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Can Premier Imran Khan Stop Corruption in Pakistan?

By Qasim Swati (United Kingdom)

Pakistan is not the only corrupt country in the globe, because every country of the world is corrupt in some way, to some extent. Corruption can be found in both the developing and developed world, as corruption exists in every country in some way. But it is more widespread in the developing world than in the developed one when compared. The 2012 – 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index Table consists of 180 countries of the world, including countries from all the continents of the Earth, inhabited by humans.

To eradicate corruption is not an easy task, because those involved in corruption are often more influential, more powerful, more manipulative, more sharp-witted and stronger than those who investigate and want to crack down on corruption. Most of the corrupt people are highly skilled, experts, professional, and being gurus in their own field (corruption). Thus, this is very hard for an investigator to prove whether someone is involved in corruption or not, in the first place. Secondly, even if somebody is proved guilty of corruption, the recovery of the looted and plundered wealth is not easy to be made from the corrupt person, because most of these, involved in corruption, know how to escape and get rid of the grip and control of the law.

An anti-corruption campaign is the slogan of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (a centrist political party, founded by Imran Khan in 1996) and the principal mission of Imran Khan, as claimed by him and his political party. Even before coming into power, as prime minister of Pakistan on 18 August, 2018, he used to launch his anti-corruption campaign on all platforms he could have.

After his becoming the 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan, everyone expected an immediate change in the system of the country, dubbed Naya (New) Pakistan or we can call it a Transformed Pakistan, as well. However, a large number of Pakistanis are not happy and are dissatisfied with the current situation in the country, such as inflation/price hike, imposition of taxes on ordinary and low-income people and reforms in the health, education and other sectors of the country, initiated by the government of Imran Khan.

Even though Imran Khan is famous for his honesty and determination to fight against corruption in the country, yet this is a tough job for him to keep his word of eradicating corruption overnight, as he has to battle on all sides against corrupt elements in Pakistan. The reason being that corruption exists, not only among politicians, but it is rampant, almost, in every department of the country, whether this is the department of education or healthcare, the public or government sector, police department and law enforcement agencies, tax evasion, agriculture and irrigation system, infra-structure, department of public utilities (electricity sector), judiciary, department of sports, corruption in NGOs working in Pakistan, corruption by patwaris (government officials in India and Pakistan, who visit agricultural lands and maintain/keep records of their ownership and tilling) and other such officials of the country, Ministry of Communications (responsible for formulating, analysing and implementing central policy on transportation and communications), corruption in Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), the plight of Pakistan National Shipping Corporation and even corruption in the media, bureaucracy and military of the country.

Let us take the education department in Pakistan, for instance. Education is believed to be the key to success for the development, progress and advancement of any nation globally. Teaching is also a respectable and honoured profession throughout the world, but there are many examples of corruption in the education sector of Pakistan, in the form of intentional and deliberate absenteeism of the teachers in many schools of the country, cheating or the use of unfair means in the exam system, corruption by some of the staff from top to bottom, prioritising their personal and vested interests over the national interests of the country, abusing the education system by some teachers and other personnel of the education sector, etc. Another crystal clear example is the abuse of the system by some teachers and other such staff of education department to leave Pakistan for foreign countries, on the pretext and excuse of ‘study leave’ and go abroad for making money instead of continuing their academic research, as being their whole and sole purpose of benefiting their education department and country. Above all, most of such teaching and other education staff used and still use to keep both their overseas jobs as well as their respective positions within Pakistan. Some reforms have been made for remedying and rectifying this issue, especially in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, like forcing the relevant staff either to keep their overseas jobs or the ones that they have had in Pakistan, but not both, which most of the affected education staff do not appreciate and blame Imran Khan for infringing their certain rights.

Similarly, the healthcare sector of Pakistan is also engulfed and surrounded by many corrupt practices, such as the sale of seats/posts/positions in medical colleges for hundreds of thousands of rupees in the Pakistani currency, prevalence of bribes, unfair hiring practices, preferential treatment of well-connected people, lack of making decisions on evidence, clever book keeping, over-invoicing, kickbacks (an illicit payment, made to someone in return for facilitating a transaction or appointment), stealing equipment and supplies, financial leakages (a diversion of funds from some iterative/repetitive process or the process of removing money from the economy), preferring to run their private medical and surgical clinics, hospitals and other such techniques by doctors, surgeons and other healthcare professionals rather than properly doing their jobs at government hospitals and charging illegal fees from the patients, advertising for various pharmaceutical companies for monetary and non-monetary gain, profit and benefit, etc.

Corruption among the politicians is the most burning issue in Pakistan, which does not need to be discussed here in detail, as no sane, sensible, sincere, honest and patriotic person can ignore it. Instead, most of the people, whether male or female, adult or young or even children know about corruption among, almost, all Pakistani politicians in some way. Even the Party in Power (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) is under fire and being rigorously criticized by its critics and opponents for having the majority of its politicians and leaders being corrupt, irresponsible, senseless and misbehaved.

Bureaucrats are another group of certain government officials who control most of the machinery of government in various ways. Bureaucracy is a system of government in which most of the important decisions are taken by state officials rather than by elected representatives. Inherited in legacy from the former British colonial rule, bureaucracy plays a colossal role in running the government system of Pakistan and is known as the Central Superior Services (CSS) and being a permanent elite bureaucratic authority in the country. The influence of civil service is so strong in Pakistan that it defines itself as “key wheels on which the entire engine of the state has to move.” It was due to the same control/influence of civil service on the government machinery that Muhammad Ali Jinnah (the Founder of Pakistan) addressed the civil servants in Pakistan, as “Civil Service is the backbone of the State. Governments are formed; Governments are defeated; Prime Ministers come and go; Ministers come and go, but you stay on, and, therefore, there is a very great responsibility placed on your shoulders.” Now, Imran Khan has to face the challenges, whilst combating the widespread corruption in the bureaucratic circle of the country.

In the same way, the role played by the Pakistan’s Military in the politics of the country is not negligible. Being the largest among Muslim countries and the sixth largest in the world, in terms of active military personnel, the Pakistan Armed Forces have a significant role both in the foreign and interior affairs of Pakistan and usually having the final say in the political activities, due to political instability in the country. Pakistan has seen a series of Martial Laws and military rule for several decades in its history, leading to an enormous military influence in the politics of the country. However, there do some corrupt elements exist in the military that Imran Khan has to deal with as a part of his anti-corruption campaign.

But what about the role, played by the international actors, in supporting and assisting the corrupt politicians and ruling elites of the poor and developing countries? PM Imran Khan was so fed up with the corruption issue in Pakistan that he took it to the UN, while exposing corruption in Pakistan to the world community during his speech in the 74th United Nations General Assembly Session on 27 September, 2019 and requested the international community, the UNO, the IMF, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the rich countries of the world to stop helping the corrupt politicians and elites of the poor countries by safeguarding and protecting their foreign/offshore secret bank accounts, debts’ havens, expensive properties, hidden behind companies in the Western capitals and help the poor nations in eradicating corruption in their respective countries.

Qasim Swati is a freelance journalist, writer and human rights activist, based in the UK, and can be reached at https://qasimswati.com or mailto:info@qasimswati.com.

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