Wednesday July 06, 2022

The NSP shift

February 02, 2022

Nobody can deny that Pakistan is rich in resources – but very poor in timely and efficient management. And deep-seated corruption is one of the underlying causes behind entrenched malfeasance and bad governance in the country. This has brought forth political polarisation, economic instability, and myriad social and educational crises.

Despite tall claims of the ruling party about the eradication of corruption, this evil has grown in size and intensity of late, posing a more serious threat to the very foundation of the state. Presumably, the rise in corruption will likely elude the prodigious success of Pakistan’s newly-crafted National Security Policy (NSP) and its coveted policy shift from geopolitics to geo-economics.

In its scathing report for the PTI government, Transparency International has downgraded Pakistan from 124 to 140 out of 180 countries in its latest report for 2021. If one takes the past three years of the PTI government into consideration, one can find a slow but steady downward trajectory from the 117th position in 2018 to 120th in 2019 and 124th in 2020. The latest decline by 16 positions is remarkable considering the PTI’s myopic approach and stance on corruption. All this begs a major question: how can the state actualise its dream of geo-political shift to geo-economics in the presence of mounting corruption?

The shift in geo-economics means the state has the proclivity to attract massive foreign direct investment (FDIs). Moreover, this policy change is also designed to expedite the completion of CPEC (2.O) and reap rich dividends from the largely untapped tourism sector of the country. Pakistan has always cherished the insatiable desire of allowing landlocked and energy-rich Central Asian States to trade with the world via the seaports of Gwadar and Karachi. More importantly, some policy quarters in Islamabad and Rawalpindi are also inclined to include Iran into CPEC after the conclusion of the Sino-Iranian strategic partnership.

The phenomenal increase in corruption in Pakistan has all the ingredients to discourage investors from investing money in Pakistan. They are well-acquainted with the fact that they will have to bribe the bureaucracy for winning contracts. The World Bank has extensively reported on the corrupt behaviour of the bureaucracy to foreign investors in Pakistan. Besides, corruption breeds the seed of political instability, and such uncertainties make the economy of any state fragile and stuttering.

The state shouldn’t forget that multinational corporations and individual entrepreneurs refrain from investing capital in a country that is in the throes of political instability and economic fragility. Our geo-economic policymakers should be alive to the fact that rising corruption coupled with damning reports of credible world bodies will possibly obstruct their geo-economic shift.

As far as the NSP is concerned, the culture of loot and plunder by public servants in public corporations and elected leaders (in democratic bodies and institutions) has already made Pakistan bereft of adequate cash and competent human capital. Under the NSP, the state wants to ensure that the people have satisfactory access to healthcare, water, quality education, employment opportunities, speedy administration, efficient justice system, personal and material security, etc. Moreover, the country has stepped up its endeavours in safeguarding cyberspace under the NSP. Surprisingly, a report by Transparency International shows that major state institutions – the judiciary, police and bureaucracy – are the most corrupt departments in Pakistan.

More worryingly, corruption has considerably contributed to making Pakistan a cash-strapped country. This has caused a massive brain drain, compelling talented and educated individuals to settle abroad for greener pastures. Due to corruption, a large number of crooked, incompetent and poorly-educated office-holders occupy main institutions in the country. They use the red tape to extract money from a nation that is already bearing the brunt of skyrocketing inflation. In short, corruption and incompetence will never let Pakistan execute the NSP; we have the example of NAP right in front of us.

What is the way forward? First and foremost, the government should empower and depoliticise all anti-graft bodies such as the FIA and NAB; partner with the media to facilitate the judiciary in investing graft cases; bring venal elements to book and educate the people about their constitutional and active role in the ongoing anti-graft drive. More importantly, the government should establish an authority designed to keep an eye on the official activities of civil servants, their assets, use/misuse of power and their investment. It is an established reality in Pakistan that a large number of civil servants (most of them poor before joining the bureaucracy) turn millionaires within a few years of their service. Their legal investments should be encouraged, while their embezzlement of resources must be dealt with an iron hand.

In short, it is promising to note that the country has finally evolved a comprehensive NSP and has undertaken a much-needed shift from geopolitics to geo-economics. But, as the Transparency International report reveals, corruption will arguably weigh heavily on the two policies, making it difficult for the state to follow these policies through. Both of these policies direly need financial capital and human resource. Needless to say, corruption has deprived Pakistan of both of them.

Therefore, given the evolving world order, the shifting sands of Middle Eastern politics close to Pakistan and the pivot of global politics to the Indo-Pacific region, it is not time to hem and haw on how to stamp corruption out in Pakistan. The state should hammer out an impartial and stringent anti-graft policy coupled with a sharp-witted response to smoothly execute the NSP and the shift to geo-economics. Before that, both the government and the opposition should evolve a ‘working consensus’ on a timely and effective execution of the aforementioned policy and policy shift.

The writer is an independent researcher. He tweets @ayazahmed66665 and can be reached at: