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Catching A Glimpse of Corruption in Pakistan:

By Qasim Swati (United Kingdom)

Corruption is a dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery. It is the misuse of public power by such people, as civil servants or elected politicians or the abuse of entrusted power for private or personal gain by those in power. This means a dishonest or illegal behaviour, especially by powerful people (such as police officers, government officials or anyone in a position of power or authority). Corruption is also defined as something in the form of a criminal activity or dishonesty, carried out by an entity or individual in a position of power or authority in order to gain some personal benefit or advantage by abusing their power/authority entrusted to them. However, “Corruption”, as defined by The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), “is the misuse of public power for private benefit.”

Corruption can exist in different forms, including money laundering, embezzlement (a type of financial fraud/theft or misappropriation of funds placed in one’s trust or belonging to one’s employer), double-dealing, tax evasion/tax fraud, diverting funds, theft, defrauding investors, graft (the act of getting money or advantage through the dishonest use of political power and influence), under-the-table transactions, extortion/coercion, taking or giving improper presents/gifts or bribes, influence peddling, manipulating elections/electoral fraud/vote rigging, business networking for job-seeking, nepotism, favouritism, cronyism, clientelism (the exchange of services and goods for political support), abuse of powers or discretion, parochialism, patronage and so on.

Corruption can hit any sector, department and section of a country in some way, but the various sectors, affected by corruption, include such types of corruption, as corruption in the police department, judicial/judiciary corruption, corruption in the public/government sector, corruption within the labour unions, political corruption, penetration of the practice of corruption in the education system of a country, religions and corruption, arms for cash (like arms trafficking/smuggling by arms smugglers), corporate corruption, corruption in philosophy, corruption in the healthcare sector, corruption in department of tax and revenue, corruption in relation to the infra-structure of a country (like power supplies, roads, motorways, railway networks, schools, colleges, universities and other buildings, etc.), department of agriculture, irrigation system and even military of a country.

Ranked 117th out of 180 countries by Transparency International’s 2018 Corruption Perception Index (putting the country at Score “33”), Pakistan is faced with widespread corruption within each sector, specifically the public or government sector, the sector of education, healthcare 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 of the country.

Corruption is not a new issue, when this comes to the history of Pakistan, because this is a chronic or endemic problem even older than the country itself, as this is evident from a letter of the Father of the Nation and Founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, that he had written to Mirza Abul Hassan Ispahani (1902-1981), a Pakistani diplomat and legislator, on May 6, 1945 before the creation of Pakistan, in which he wrote, as “Corruption is a curse in India and amongst Muslims, especially the so-called educated and intelligentsia. Unfortunately, it is this class that is selfish and morally and intellectually corrupt. No doubt, this disease is common, but amongst this particular class of Muslims, it is rampant.”

Like most other British colonies in the past, Pakistan received a powerful bureaucracy and army from the British Raj (British Rule/Crown Rule in India) in inheritance at the time of its independence, which had deep-rooted and far-reaching consequences for the future of the country.

Pakistan has seen a huge number of corruption cases in the country’s history since 1947 to present (2019). Besides other instances of corruption in Pakistan, the 2008–2013 PPP-led coalition government is under serious criticism for being the most corrupt in the history of the country, to be responsible for a loss of over Rs. 8.5 trillion (US$94 billion), due to bad governance, tax evasion and other practices of corruption.

Various anti-corruption efforts have been made since the birth of the country for combating corruption that include such measures, as Prevention of Corruption Acts 1947, 1950 and 1958; National Accountability Bureau Ordinance, 1999; Provincial Legislation Against Corruption and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa anti-Corruption Legislations, but corruption is still at its peak within different sectors of the country.

A long list of corruption cases, prepared by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), has been given by Mr. Mian Abrar in ‘Pakistan Today’ on August 17, 2018. Although the list is not exhaustive, as it contains only a small portion of all corruption cases in Pakistan, yet it has shed some light on the rampancy or prevalence of corruption in the country.

The list consists of the names of various top politicians, officials, bureaucrats and other such influential people in Pakistan, including Mian Nawaz Sharif (ex-prime minister of Pakistan), Shahbaz Sharif (the former chief minister of Punjab and the brother of Mian Nawaz Sharif) (being investigated/charged, apart from other many corruption charges and cases, for a corruption case, in relation to the construction of a road from Raiwind to Sharif Family’s residence, worth Rs. 126 million); Chaudhray Shujaat Hussain (ex-premier of Pakistan) being investigated for charges, in connection with assets beyond means worth Rs. 2,428 billion; Asif Ali Zardari (ex- president of Pakistan and the former co-chair-person of Pakistan People’s Party) being investigated (now arrested) for corruption cases worth US$22 billion and US$1.5billion, besides other charges of money laundering and such other corruption cases; Faryal Talpur (a Pakistani politician and the sister of Asif Ali Zardari) also being investigated; Haroon Akhtar Khan (special assistant on revenue to ex-prime minister of Pakistan, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, and brother of Ghazi Akhtar) being investigated on corruption charges; Ghazi Akhtar (Director and Chief Executive Officer of M/s Tandlianwala Sugar Mills (Pvt.) Limited) being under investigation for a transaction charges of US$6.9 million; Ayaz Khan Niazi (former chairman of National Insurance Company Limited [NICL]) over embezzlement charges worth Rs. 2 billion; Abid Jawed (another ex-chairman of NICL) being investigated over a possible fraud charges worth Rs. 2 billion; Nawab Aslam Raisani (ex-chief minister of Balochistan) for possession of Rs. 100 million in assets beyond resources; Muhammad Ishaq Dar (a former fiancé minister of Pakistan) being under inquiry for three different corruption cases of US$1,250 million, US$3,488 million and £23 million; a former information secretary and ambassador to the US (Hussain Haqqani); Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao (the current chairman of the Qaumi Watan Party and ex-interior minister) for having assets beyond resources.

Other corruption scandals in Pakistan include such instances of dishonest dealings and unscrupulous activities, as misappropriation of Rs. 1,245 billion by Schon Group; Rental Power Projects (RPP) Scam, in which several high-level PPP ministers were involved; Fake Registrations by the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC); Scam of Pakistan Steel Mills, involving Rs. 26.5 billion; The Case of NATO Containers, where 40 containers of NATO went missing on their way towards the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan; The Case of Hajj (Pilgrimage) Corruption, a corruption scandal involving federal ministers of the country; Mismanagement of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), which caused about US$500 million in losses to the flagship airline of Pakistan; Mishandling of Pakistan Railways that led to colossal financial losses to state-owned railway industry of Pakistan; Ephedrine Quota Case, a scandal amounting to Rs. 70 billion, where Ali Musa Gillani, the son of former prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gillani, was involved; The Scandal of The National Insurance Company Limited, involving the purchase of 10 acres of land in Karachi by the company and the transfer of millions of rupees from one account into the joint accounts of some other accomplices, etc.

Qasim Swati is a freelance journalist, writer and human rights activist, based in the UK, and can be reached at or

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