Though politicians in Pakistan constantly accuse each other of corrupt practises and vow to end this evil when they come to power, corruption is on the rise in Pakistan and the rest of South Asia, a new Transparency International report stated.
The report titled “Fighting Corruption in South Asia: Building Accountability” says South Asia is now the worst region in the world when it comes to corruption.
The report recommends countries in the region (India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Maldives) to transform political rhetoric into concrete actions if they are serious about their anti-corruption promises.
Right to information
Despite being the first country in South Asia to introduce a right to information law, the report states that lawmakers in Pakistan failed to make the law strong and effective. “The Freedom of Information Ordinance falls short of international standards, while the new Right to Information Bill has been described as bad as [the law] it seeks to repeal, if not worse,” the report stated,
The report, however, mentions the recently enacted Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Ordinance 2013 and Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act on 12 November 2013 as small steps in the right direction. With zero protection for whistleblowers in the region, the report also commends the K-P bill for including articles that cover elements of whistleblower protection.
More than the strength of the law and government’s ability to implement it, the report expresses concern over how unaware citizens are of their rights. The report claims there is a perception among general public that the law is not relevant to them.
The report lauded the judiciary and national corruption watchdog body for their accountability efforts in the country. While it praised the National Accountability Bureau for exposing Pakistan’s biggest financial scam – Double Shah Scam, the report stated that the role played by the country’s active and independent judiciary has been transformative.
But the report admitted the apex court had overused its power too many times, which raises questions about the need to balance independence of oversight bodies with accountability.
Apart from strengthening the RTI law, Transparency International called on the government to invest in setting up strong infrastructure and training officials to ensure authorities are able to provide information to citizens in a timely manner as required by law. It further demanded that states invest in public education campaigns to raise awareness among citizens of their fundamental right to information and of how to hold their governments accountable.
The report also recommended that the government should avoid manipulating with the scope and jurisdiction of NAB and that appointments, transferral and removals of heads and senior staff of anti-corruption agencies and the judiciary should be conducted transparently.