Government must act to address perceived corruption – by Fasi Zaka

No proof of perceived corruption
Consistent suo motu actions by the judiciary, Transparency International’s (TI) raising of Pakistan’s rank as a corrupt country and the media howling fiduciary murder every few days is rattling the PPP.

The prime minister recently said words to the effect of “prove it!” Add to that the president’s belief that the entire game is orchestrated against them. Further, dollop some hollow intent to take Transparency International to task legally.

But Yousaf Raza Gilani’s gambit makes sense because he knows for a fact that it’s hard to prove corruption in Pakistan. Historically, the government has never been open; documents are hard to get a hold of. In addition, the executive falls into line easily, preventing different departments from acting in collaboration to prove anything, something the current judiciary knows all too well. The next gambit, which is to soil a media group’s reputation (Geo/Jang), is aimed to discredit a consistent source of allegations.

The Supreme Court has proven ineffective in its judgments simply because it cannot get orders executed. So what is left, largely, is the perception of corruption, which the PPP has taken no action to address.

But does perception matter? For example, a good deal of how Transparency International ranks corrupt countries is based, ultimately, on some form of perception. Does that discredit what they say because it is, by definition, without proof?

It doesn’t, because of the paradox of “proof” oriented corruption. Countries where corruption is proven and action is taken are not really corrupt because mechanisms exist to address them. Corrupt countries are those where people feel there is massive corruption, yet it remains unproven in courts of law because no court of law is an oasis to the society that breeds it.

Still, that doesn’t prevent Babar Awan from labelling Transparency International “anti-democratic”. That’s misleading because scores on the TI index are essentially aggregations from other sources of expert opinions and organisations, with large monitoring and evaluation systems for countries like the EU and the World Bank amongst many others. Other tools are used too and, like all methodologies, it is open to criticism.

There are non-monetised acts of corruption that ultimately lead to pilfering. So, while the government did an excellent job with the 18th Amendment, ultimately it bore no fruit because the president still calls the shots as co-chairperson of the PPP. The head legal honcho, Babar Awan, uses the law ultimately to create abeyance as opposed to enforcement.

Be it Chinese locomotivesrental power projects or a parliament full of legislators with fraudulent papers filed for election. A belief of overriding corruption has tangible outcomes. So, even if the government reduces the number of ministries, the act is seen as a token effect of foreign pressure and not reformed intent. It causes an effective paralysis of government, for even good initiatives are met with suspicion.

It hurts the economy; foreign direct investment is curtailed because firms become apprehensive. Rather than attacking the institutions articulating already negative perceptions, the PPP needs to address them itself. Ultimately, what it will see is that the perception is rooted in the way they do business, which is poor and clique driven. That’s what needs to change.

The PPP has always gotten a rough ride at the hands of the establishment, but this time the establishment doesn’t have to work as hard at it. When Rehman Malik says corruption is to be finished within a week in government departments, we know it’s hollow. Statements are not fiat.

Maybe he should start with one of the prime minister’s favourites, as detailed in a report in The News. Syed Khalid Mehmood Bokhari from Multan is a director at the Intellectual Property Organisation (IPO) – which gives legal protection to patents, trademarks and intellectual property preventing piracy – who has non-transparently hired officers in the organisation, and illegally taken his wife on foreign trips under the false guise of being the head of a publication.

But the kicker is that when the reporter asked Syed Bokhari what his qualifications were to hold the position of director, he replied, “because I am an intellectual”. I don’t know what the legalities are, but chalk up another mark for the perception of corruption, or at least cronyism.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 2nd, 2010.

Comments / two divergent views:

Side 1
Waleed khan:

The prime minister recently said words to the effect of “prove it!”
Innocent until proven guilty.
Till then we – the Pakistani Awam – who elected this democratic government ( who now everyone is hell bent on removing) , freely and fairly , would treat this as YET another conspiracy by the devil and his cronies against the jamhori leederaan of this Pak watan .
We have had enough of dictatorship rule . It’s time for the democratic leaders to be given space ( and immunity might I add) to work for this nation .
Let us FOR once enjoy the delicious fruits of democracy . No matter how many troublesome pesky ‘seeds’ it might have.

Dr. Altaf Hassan:
A human-based corruption free society in the history of mankind is yet to be explored.World has experienced many systems of economy and no one has been absolutely corruptin free,may it be Free Market Economy or Socialist Market Economy.
Many critics believe that globalization sets back social and ethical agendas.Free markets corrode some aspects of character while enhancing others.It has also been pointed out by many that both implicit and explicit corruptions are generated by China’s Socialist Market Economy.
In Pakistan,the abuse of public power, office, or resources by government officials or employees for personal gain is as feasible as any where in the world but an elected parliament is functioning where leader of opposition is also the Chairmain of Public Account Committee.Courts are working independently.A free press and media is acting with full force.So no one can say that Pakistani Government is not accoutable to any body.
A hue and cry in this context is made by those who are unable to achieve their aims and objects in a democratically elected set up and dictatorial rule suits more to them.This intelectually corrupt maafia is over exaggerating the things to disseminate a sense of disappointment and desparation to to the masses for democracy.

Rashid Khan:
Without justifying PPP’s incompetence, when did we not had corruption? Was it less than that under Musharaf? But then we have selective standards for PPP and others. Same drama, new faces. Maligning politics and politicians, discrediting democracy, indoctrinating nation against democracy to finally prepare grounds for another take over by those being in driving seat so often. Why did they fail to curtail corruption? hang these corrupts?
Was Bhutto or the first victim Khawaja Nazimuddinn corrupt too? GJGs(Judges, Generals and Geos) alliance against democracy. Will Zardaris ouster solve our problems? or Will not reduction of our defence reduce significant problems of this country?

Side 2

Syed Nadir El-Edroos:

Perceptions matter more than reality. Thats the same reason why we are so dismayed at how America treats us, claiming that the reality or “ground realities” are totally different. Of course the perception of incompetence, double speak, corruption and disdain may be detached from reality, however it is what shapes public opinion both at home and abroad.
No one believes that corruption will come to an end. We are yet even to define what corruption is, where some forms are acceptable (state land converted to golf courses and clubs at throw away prices) and others are frowned upon.
The frustrating part is that the state, whether the politicians, bureaucracy, judiciary or military seem to care little to improve the state of affairs. Even an honest effort would go a long way.

Ali Sina:
When Rehman Malik says corruption is to be gone within a week in government departments, we not only know that it is hollow, we can be assured that corruption will increase dramatically. We need a blasphemy law to try for government officials instead of a dozen laws to prosecute blasphemy against Islam.