ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government’s narrative of corruption-free Pakistan received a serious blow on account of the latest report by global corruption watchdog Transparency International as the country lost 16 spots over the last year in the Corruption Perception Index.
Since the PTI government came into power, Pakistan has slipped 23 spots down in the corruption index. The report invited the opposition to pile a heap of strong criticism against the government. PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto said those describing others as robbers have been proven to be the biggest band of thieves who must now quit.
PMLN President Shehbaz Sharif said the report terms Imran Niazi's government as corrupt, while Maryam Nawaz branded the PTI government on Imran watch as the most corrupt government in the history of Pakistan. Defending the government's performance, Prime Minister Imran Khan said the incumbent government did the most against corruption and resolved to quickly conclude the corruption-related cases in courts by expediting effective prosecution, while the information minister said the report does nowhere blames the PTI govt of financial corruption, says the problem is due to absence of rule of law and state capture.
On Tuesday, the Transparency International Berlin in it's annual Corruption Perception Index (CPI) described Pakistan’s scores to have dropped from 31 to 28 as compared to the previous year, which shows that corruption has increased in the country. The loss of three points in the CPI scores has slipped the country further down to the 140th position out of 180 countries whereas the previous year Pakistan was placed at the 124th position.
The global watchdog through eight different sources calculates the CPI every year. These sources measure how corrupt the public sector of any country is perceived by its business community. For this purpose, they use a scale from 0 to 100 where zero is considered highly corrupt and 100 is termed highly transparent. For its 2021 edition, The Transparency International gave 28 points, the lowest score since 2014. This reflects that instead of eliminating corruption from the government departments, the PTI-led government not only failed to curb it but the perception of corruption has also increased significantly during the current regime.
The last time when Pakistan’s ranking was below 128 was in 2013 when PMLN took over the charge of the government. However, gradually the scores improved in the next five years as the country reached 33 score (117th position) when the previous government relinquished the charge. However, the CPI scores gradually decreased from 33 in 2018 to 32 in 2019 to 31 in 2020, and now 28 in 2021. Justice (retd) Nasira Iqbal, Vice-Chairperson of Transparency International Pakistan, says, “The absence of rule of law and state capture has resulted in substantial low CPI 2021 score of Pakistan compared to CPI 2020, from 31/100 to 28/100 and rank from 124/180 to 140/180, whereas there is no change in CPI 2021 scores of India and Bangladesh from CPI 2020.”
The Transparency International in its annual report said that the CPI shows that corruption levels remain at a standstill worldwide, with 86pc of countries making little to no progress in the last 10 years. The CPI global average remains unchanged at 43 for the tenth year in a row, and two-thirds of countries score below 50. The top countries on the index are Denmark (88), Finland (88), and New Zealand (88), all of which also rank in the top 10pc in the world on the Democracy Index civil liberties score. However, Somalia (13), Syria (13), and South Sudan (11) remain at the bottom of the CPI. Syria is also ranked last in civil liberties.
Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chairperson of Transparency International, said: “Human rights are not simply a nice-to-have in the fight against corruption. Authoritarian approaches destroy independent checks and balances and make anti-corruption efforts dependent on the whims of an elite. Ensuring people can speak freely and work collectively to hold power to account is the only sustainable route to a corruption-free society.”
The Transparency International found countries that violate civil liberties consistently score lower on the CPI. Complacency in fighting corruption exacerbates human rights abuses and undermines democracy, setting off a vicious spiral. As these rights and freedoms erode and democracy declines, authoritarianism takes its place, contributing to even higher levels of corruption. The CPI 2021 report comprises 13 agencies or survey sources out of which eight were relevant for the assessment of Pakistan. Out of these eight survey sources, Pakistan scored by 25 or less by four different sources which include the Bertelsmann Foundation Transformation Index, Economist Intelligence Unit Country Ratings, Varieties of Democracy Project, and World Justice Project Rule of Law Index. Bertelsmann Stiftung Transformation Index (BTI): In 2020, Pakistan scored 21 points in the BTI index which remained the same for the year 2021. Similarly, Pakistan lost significantly in the Economic Intelligence Unit ratings as compared to 2020. In 2020, Pakistan scored 37 but the country’s scores reduced significantly by 17 points in 2021. In Global Insights Country Risk Ratings, Pakistan’s scores remained unchanged for the years 2020 and 2021. The country scored 35 points in the ratings of global insights on country risks for the year 2021. In World Justice Project Rule of Law Index, as per the full source description of CPI 2021, Pakistan scored only 25 in 2021. The scores were the same in 2020 too. Similarly, the World Economic Forum EOS gave 41 points to Pakistan for the CPI 2021. Last year Pakistan’s scores were 43. Moreover, Pakistan’s scores for the World Bank CPIA index remained unchanged 35 for the years 2020 and 2021. According to the report, Pakistan scored only 20 points in the Varieties of Democracy Project rankings. In 2020, Pakistan scored 22 points. Whereas PRS International Country Risk Guide awarded 32 points to Pakistan for the CPI 2021. In the Global Insights Country, Risk Ratings Pakistan scored 35 points.
Defending the government, Prime Minister Imran Khan said the incumbent government did the most against corruption. While discussing the TI report in a cabinet meeting, the prime minister said those facing corruption cases have fled abroad instead of facing trials, which is causing needless delays in the conclusion of cases. He resolved to expedite the deferring of cases by effective prosecution.
Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry, while addressing the media after the federal cabinet meeting, clarified that Pakistan's low ranking on Transparency International's corruption perception index is because of the absence of rule of law in the country and state capture as opposed to financial corruption. Responding to a media question, the information minister said state capture is a type of systemic political corruption in which private interests significantly influence a state's decision-making processes to their own advantage.
"The concrete and specific report has not yet been published, only score was reported. The criteria of the Transparency International for assessment is based on different issues pertaining to financial corruption, accountability, rule of law and state capture," he said. Citing names of different institutions and non-governmental organisations that took part in preparing the report, he said only The Economist Intelligence Unit lowered Pakistan's score while assessment of all others remained unchanged.
The media, he added, should check with the head of Economist Intelligence Unit in Pakistan as to why the country's ranking was dropped on the basis of rule of law. "I am not getting into controversy whether it is correct or not. Undoubtedly, there is a need to take steps for strengthening the rule of law in Pakistan," he said, adding that Prime Minister Imran Khan had time and again stressed on establishing the rule of law.
There was an impression that there were two different laws for the rich and the poor, and "such impression severely hurts any kind of perception about the country", he remarked. The minister said all the institutions needed to work collectively for establishing the rule of law in letter and spirit. He reiterated his demand of allowing cameras in the court for live broadcast of the cases of national importance.
"I have made an appeal in the news conference the other day that the cases of Shehbaz Sharif and Asif Zardari should be telecast live so that the people can assess themselves whether the same are factually correct or not," he added.
There was no problem in that regard as such steps would improve Pakistan's perception at the international level, he maintained. Fawad said a comprehensive response would be given once the Transparency International released its complete report.
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib termed the opposition uproar "illogical'', saying there was no mention of financial corruption at the government level. He termed the opposition a stumbling block to the rule of law and criticized it for not cooperating with the government on reforming the system. Whenever they (opposition) were invited for reforming the system, he said they only resorted to blackmailing the government by hurling threats of a long march, en-mass resignations, and no-confidence motion. The opposition had not only plundered the national wealth but also corrupted the entire system while being in the power, he added. He said Prime Minister Imran Khan was striving to ensure rule of law in the country. "Our criminal law reforms are ready for legislation that will eventually pave the way for the administration of justice and supremacy of law," he added. Farrukh said it was the first time in the country's history that the powerful was being held accountable despite the constant blackmailing of the opposition to the NRO-like concession.Meanwhile, the hashtag #CorruptionKingImranKhan with over 61K tweets was among the top trends on the popular social media site Twitter. The opposition launched a barrage of criticism against the government. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) declared the recent Transparency International report as a charge sheet against the government.
PMLN President and Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif said the TI has declared the government as the most corrupt for the second time in a row. He said this clearly testified that Imran Niazi's government was corrupt. “The country can’t afford their looting. Imran Niazi as Prime Minister has turned the country into a hub of rapidly growing corruption,” he said. Shehbaz said now the world was saying that the prime minister was a thief. Corruption in Pakistan was reduced under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif. He said with good governance, transparency and legal reforms of PML-N, Pakistan's ranking in the corruption index had improved by 23 places. “Pakistan's ranking had improved to 117, Pakistan's prestige in the world was increased,” he said adding that there was corruption in every sector, including flour, sugar, electricity, gas, medicine, urea, LNG, corona, so Pakistan has gone from 124 to 140 in the corruption index. “Corruption is being perpetrated every day from 2019 to 2021 in Pakistan under the PTI. Yes, corruption has decreased every year during the PMLN era; if the Prime Minister and his team are honest, the effect is visible,” Shehbaz maintained. He said that the report of Transparency International was a clear proof of the fact that Pakistan was in the grip of corrupt people.
PMLN Vice president Maryam Nawaz in her tweet said, “There is no more corrupt government in the history of Pakistan than the Imran government. In the era of Imran Khan, who set a record decline in every sector, the only sector which developed is theft and looting,” she said adding the government and its mafias were busy in looting the people.
Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly and Central Vice President PMLN Hamza Shahbaz Sharif said that the latest report of Transparency International was a charge sheet against the government. “In one year, Pakistan has gone up 16 places in Corruption Index,” he said while quoting the report. Hamza further said that corruption was eradicated during the PML-N era when it brought Pakistan from the 127th position to 117th position but the market for corruption has never been so hot in the history of Pakistan as it was in the tenure of Imran Niazi.
PMLN Punjab Information Secretary Azma Bukhari said that the latest report of Transparency International was a slap in the face of 'change'. She said that Imran Khan has been proved to be an internationally certified corrupt person for four consecutive years. She said that Imran Khan and Usman Buzdar were receiving all the medals of failure.
Dr. Tariq Fazal Ch tweeted “Corruption ladder in #PTIGovernment has risen over threefold. These goons claimed to erupt corruption, rather they have been nurturing it." PMLN’s central leader Ahsan Iqbal tweeted, “After the release of Transparency International's report, Imran Niazi called an emergency meeting of spokespersons. The nation will be informed that the previous government had artificially lowered the corruption index and the Captain's government has brought it down to market rate.” Senior PMLN leader Pervaiz Rashid tweeted that “Saqib Nisar who gave the certificate of Sadiq and Amin to Imran Khan were exposed by TI’s recent report. Transparency's report exposes the accountability drama of this gang of thieves. Imran Khan turned out to be a liar and a traitor.” PMLN Secretary Information Marriyum Aurangzeb challenged Imran Khan to address the nation and answer their questions over the latest report of Transparency International testifying PTI government's massive corruption. She said after this incriminating report, Imran won't be sent home from the Prime Minister House but would be sent straight to jail.
Reacting to the report, PPP termed it a slap in the face of PTI's so-called anti-corruption rhetoric and said after the report, there is no justification for Imran to stay in the government. In his tirade, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto said those describing others as robbers have been proven to be the biggest band of thieves and they must quit now. Reacting to the report, Parliamentary Leader of Pakistan People's Party (PPP) in Senate Sherry Rehman said the CPI ranking is a charge sheet against the incumbent government. In her tweet, Rehman said that the decline in Pakistan's ranking by 16 positions exposes the government's narrative. The rulers who promised to end corruption in the country have increased the ill practice. The PPP leader said that the government's accountability drive is only to target political opponents, however, the report has exposed the corruption of PTI, she added.
Zulfiqar Ali Bader, the spokesperson for PPP Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, said, “Imran Khan came to power with the slogan of ending corruption but now with the increase in corruption he should go home. After the resignation of Imran’s adviser on accountability, the entire government should resign. Credit for going upward from 124 to 140 in the list of corruption in just one year goes to Imran Khan and his corrupt cabinet.”
Secretary Information PPP Parliamentarians Shazia Marri said claims of Prime Minister Imran Khan Niazi about uprooting corruption have proved to be a big lie based on deception while Pakistan's position has worsened by falling 16 places due to bad policies of the most corrupt PTI government. Shazia said that Prime Minister Imran Khan did nothing for the people but only destroyed the country's economy by massive corruption during his four-year rule. “Peshawar Rapid Transit and Billion Tree projects were the mega corruption cases of PTI government which has looted billions of rupees of the nation by delaying the decision of purchase of LNG, while more taxes have been imposed on people.” Marri said that Imran Khan took record foreign loans, putting every Pakistani under huge debt due to his incompetence.
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