Fighting corruption: Lahore College for Women takes first prize

Students present their ideas on how to reduce graft at documentary competition.

Express July 31, 2011


“How are we to live if we fail to ask ourselves how it is we will die?” Javed Ansari, the dean of the College of Business Management (CBM), posed this thought-provoking question to an audience of over 70 gathered at the CBM business auditorium for a documentary competition on ‘anti-corruption’ organised by Transparency International on Saturday.

His question was not meant to send the crowd into a contemplation of life and death, but of the need to take responsibility for one’s actions. “Violations of the spirit of the law undermine systematic norms,” he said. “The root cause of corruption, its sole motivator, must be recognised and understood in order to carry out an anti-corruption movement.”

Six teams from universities across the country were nominated for the competition from a total of 15. They presented documentaries produced after months of research and reporting. The budding scholars’ message was that there is a solution to corruption and that social awareness paired with bold confrontation is the first step.

Fatima Jafri of the Lahore College for Women University, the winning team, felt that three people are integral to this process. “A father, mother and teacher can contribute infinitely towards the reduction of corruption by establishing strong morals and values within homes and schools.”

Mohammed Mazhar Aziz, Usman Ahmad and Zahid Danial from Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan kicked things off with clips depicting the struggle of lower-income groups within the country. They spoke of rigged weight-scales used by fruit vendors and butchers and milkmen who mix water with their milk. The compilation faded out as the national anthem blared through the auditorium’s worn-out speakers.

Students of the Hyderabad Institute of Arts, Science and Technology focused on corrupt policemen   Rs50 can be the difference between being pegged with a false accusation and being let off.

The Hyderabadi trio Pardeep Kumar, Shahmir Hasan, Khan Mohammed and Hassan Bin Sami highlighted pollution as a form of corruption as well. “There is so much pollution in our country that if it were not for our lungs we would have nowhere to keep it,” said their documentary’s final warning.

Rumana Husain, Rozario Fernandes, Yasir Farooqui and Aizaz Imtiaz of the Institute of Business Administration, University of Karachi, built on the theme of self-judgment and contradicted the famous saying that ‘power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely’. “All people are corrupt,” they observed glumly, “Power is what brings it out.”

Naveed Syed, Mohammed Zeeshan and Afraz Abdur Rehman of the Institute of Management Sciences in Peshawar spoke about how merit is no longer rewarded. They felt credit is not given where it is due and poverty in rural areas and a lack of accountability were the two influential factors in the growth of corruption.

Waqas Zia, Muhammad Faraz, Agha Sadaf Mehdi and Muhammed Zunair of the Islamia University of Bahawalpur appealed to the patriots in the crowd by showing a clip of news anchors putting politicians on the spot with incisive questions.

A moving clip of children declaring what they wanted to be when they were older was screened shortly after. “I want to be a doctor so that I can heal the wounded,” said one. “I want to be an engineer so that I can rebuild my country and help solve electricity problems,” announced another. Their optimistic innocence was part of the crew’s message.

The Lahore College for Women University’s speeches on the energy sector closed the session and won them the first prize of Rs25,000. “We have taken a more creative stance without a documentary for the visual impact,” explained Fatima Jafri. She told the audience that Pakistan had ranked 34th among the most corrupt countries in 2010. In the last 10 months, over 30,000 cases of electricity theft were lodged at police stations. “The easiest targets of corruption are the poor as they are easily intimidated.”

The team from Islamia University of Bahawalpur came in second and won Rs15,000, while the Institute of Management Sciences team won Rs10,000 for third place.

As the audience filed out, it was clear that the documentaries had moved them.

“The future of Pakistan may seem bleak to some, but it is the hard work and persistence of the youth that will ultimately make a difference,” said one spectator.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2011.

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