Contextualizing corruption in Pakistan – by Asad Sayeed

A report published by the Collective for Social Science Research [PDF Link]

Here is the conclusion of the report

The Way Forward
That corruption is pervasive and endemic in Pakistan is without doubt. As we have seen not only is it multi-faceted in character, but also unchecked by the proliferation of various laws and bureaus. There is little room for better strategizing on anti-corruption when the existing mechanisms are widely perceived as ineffective and discriminatory as well as compounded
by issues of institutional capacity. The issue is thus inextricably linked to the existing socio-political imbalances in Pakistan.

If Pakistan is to embark on an effective and sustainable anti-corruption drive, some level of agreement across different power brokers is necessary to ensure that accountability occurs across the board. Only then will there be broader societal legitimacy for the fight against corruption. Once such an agreement is reached, a prospective anti-corruption focus should have four

Bury the past and start anew: Bringing up corruption cases from the past will open up a Pandora’s Box where, given the pervasiveness of corruption, for the process to be perceived as legitimate and impartial, demands will be made for accountability of past transgressions of all sections of the elite. Not only will this be divisive but will be forcefully resisted by those in powerful positions (including formulators of the state’s security policy). If catharsis is needed, then a process of truth and reconciliation à la South Africa might be more productive.

Constitutional provision for across-the-board accountability: Create a constitutional body that oversees all aspects of corruption with no group or entity outside its reach, including those with existing constitutional protection as well as members of the judiciary, the armed forces and elements of big business. The creation of such an entity will also justify the duplication in the mandate of several extant anti-corruption agencies.

Capacity enhancement of the Auditor’s Office: Enhance the capacity and oversight functions of the Auditor’s
Office to ensure that corruption is minimized in service delivery, which is most important for the citizen. This would entail expanding the jurisdiction of the Auditor General to military accounts, enhancing the budget of its office and providing training for its personnel.

Bureaucratic reforms: Since the civil bureaucrat is an important element in corrupt practices, incentive-compatible bureaucratic reform should be carried out, such that a balance between security of tenure and credible penalization for malpractice is created.

Last but not the least, it is important to be mindful of the fact that excessive moralizing on corruption does not generate substantial dividends. As with much else, it is advisable to create institutions that will reduce the incidence of corruption over time.

Asad Sayeed is an economist and the Director of Collective for Social Science Research based in Karachi, Pakistan.
He can be reached at



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