Unlimited greed

What makes this case so painful is that the money being stolen is literally meant for charity


Editorial May 05, 2020

Corruption continues to plague the government, and even the Zakat and Baitul Mal departments have not been spared by unscrupulous bureaucrats and politicians. Even in the holy month of Ramazan when Muslims around the world go out of their way to give to charity, we learn that staff associated with the mentioned government departments, forcibly collecting that charity amount, are pocketing more than 60 per cent of that money — further proof that the Government of Pakistan does not discriminate. Whether ‘secular’ taxes or religious ones, all are funnelled off by our public employees.

The Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) looked into the entire budget of Pakistan Baitul Mal and a 13 per cent sample of the Zakat department’s budget for the year 2019-2020. Baitul Mal’s Rs5 billion budget was found to have irregularities to the tune of Rs3.1 billion. Fortunately, Rs475 million recoveries were also noted in the report so the new math would suggest that ‘only’ a little over half the budget was irregularly spent. They’re not corrupt. They’re just sharing. After all, charity does begin at home. The Zakat department audit, meanwhile, found problems with around Rs574 million of the Rs961 million examined. This makes almost 60 per cent of the budget. When extrapolated against the overall budget, we can expect that irregularities at the department account for around Rs4.4 billion.

We have heard of large-scale corruption in various government departments for the entire history of Pakistan. Whether democratically elected or self-projected into power, neither sherwani nor uniform has been able to keep a check on graft. But what makes this case so painful is that the money being stolen is literally meant for charity, and it is happening under the watch of someone whose greatest claim to fame is charitable work. We know charitable work is close to his heart. Even the Prime Minister’s opponents have lauded his past humanitarian work. Will he duly punish those that were grifting the government this whole time, or will this turn out to be a microcosm of what is happening in the PTI’s first full year in charge? 

Published in The Express Tribune, May 5th, 2020.

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