Posts Tagged ‘ Corruption ’

Imran Khan’s Strategy: End Corruption

By Azeem Ibrahim for The Express Tribune

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leader Imran Khan has pledged in his political manifesto to eliminate major corruption in Pakistan within his first 90 days as prime minister. This is a tall order and was being derided by Nawaz Sharif yesterday as impractical and naive.

Despite his tenure in office, Sharif has failed to understand the different modes and echelons of corruption in Pakistan. Khan intends to target specific government level corruption which is most damaging in a series of enforceable reforms based on forceful transparency and assertive accountability.

Imran Khan is right to see the fight against corruption as a priority and instead of criticism he should be receiving national support for the huge task ahead. Corruption in Pakistan is widespread, systemic and deeply entrenched at all levels of society and government and is a substantial obstacle to the country’s development.

With losses due to corruption in Pakistan being estimated at Rs8500 billion, it has been described as “plunder” in a country where people still lack the most basic needs. Pakistan’s main anti-corruption body, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NAB) admitted in 2008 that Rs200 billion are wasted through corrupt practices at higher government levels with more billions locally. Petty corruption in the form of bribery is prevalent in law enforcement, procurement and the provision of public services; widespread financial and political corruption, nepotism and the misuse of power are rife.

Transparency International (TI), a Berlin-based organisation that puts out an annual Corruptions Perception Index (CPI), attributes corruption to autocratic governments, sprawling government bureaucracies of under-paid, under-trained civil servants and a lack of media freedom to keep track of fat government contracts and easy money. TI ranked Pakistan 139th among 180 countries in its 2009 CPI.

Pakistan has undertaken anti-corruption proceedings over the years but has avoided scrutiny of senior officials. The National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) issued by the former President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, on October 5, 2009, granted amnesty to politicians, political workers and bureaucrats who were accused of corruption, embezzlement, money laundering and even murder. A list of 8041 individuals who benefited from NRO included 34 politicians, further reducing public trust in leadership and encouraging the spread of corrupt practice at federal, provincial and local government level. It was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on December 16, 2009, throwing the country into a continuing political crisis.

Pakistan’s citizens expect to pay bribes to obtain services such as electricity, health care and education and in dealings with the police. In the absence of a democratic and effective taxation authority, bribery can be seen as a form of illegal taxation in a country where the national budget is inadequate for the delivery of social services. This is damaging to the social fabric of society but it is low-level petty corruption nevertheless.

It is the illegal use of power by politicians and bureaucrats that deserves immediate attention and urgent scrutiny in Pakistan and Imran Khan recognises the need to put an end to these predatory practices that waste resources that should be invested for the good of the country.

Just one example of the direct impact of increased corruption is the rise in the prices of food commodities which according to the latest official data of Federal Bureau of Statistics, have increased up to 120 per cent in one year.

Lack of transparency and accountability have allowed the awarding of government contracts and licenses to one’s family, relatives or to corporations where one is a shareholder, allowing for private greed to overrule the public good. This type of corruption at a governmental level can be tackled relatively easily by enacting conflict of interest and transparency legislation – and enforcing it aggressively.

Imran Khan has already set an example and proposed that all politicians should also declare their assets.

A short blog like this is not the most effective medium to convey Imran Khan’s strategy in its entirety, but I can assure the naysayers that a comprehensive and effective policy is being developed alongside a strategic implementation plan. This is a powerful first step in clearing up corruption in Pakistan, vital for Pakistan’s survival as a democracy and hopefully the shape of government to come.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s NoteAlthough we do not agree with all the policies and proposals put forward by Imran Khan, we believe he represents the best hope for Pakistan and its world leading corrupt crony style feudal system of psudo-democratic and hyper military state. All other contenders are either too corrupt or too untrustworthy, unlike Khan, a hero for winning the 1992 Cricket World Cup as well as singlehandedly establishing a free state of the art cancer hospital for the country thru own money and largely through donations from the nation.

Let’s hope regardless of the outcome in the next elections, Pakistan finally gains a leader worthy of fixing all the ills of this nation and perhaps Kaptaan Imran Khan is the only hope.

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Pakistan PM Prefers Jail to Writing to Swiss

As Reported by Agence France-Presse

Pakistan’s embattled Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Thursday he would rather go to jail than obey a court order and ask Switzerland to re-open graft cases against the president.

Gilani’s remarks revive speculation that he would rather risk losing his job than capitulate in a two-year showdown with the judiciary that culminated last month with him being charged with contempt by the Supreme Court.

He has always insisted that President Asif Ali Zardari is immune from prosecution as president and says the cases against him are politically motivated.

“If I write a letter it will be a violation of the constitution, which is treason and which carries the death sentence,” Gilani told PhD students in central Punjab province, with a few in the audience shouting “do not write, do not write”.

“If I don’t write, I will be convicted for contempt, the punishment for which is six months’ imprisonment,” Gilani said. “It’s better to face six months’ imprisonment than face the death sentence.”

Pakistan’s top court last week ordered Gilani to ask Switzerland to reopen corruption cases against Zardari by March 21.

It was the first time the court asked Gilani personally to write to the Swiss. It previously addressed repeated demands to the government since revoking in 2009 an amnesty freezing legal proceedings against key politicians.

Zardari and his late wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, were suspected of using Swiss accounts to launder about $12 million in alleged bribes paid by companies seeking customs inspection contracts in the 1990s.

Playing to the gallery, Gilani asked the students in Bahawalpur district whether he should write the letter, to which the audience shouted: “No, no.”

“Ok, we will send your message to the court and tell them that they should charge parliament with contempt of court because parliament has given immunity to the president. All heads of state all over the world have this immunity.”

Zardari is so tainted by corruption allegations that he is nicknamed “Mr 10 Percent”. He has already spent 11 years in jail in Pakistan on charges ranging from corruption to murder although he has never been convicted.

Anna’s Trip to Pakistan: Should He Or Shouldn’t He

By Akshaya Mishra for Firstpost

Should he or shouldn’t he?

The supporters of Anna Hazare are in a bind. Two days after the Gandhian accepted the invitation of a human rights delegation from Pakistan to visit that country, the public opinion in India stands divided.

The Shiv Sena was first off the block opposing Anna’s move. Its argument follows the usual political theme. Islamabad must stop sponsoring terrorist activities in India first. The anti-corruption crusader should have taken cognisance of the sentiments of people before even considering such an invitation, it said.

Others are likely follow the Sena’s line soon. The hard line Hindutva followers, who have been silent so far, may erupt in anger, putting a communal spin to the visit.

Anna might just have put his feet in uncharted territory, and a minefield of potential controversies. Pakistan is not an easy proposition even for seasoned politicians to handle. He could be risking his reputation.

So, should he or should not he? There are no easy answers.

Anna is not just an individual, he is a phenomenon. He is an idea that easily transcends boundaries. The massive support to his anti-corruption movement across the social spectrum was a pointer to the fact.

“I will go to Pakistan. In fact, I will go anywhere for the sake of peace and poor people,” he said while meeting the Pakistani delegation, which included former judge of Supreme Court of Pakistan Nasir Aslam Zahid and founder of Pakistan India Forum for Peace and Democracy Karamat Ali.

Anna might just have put his feet in uncharted territory, and a minefield of potential controversies. PTI
“I believe in the religion of humanity, and humanity should begin with your neighbour. Like Indians, Pakistanis too are suffering due to widespread corruption in their country,” he added.

The statements reflect the man as he is — simple, honest and innocent of concerns that bother others so much. It’s possible he would not have given a serious thought to the troubled India-Pakistan equations. It is possible he would be worried about people and their happiness only, not issues or borders.

Isn’t corruption a big issue in Pakistan too? Don’t people suffer because of that? That would be his line of thinking. He would be oblivious to the fact that any movement there guided by him would amount to challenging the rulers in Islamabad and that any intention to help the country would inflame passions in India.

Sena chief Bal Thackeray has sounded the warning note. “Be it Anna or anyone else, they should first speak to kin of those killed in the Mumbai and Delhi blasts, before anointing themselves Nishan-e-Pakistan (Pakistan’s highest civilian award),” he wrote in the party mouthpiece Saamna today.

“Whether Anna goes to Pakistan or not is another matter, but it would have been better had he given a thought to the country’s sentiments on the issue,” he added.

Earlier, the party’s spokesperson Sanjay Raut had made his disapproval clear. “Anna should have told the visiting delegation to go back to Pakistan and create awareness among the people about the Pak-sponsored terrorism in India. The entire world may have praised the anti-corruption movement in India, but Anna cannot ignore sentiments of the people in his own country vis-a vis Pakistan,” he had said.

Anna is likely to lose most of his following in India if he goes ahead with his Pakistan trip, which for all practical purposes would be a symbolic one. Worse, notwithstanding the nature of his visit he would turn a political entity, without intending to be so.

His biggest achievement so far has been that he has managed to stay apolitical despite the desperate efforts from parties to align with him. He represents the common Indian and the other India, which stays out of the power circle that rules the country.

But the other India hates Pakistan too. This is where Anna is likely to run into a problem. Questions could be raised about his intention — the ordinary follower is not expected to understand and appreciate the nuances of his high thinking. The adulation for him is likely to shrink.

Anna should not let that happen. Pakistan can wait.

Pakistan Yearns For a ‘Hazare’ Too

By Farhan Bokhati for Gulf News

The crisis unleashed by anti-corruption protests targeting India’s graft-tainted government offers many lessons for Pakistan. While public rallies in India have lifted the credentials of the 74-year-old veteran campaigner, Anna Hazare, Pakistanis have watched the situation across the border with much interest.

Pakistan is no stranger to corruption in high places. Scandal after scandal involving senior politicians, high-ranking officials and other prominent individuals have become public, underlining the nature of the beast. While there have been high-profile arrests in the past, Pakistan tragically has a poor history when it comes to successful prosecution and sentencing.

Across the country, however, there is widespread popular lament over graft being more than just a mere fact of life. Calls for a revolution come frequently from ordinary Pakistanis, notably those who consider themselves disempowered and marginalised.
In recent days, TV coverage in Pakistan of the anti-graft campaign in India appears to have vividly illustrated the way that events in Delhi have struck a chord across the border. For long, Pakistanis have waited for a messiah but to no avail. Today, the yearning for such a deliverer from corruption appears to be much stronger than ever before.

To make matters worse for the country, Pakistan’s ruling class appears to show no signs of responding to the challenge posed by corruption in high places. Unlike India where a veteran campaigner in his 70s has become the lightning rod for popular opinion and has inspired the public at large to take the cue from him, there is no similar individual who has become a comparable figure in Pakistan.

But like India, Pakistan’s ruling politicians including members of the country’s parliament have seldom considered corruption an important enough issue to be vigorously discussed and debated in parliament. Ironically, for a country where politicians are keen to note the importance of strengthening the evolving democratic framework, it is important to recognise the equal if not greater significance of aggressively battling corruption.

Politicians in Pakistan appear to give no heed to corruption as an issue of vital significance. But what is even more disturbing is indeed the fact that questions raised on the conduct of politicians in relation to impropriety are quickly shoved under the carpet as if they were an attack on democratic values.

In this background, the time has now come for Pakistan to recognise the overwhelming significance of fighting corruption, not just for the country’s overall well-being but also for its ability to sustain its still young democratic order.

Abject poverty
If Pakistan continues to become an even more tainted country where values related to clean governance remain subservient to so-called discussions on democracy and civilian rule, sustaining the latter may remain an uphill task. While reverting to military rule as has been the case in Pakistan’s history may not be an option, it can be stated with a significant degree of certainty that chaos will increasingly become a fact of life going forward. The popular yearning for an end to corruption coincides with what appear to be difficult economic times for Pakistan. The country’s elite have neglected the poorest of the poor for too long.

At least a third of Pakistan’s population, or by some accounts even a higher proportion, continues to live below the poverty line. This essentially means that a large segment of the country’s population, which on its own may be larger than the entire population of many countries, lives in extreme and abject poverty, facing conditions that can simply not be imagined by the ruling elite.

The missing element for now may indeed be that Pakistan has yet to discover a prominent individual like India’s Hazare who becomes the hope for the country’s downtrodden and those in need. Given the desperation felt by many Pakistanis, it is possible that such an individual may be found sooner or later, who then leads calls for a long-overdue change.

The consequences of such an eventuality may be difficult to comprehend at the moment. But given the popular yearning for an abrupt change, it is more than likely that such a change could be tumultuous and even possibly bloody. The easier option for Pakistan’s complacency-driven ruling elite which they are unlikely to embrace going by past precedent, is simply that of learning a lesson from events across the border. The ‘Hazare factor’ in India’s landscape is a breath of fresh air.

Farhan Bokhari is a Pakistan-based commentator who writes on political and economic matters.

Who Cares About Pakistan?

By Jude Sheerin for The BBC News

Donations have been sluggish to the Pakistan floods appeals, as they were back in 2005 when the part of Kashmir the country administers was torn apart by an earthquake. The BBC News website asked some experts to comment on possible reasons why.

Donor Fatigue

Dr Marie Lall, Pakistan expert at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and senior lecturer at the Institute of Education, says: “I think there is donor fatigue all around. The [2004] Indian Ocean tsunami, the Burmese Cyclone [Nargis, 2008], the [2005] Pakistan earthquake, and [this year’s] Haiti earthquake. It is getting too much; we are in a recession and people are short of money.”

Rebecca Wynn, Pakistan specialist for UK-based aid agency Oxfam, says: “Many donors have made substantial contributions in humanitarian assistance to Pakistan over the years, particularly in response to the conflict-related displacements over the last two years. Of course, the fact that the people of Pakistan have been hit time and again by disaster is even more reason to give.”

Dr Elizabeth Ferris, senior fellow at the US-based Brookings Institution, a foreign policy think tank, says: “It should also be noted that the international humanitarian system isn’t set up to deal with more than one major crisis a year. USAID, for example, committed one-third of its annual budget to the Haitian earthquake response. And among the general public there may be a feeling of, ‘Well, I donated to the victims of the Haitian earthquake and Haiti is a far needier country than Pakistan.'”

Corruption

Yale University economics professor Dean Karlan, an expert on charitable giving, says: “Corruption concerns may explain why giving is lower to developing countries than many would like it to be, but it does not explain why there is less money pouring into Pakistan now than does to disaster relief causes in other developing countries with similar governance issues.”

Dr Marie Lall says: “People in Pakistan are sceptical the government will be transparent. But they are giving to philanthropic organisations. In the UK, I think people are sceptical of [non-governmental organisations’] overheads and costs. They don’t know which ones are transparent and reliable, even though local organisations such as TCF [The Citizens’ Foundation] are doing an incredible job.”

Dr Elizabeth Ferris says: “People are always sceptical about their money reaching flood victims, particularly in countries with reputations for corruption. But Haiti didn’t have a very good reputation in this regard. [Pakistan] President [Asif Ali] Zardari trip to Europe [during the floods] was not a good move. For a few days, that was the ‘story’ of the Pakistani floods, which doesn’t inspire people to be generous, particularly in this economic climate.”

Terrorism

Dr Marie Lall says: “British Prime Minister David Cameron’s comments in India [when he said Islamabad promoted the export of terror] did not help.”

Dr Elizabeth Ferris says: “People are less likely to donate to any country seen as a haven for terrorism. And more generally, the fact that so much Western news coverage in recent years about Pakistan has been negative, stressing its links with the conflict in Afghanistan. I think this is the major reason for the slow public response – the image of Pakistan in our media. There may also be a feeling, particularly in the US, that Islamic governments and charities should be stepping up to the plate to donate.”

Timing

Rebecca Wynn says: “This disaster has come at a bad time, following the financial crisis and the Haiti earthquake. Many donors made huge commitments to Haiti, so may find it hard to fund another major disaster, particularly in the same year.”

Dr Marie Lall says: “Timing may be a factor, but I think it’s more to do with not realising the scale of the disaster, and the attitude by the British government; the UK should be leading the aid effort, given the Pakistani diaspora here and the fact that we need Pakistan for the war in Afghanistan.”

Wrong Disaster

Professor Dean Karlan says: “Sudden events seem to generate more funds. A flood (and droughts) happen gradually and build. There isn’t any one single day in which news is huge. For the same reason, this pushes the story away from the media spotlight. But massive and sudden earthquakes or tsunamis draw our immediate attention and shock us.”

Dr Elizabeth Ferris says: “It’s important to note that in general people are likely to give more to emergencies occurring in countries geographically closer to them – although this didn’t hold true for the tsunami. But when you trace contributions over time, you find that Americans and Canadians are more likely to respond to disasters in the Western hemisphere while Europeans tend to be more responsive to African countries (and their former colonies, in particular).”

Dr Marie Lall says: “This was not one cataclysmic event, but one which grew over three weeks. The fact that 25% of the country was or is under water is not understood. The low numbers of dead, relatively speaking, mask the disaster on the ground. The crisis has destroyed crops, dead livestock and damaged homes and infrastructure. Food prices are through the roof and there won’t be a normal harvest. It will get worse. Farmers will starve.”

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