KARACHI: Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ‘Naya Pakistan’ is a promise to usher in a new era where those who caused losses to the national exchequer are held accountable. The string of arrests of high-profile politicians, including former president Asif Zardari and former premier Nawaz Sharif, is reflective of the government’s resolve to root out the menace of corruption.
Similarly, initiatives like the Pakistan Citizens Portal and a bevy of others are proof that the government desires transparency and provides recourse to citizens who are often forced into illegal payments by the corrupt public machinery. But the corruption problem is so widespread that it doesn’t just plague economic growth but impacts government revenues, thus reducing expenditure on education, health and social security. This directly affects the quality of life of the common man and hence basic needs are compromised.
The problem is that the improvement, if any, has been infinitesimal in the period since Imran came to power in August last year. According to Transparency International’s corruption perception index, Pakistan ranked an abysmal 117 out of 180 countries in its 2018 ratings, same as the year before. It ranks equally poor in a similar ranking of the World Bank, which says corruption is the single greatest obstacle to economic and social development. It undermines development by distorting the rule of law and weakening the institutional foundation on which economic growth depends.
Corruption taking place in public offices is continuously increasing the gap between the rich and the poor. For the poor and the marginalised, the priority remains survival, with their aspirations often reduced to the availability of food, clothing and shelter. Such a scenario necessitates the many social sector projects which the government has undertaken, aimed at alleviating poverty. But such an approach addresses the symptom and not the root cause: corruption.
I request PM Imran to strengthen the accountability process, ensure transparency and hold to account all those who played roulette with our collective future. I urge the PM to do it soon for those on the fringes of society are losing the daily battle for survival due to widespread corruption.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 9th, 2019.