the Asia-Pacific Region.

The report also quoted José Ugaz, the chair of TI, who urged that: “governments must do more to deliver on their anti-corruption commitments”. He added that millions of people are forced to pay bribes for public services and it is the poor who are most vulnerable.

The report compelled me to think about how Pakistan was founded as a result of a peaceful movement and Quaid-e-Azam aspired to make it an independent country that could become a role model for the international community. However, our motto seems to now revolve around earning money. To achieve this, we are not accounting for the fair or unfair means that are being adopted.

Our national history indicates that corruption has always had deep roots within our society. Whether it involved the issue of making claims just after Independence or the nationalisation of institutes during the Bhutto era, complaints regarding corruption have echoed over time. It is the law of nature that societies where corruption becomes the norm can never move towards peace and prosperity. The USSR, once a superpower, is now history for this reason.

Today, Bangladesh is even more advanced than Pakistan in the journey towards development. The same can be observed in the case of other countries like China, South Korea, Malaysia and South Africa,        which were liberated after Pakistan became independent.

I am not saying that their societies consist of entirely honest citizens. Instead, their strong systems discourage all forms of corrupt practices. Their institutions consider it to be their national responsibility to bring corrupt elements – regardless of their social status – to task. We must observe the speedy progress made by our time-honoured friend China in the fight against corruption. In the digital age, we can also study how great nations fall when they don’t take corruption seriously.    

The situation in Pakistan seems to be complex in many terms. First, we view corruption as a political weapon that can be used to malign our opponents. Second, we are more interested in calling other people corrupt when we enjoy the benefits of similar practices in our daily life.

If we look around us, dishonesty can be found in every field of life. Bribes, fraud, black marketing, ghost schools, counterfeit medicines, bogus documents and false witnesses in courts are becoming a part of our lives and every Pakistani has to deal with them.

If the elite are allegedly involved in white collar crimes, the middle and lower classes are also embroiled in corruption. Interestingly, a minister had claimed during his previous tenure that corruption has become part of our national culture. It is not just a problem that is restricted to the police. Almost every state department in our country is helpless against corruption. Unfortunately, a large segment of people now believe that an officer who demands a bribe is the right person to do their work. In our 70-year national history, successive governments have blamed previous regimes for promoting corruption but have never shown a serious commitment to curb this menace permanently.

The corruption allegations have also affected the image of Pakistan on an international level. The world sees Pakistan as a country that is flexible to compromise on principles in return for foreign aid and grants. We need to highlight the fact that, like any other country, Pakistan also comprises good and bad citizens. In addition to the corrupt elements, there are also a large number of Pakistanis who believe in fairness and honesty.

In the fight against corruption, we need to show a firm commitment to curb this social evil at all costs. We must also understand that God loves those who are fair in their public dealings. The teachings of all religions urge their followers to contribute towards the betterment of society as a whole. Ironically, it has become a common practice to earn money through unfair means.

In the presence of an independent judiciary, a vibrant media and a dynamic civil society, it is quite easy to expose corruption as compared to the past. Punishing a few corrupt elements shouldn’t be our prime agenda. Instead, we should design a long-term plan to deal with the problem. There is also a dire need to mobilise like-minded citizens for a tireless struggle to transform the country into a corruption-free state.

The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani