Pakistan’s perceived corruption

Published: December 31, 2011

Centres of corruption in Pakistan in the following descending order, of being perceived as the most corrupt to the least: 1) land administration; 2) police; 3) income tax; 4) judiciary; 5) tendering & contracting; 6) customs, plus state corporations and the last is the army.

The latest perception report from Transparency International Pakistan (TIP) shows a limited number of respondents see centres of corruption in Pakistan in the following descending order, of being perceived as the most corrupt to the least: 1) land administration; 2) police; 3) income tax; 4) judiciary; 5) tendering & contracting; 6) customs, plus state corporations and the last is the army. Once again TIP has expressed its shock at the mounting lack of honesty in public affairs and has listed some of the reasons why the graph of evil is creeping upwards every year.

It is not surprising that land administration is the first among the perceived culprits. It is vastly the domain of the provinces where the politician has yet to begin to take responsibility for sorting-out maintenance and collection. Land record is still in primitive shape and the low bureaucracy that handles the sector is not upgraded and made competitive. Most of the trouble takes place away from the big cities because the writ of the state languishes in smaller districts and abdicates to three power centres: the feudal landlord (often a politician), the police and the judiciary. It will take a long time to sort-out this mess and it will not happen at the same speed in all the provinces. The police has endemic ills that most states in the Third World have failed to tackle. The recruitment of policemen has been pegged to good education only recently, but the provinces — whose domain this is — have been remiss in making the kind of allocations needed to upgrade the institution’s performance. The ratio of policemen to population is abysmal, training standards — though imitative of the army — are nowhere near being practically useful and low status has kept the average policeman tied to slavish behaviour towards the seniors and a brutish one towards the common man.

But the police may not be intrinsically as bad as the circumstances of its functioning make it. State policies favouring non-state actors involved in terrorism on the side have hamstrung the police. Unwillingness to prosecute has instilled in the department a habit of not trying too hard to convict, say, terrorists from a shady jihadi organisation simply because it is being clandestinely supported by the state. Because of this ambience of state-backed criminality, many policemen themselves indulge in crime and get away with it. Many senior policemen live beyond their means and own properties they could not have bought with honest money. As for the tax administration, if one were to look at the statistics, things may be getting better — and that is why it is no longer number one in corruption. Pakistan’s revenue collection is one of the lowest in the world (with the tax-collection machinery believed to be riddled with corruption and inefficiency) and that impacts directly the capacity of the state to spend on development. The reigning theory is to erect a system in which the income tax officer comes into least contact with the taxpayer.

Transparency has pinpointed the ills in the judiciary which is headed today by a universally recognised independent Supreme Court. The latest diagnosis of inefficiency as reflected in the backlogs is owed to the clash between the judiciary and the executive which the report exemplifies by saying that “26 of 40 posts of judges were vacant in the Sindh High Court”. The apex court has gone activist and uses its suo motu jurisdiction against a government that is already trapped in an unstable situation. Some advise judicial restraint, given the fact that the entire state structure is threatened by terrorism and its effect on the functionaries.

Today, the perception index of corruption is, in fact, an index of how well the state is holding up. Image is everything. Since the 1990s, the world has been seeing Pakistan as a failing or a failed state. Next door, in Afghanistan, the state was always partially dysfunctional and there was only a blurred line differentiating between what was legal and illegal: today as the Americans make ready to leave, Afghanistan’s most glaring indicator of its failure is corruption. One hopes that Pakistan, not in the best of states, doesn’t go Afghanistan’s way.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 31st, 2011.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Show
    Dec 31, 2011 - 3:19AM

    Funny some Pakistani papers said military was most corrupt according to this report when international media was saying army is least corrupt
    Guess fake liberal hate Pakistan more than Americans


  • Devils Advice
    Dec 31, 2011 - 3:40AM

    One hopes that Pakistan, not in the best of states, doesn’t go Afghanistan’s way

    Comparision with Afghanistan is self indicator of Progress in pakistan since 1947.Way to go Editor.

    Look Eastward sometime.


  • Truth
    Dec 31, 2011 - 5:01AM

    Where is railways, PIA, PPP?


  • Dec 31, 2011 - 6:04AM

    Abraham Lincoln has been quoted as saying that “It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.” I do not entirely agree with Honest Abe, but what does it mean in Pakistan’s context, given the extraordinary and often hypocritical incessant demands for honesty by the nation’s TV talking heads? Is competence not as big or bigger virtue than honesty? Is it not Utopia to expect angels to rise to leadership positions in a nation that generally scores badly at all levels on corruption indexes? Is it not better to elect and expect greater competence from the leaders in Pakistan? The kind of competence that delivers good governance for the greater good of society?


  • Hassena Sheikh
    Dec 31, 2011 - 7:19AM

    If commentators are afraid to put real names like “show” ” truth” & Devils advice” do you have the courage to even dare comment on Corruption? let’s face it we are a nation of pansies who with the media barely touch the surface of corruption. Corruption has silently crept into the fabric of society. Even amazing are young men & women who have studied abroad & return to their motherland Pakistan seemed to carry on the practice of corruption bestowed to them by elders & not question the ills of it. The media has been complicit with the Pakistani citizens in helping corruption stay in the flow of our society. Even with all the latest technology available in television production the flow of number of channels available there is no investigative programs that show corruption in the various field to bring the spotlight on corrupt officials from police officers to land officials. I think the best example is Singapore that has studied the causes of corruption & found solutions & even India is in the process of passing anti-corruption legislation & why is there no talk or a national conversation about corruption it’s because we are a nation of pansies?


  • Dec 31, 2011 - 2:33PM

    Corruption is everywhere,
    with up and down level.


  • Khan Bhai
    Dec 31, 2011 - 8:43PM

    Corruption is there because you have incompetent people running the show.


  • Donalds
    Jan 1, 2012 - 1:36AM

    DHS to do background re-investigations every 5yrs to fight corruption of CBP agents.


  • anwar
    Jan 1, 2012 - 10:01AM

    Incompetent and very short sighted people @Khan Bhai:


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