Corruption is generally defined as misuse of entrusted power or authority by elected politicians or appointed civil servants for private gains. It usually entails embezzlement of funds, nepotism, kickbacks, bribery as well as deliberate attempts to perpetuate a system with inbuilt avenues of corruption, graft and entitlement. The major cause of concern are the systemic corruption and political corruption which lead to other forms of corruption that eat into the social and economic fibre of a country besides generating social tensions and hampering its economic progress.
Political corruption occurs at the highest level of the political system, usually at the policy formulation level when politicians and state agents entitled to make and enforce laws in the name of the people use their positions to sustain power, status and wealth leading to misallocation of resources and perversion of the process of decision making. Systemic or endemic corruption is an integrated and essential aspect of the economic, social and political system prevalent in a country. It is universally recognised that corruption invariably is related to lack of good governance and the degree of corruption in a society or a country depends on the level of good governance.
In Pakistan corruption is more pronounced in government entities. However, despite this universal acknowledgement of corruption, there is a well-entrenched culture among official circles and ministers heading institutions to deny the existence of corruption and make deliberate attempts to hush up reports of corruption and misuse of authority in their departments. This syndrome, however, was effectively smashed by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan when he made startling revelations about corruption and misuse of authority in his ministry and its attached departments and spelled out the steps he had taken to stem the rot as well as the initiatives in the pipeline to rectify the wrongs committed in the past.
It was indeed a very bold initiative on his part and could prove to be a harbinger of the change that we need in the prevalent culture of sweeping things under the carpet. Acknowledging the existence of a problem honestly is the first positive step towards its removal.
The most damning indictment against the officials of the Ministry of Interior presented before the committee was the release of the convicted prisoners repatriated from the UK under the Transfer of Prisoners Agreement between the two countries and their release in connivance with the ministry. In this regard an ex-section officer of the ministry and a Punjab police officer have been taken into custody. This is a classic example of misuse of authority. God knows how many more such acts might have been committed.
The other very worrying revelation was the issuance of licences of prohibited bore to 2000 people on fake CNICs. This is a very serious crime against the state. It not only indicates rampant corruption in the grant of licences but also points to the presence of persons engaged in the business of preparing fake ID cards. Similarly, according to the minister during the process of verification of already issued licences during 2008-2013, around 2115 licences were found to be fake.
The minister also told the committee that officials of the interior ministry and FIA were involved in the human trafficking. He also pointed out a number of corrupt practices prevalent in the ministry. What was satisfying to note was that the minister was working on setting up a strong accountability mechanism within the ministry to get rid of the corrupt officials. Action was also in the offing to proceed against the holders of fake licences. A number of officials of the FIA have been removed from important posts and those officials who were on deputation to the department through political influence have been sent back to their parent departments. A complete ban has been imposed on issuance of new licences till the verification of all the licences already issued is completed.
The PML-Nhad mentioned good governance as its top priority and its government has already taken a number of steps to improve governance, as a result of which corruption has nosedived. This has been testified to by Transparency International reports for the year 2013 and 2014. The CPI index for the year 2013 released by Transparency International showed Pakistan to have gone down on the corruption scale by almost ten points. It also indicated improvement in governance as no major corruption scandal had been unearthed by the ever vigilant Transparency International and the media.
The efforts to eradicate corruption from government entities can bear fruit in the long run only when all the components of the government and the ministries adopt the approach and strategy shown by the interior minister. The onus ultimately lies with the concerned minister to make sure that ministries and organisations under their supervision only have the welfare of the public in view.
The writer is a freelance contributor.