Whilst it is wise to be prudent in respect of how much weight is given to the various indices and polls that are regularly released about the condition of Pakistan, some bear close scrutiny. One such is the Corruption Perceptions Index 2017 which has just been released by Transparency International (TI). This and other governments have never had a comfortable relationship with TI principally because it speaks truth to power which is a risky move in Pakistan. The latest unwelcome soupcon of truth comes with the news that Pakistan is as corrupt as it was last year and has made no progress in reducing corruption. It is ranked at 117 out of 180 countries compared to 2016 when we were ranked 116 out of 176, a difference so small as not to be statistically significant.
In further bad news, TI has found that journalists and civil society activists are at risk of their lives if they speak out in those countries that score poorly on the corruption index. It is a sobering thought that since 2012 almost all journalists that have been killed, usually with no serious attempt to find their killers as in Pakistan, were killed in the most corrupt countries.
Corruption is never easy to tackle anywhere in the world and few countries in the last six years have made any progress at all. Pakistan is stuck in a circular rut as far as corruption is concerned; it is deeply institutionalised across every sector of society and openly tolerated. There are no concerted attempts to stem corruption at the federal or provincial level and politics in its entirety is the solid foundation on which corruption is built and sustained. Vested interests protect corrupt structures and the TI report points to a state where corruption has won.
For TI, the way forward is to minimise regulation on the media which includes traditional and the so-called ‘new’ media that includes the likes of Twitter and Facebook and ensure that journalists can work in the knowledge that they have the protection of the state. Dream on — and stay safe.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 24th, 2018.
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