Corruption Inc.

Corruption has reached a figure which defies hyperbole. Rs3 trillion has been bled out by the Zardari-Gilani govt.

Mahreen Khan July 14, 2011

Corruption, over the past three years, has reportedly reached a figure which defies hyperbole. Transparency International estimates that Rs3 trillion has been bled out of the economy by the Zardari-Gilani government. It seems such a fantastic number, almost too large to even comprehend. Yet this news story did not even make the front pages, indicative of a society now inured to dishonesty and wrongdoing.

Irrespective of whether the figure is correct or not, it is instructive to examine how societal values became so degraded that such a news story provokes not even a functional denial from the government nor a whimper from civil society. The current government, led by the PPP and in which several friends of the president have high posts, knows that no matter how much the media bleat on about graft and financial scandals, it does not matter one bit because the public remains unmoved and no entity has the ability, the courage or the resources to take action. The chief justice and the Supreme Court, despite their huffing and puffing, have been unable to blow the house down on corruption, cronyism and abuse of power. Opposition parties, including Nawaz Sharif’s, also tarnished by sleaze, disingenuously use corruption as a stick to beat the government with. Yet they have no desire for any substantive change in the system, of which they themselves aspire to be beneficiaries when ‘their turn’ arrives.

How did our society become so tolerant of such blatantly corrupt practices? Was it always like this? You ask the elders of society and they narrate that in the 1950s and 1960s making a living was hard. The new nation was beset with millions starting new lives, a nascent economy and negligible infrastructure or industry. Unemployment was very high. Young men were desperate for jobs. People preferred to eat only two meals a day but would not countenance running a household on the proceeds of crime or corruption.

Yet such solid values, the fundamental creed that you live on what little you have but you never steal or cheat to get ahead, seem almost apocryphal now. Instead, we live under a system where people are let off for wrongdoing because of their family ties, their baradari, their connections. The lack of consequences for wrongdoing permeates every sphere of our lives. There are no legal consequences for breaking the law and there is no social disgrace for being corrupt. In fact, being corrupt is socially acceptable, even as an aspiration to becoming wealthy quickly, by any means necessary. It is seen as an achievement, an acceptable route for success, of gaining social status, worthy of emulation, even envy.

All of us collude and contribute to this erosion of basic truths. Corruption is unethical, dishonest and immoral. Period. Justifying bribery as ‘understandable’ in some cases, such as policemen or public servants, whose salaries are a pittance, is a travesty against those who eke out an existence on that very pittance, making do and supporting families until old age. There are tens of millions of such people, office workers, junior grade public servants, ordinary folk who support their entire families on the same salaries that others use as an excuse to indulge in blatant bribery and dishonesty.

Those who accept and advance such mitigations for corrupt practices have corroded the precepts of right and wrong in our society. They are responsible for inculcating dishonesty as a socially acceptable way of life. Excusing bribery, corruption and crime on the basis of economic need is an insidious disservice to everyone, especially those it claims to empathise with. It has culminated in a society where the rule of law is just a silly rumour and a government which is unashamedly scaling the heights of sleaze. The ruling party now seems to practice corruption as a valid aspect of governance, a privilege of power, a right since it is in power. The result is ‘Corruption Inc.’, a publicly-owned company, which we bought shares in the day we failed to challenge our fathers, uncles and friends for living on the proceeds of dishonesty and deceit.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2011.


Khalid Rahim | 11 years ago | Reply

Hanging or life sentence will not solve the problem. Unless every movable and immovable property of the culprit and his kin is confiscated and they are placed on a street as ordinary labourers. Perhaps such an example will have some impact on those who believe they can get away or their children and grand children will enjoy their corrupt cookies!

Khalid Rahim | 11 years ago | Reply @Sam: You created the word WHITE, In medical jurisprudence the human race comprises of three distinct parties based on their features, bone structure, skin and hair. As much you are a Caucasian with light eyes and hair, So am I and billion others who do not think in terms of color. So accept the reality that corruption is the power key introduced in developing nations through the corridors of WhiteHouse, Congress and the Bush Center.
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