Curbing Corruption in Pakistan
19 April, 2016
By Saeed Qureshi
In the wake of the earth-shaking Panama Leaks, it is morally incumbent upon the politicians and businessmen alike to declare their assets in Pakistan and those stashed abroad. No matter how much and vehemently the Sharif family justifies their wealth kept abroad, the poignant fact stares in their faces that the names of the children of the incumbent prime ministers have been mentioned in Panama Papers. It is a stigma which would remain there as long as the fog around the Sharif family is not cleared.
It is not only the Sharif family members exposed in the Panama papers for keeping offshore accounts, there are countless others around the world who stashed their wealth in the fake accounts created and maintained by a law firm of Panama “Mossack Fonseca”.
Someone may sooner or later go to the courts in Pakistan for an indigenous inquiry into the wealth and accounts that belong to the Sharif family. If the wealth is justified and the tax paid on that money the Sharif family including the prime minister himself and his younger brother Shahbaz Sharif would earn a lasting reputation and good name.
In recent times, the coalition government led by the Pakistan Peoples Party between 2008 and 2013 is, criticized as the most corrupt government in the nation's history. In 2012 “The Transparency International (TI)” calculated that Pakistan had lost more than Rs 8.5 trillion (94 billion U. S. dollars) in corruption, tax evasion and bad governance in the PPP-led coalition government between 2008 and 2013”.
The allegations of massing massive illicit wealth have been leveled against various PPP politicians particularly Asif Ali Zardari the current co-chairperson of the PPP and former president of Pakistan. Besides there are several other top notches of the PPP including two former prime ministers Yousaf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervez Ashraf against whom the cases of mega corruption and ill-gotten money are pending in the courts. There are scores of other political figures and public office holders who are notorious and well known for massing money by misusing their power and position.
In recent times some of the provincial ministers and wealthy individuals of Pakistan have fled to other countries and sought refuge there to be immune from the judicial inquiries, public ire and sullied reputation. All such people should be brought back to face the law. In case of being proven guilty their assets should be confiscated by the state and they be given punishments as permissible under the law.
In all these years Pakistan has been a hunting ground for self seekers of all hues and cries for making money through every conceivable and dubious means. A judicial commission consisting of individuals of transparent character, probity, honesty and immaculate integrity should be set-up to take stock of the corruption of the past several decades by powerful individuals both officials and non officials. Strict steps and laws should be put in place to stop corruption and misuse of power and authority in Pakistan.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) established in Pakistan in 1999 is empowered by the constitution “to launch investigations, conduct inquiries, and issue arrest warrants against the individuals suspected in the financial mismanagement, financial terrorism, corruption in private sectors, state sector, defense sector and corporate sector and direct the cases to the courts. However it was criticized for its unwillingness to prosecute former Army officers involved in corruption scandals.
All cases of corruption and financial malpractices pending in the courts must be finalized and no fresh dates or reprieves should be given to the culprits and wrong doers. The NAB should also initiate inquiry and actions against the members of judiciary involved in taking bribes and kickbacks.
If army cannot be brought under the NAB investigation network then it can work out its own system of accountability to weed out corruption in the army’s rank and file. One can assume that there must be underhand deals involving kickbacks of millions of dollars pocketed by concerned individuals involved in mega deals of purchasing the military hardware, weaponry and planes etc.
There is an indispensable need to reform accountability network and strict implementation of anti-corruption policies by the government. The main objective is to clean the cobwebs of corruption whether in the civil set up or in the army.
It would be naive to expect that by catching the corruption bull by horn, the corruption or its perpetrators would vanish. But one can expect that through a vibrant national campaign against corruption, its scale and incidence would diminish considerably.
The writer is a senior journalist, former editor of Diplomatic Times and a former diplomat.This and other articles by the writer can also be read at his blog www.uprightopinion.com