Corruption is the abuse of “entrusted power” for “private gains”. This “entrusted power” can be individual or collective; and “private gain” may not only be to the benefit of individuals but also to the benefit of groups of people.
Corruption leads to bad governance which, no doubt, breeds more corruption and exhorts people to indulge into corrupt practices in a number of ways; for instance through bribery, kickbacks, nepotism, cronyism, fraud and embezzlement, etc. All these are the methods to commit corruption, the menace that constraints the effectiveness of economic policies and reduces the potential return by increasing the cost of investment. It also takes a heavy toll on the government’s resources and hampers its capacity for making investment.
Corruption in its both petty and grand manifestations is rampant in Pakistan. Both the forms are equally responsible for the deterioration of governance in the country. The petty corruption is prevalent among the common people who face it in their daily dealings especially in the government offices whereas, grand or mega corruption is found mainly in the development projects, bank loans and public procurement.
Unfortunately, in Pakistan misuse of the power for private benefit is endemic. At present, no structure, no tier and no office of public sector is immune to corruption and the spread of this menace is enormous. It has paralyzed every organ of the state. Not only on the executive, it has also put its claws on judiciary and legislature. It is believed that if the government makes the institutions like NAB, FIA and provincial anti-corruption departments empowered, independent and neutral, corruption in Pakistan could be effectively checked. However, to this effect, the government has not moved an inch as yet.
Corruption in Pakistan dates back to the colonial period when the British rewarded lands and titles to those who were their loyalists. This policy led to the rise nepotism and corruption in this part of the world. Two major crises played a fundamental role in the genesis of corruption in the Subcontinent: First, the spiral in the defense-related purchases during and after the World War II and allotment of evacuee property after the partition. This was followed by industrial and trade licensing and patronage schemes like bonus voucher and route permits in 1950s and 1960s. The Nationalization Policy of the 1970s did also create new opportunities for corruption and it also gave birth to a new breed of corrupt government officials. The decade of 1980s witnessed the surge of corruption in religious and business circles too.
The level of corruption in the society ultimately depends on its values and morals. In Pakistan, petty corruption is mainly found in instances of getting access to public services by bypassing or twisting the laws and the rules while grand or mega corruption pertains to public contracts and procurement deals. As a whole, the widespread and systemic corruption remains an insurmountable challenge for Pakistan and a mighty obstacle in the way of its development.
Transparency International ranked Pakistan 33rd on its list of most corrupt nations report which suggested that Pakistan wastes a whopping five to seven billion rupees every day as a result of inefficiency, corruption and tax system flaws. Transparency International also stated that in Pakistan, corruption is happening in all the departments whether it’s police, customs, education, media or judiciary.
Rampant trends of corruption have badly affected the good governance in Pakistan. Common to other South Asian countries, corruption in Pakistan is unique because it occurs upstream; it has wings which encourage flight of capital rather than wheels which encourage reinvestment. It is also frequently witnessed that instead of punishing the culprits, it often proves rewarding to them as the legal processes to bring such people to justice are weak and ineffectual in themselves. In addition, some bad eggs brings bad name to the judiciary as they if the price is right are amenable to letting the accused off the hook. This proves detrimental to the prospects of good governance.
To the extent that addressing corruption falls within the general mechanisms of good governance, constitutions that adhere to some certain principles (like rule of law, clear separation of powers, accountability and transparency of the state, primacy of the public interest, basic individual and collective rights of equality, freedom of expression and association, access to information, participation, independent and accountable judiciary and control mechanisms of the different state branches, etc) have in place a basic set of tools to prevent corruption.
To ensure good governance in underdeveloped and developing countries of the world, like Pakistan professionalism needs to be promoted. It should be made a part of the measures to be adopted to slay the hydra of corruption and then fighting the consequences thereupon. Public awareness, education, literacy and, above all, political will and judicial transparency can be the most effective tools in cultivating a culture of good governance in a country.