Corruption is generally defined as misuse of entrusted power or authority by the elected politicians or appointed civil servants for private gains. It usually entails embezzlement of funds, nepotism, kickbacks, bribery as well as deliberate attempts to perpetuate a system with inbuilt avenues of corruption, graft and entitlement. Corruption has many forms but the major cause of concerns are the systemic corruption and political corruption which germinate other forms of corruption that eat into the social and economic fiber of a country besides generating social tensions and hampering its economic progress.
Political corruption occurs at the highest level of the political system usually at the policy formulation level when politicians and state agents entitled to make and enforce laws in the name of the people, use their position to sustain their power, status and wealth leading to misallocation of resources and perversion of the process of decision making. Systemic or endemic corruption is an integrated and essential aspect of the economic, social and political system prevalent in a country, embedded in a wider situation that helps to sustain it. It is universally recognized that corruption invariably is related to lack of good governance and the degree of corruption in a society or a country depends on the level of good governance attained by a particularly country. It is social phenomenon permeating the entire world though with varying degrees.
Unfortunately during more than six decades of its history Pakistan has enjoyed the dubious distinction of being among the most corrupt countries in the world. The feudal character of its system of governance, a legacy of the colonial era, is mainly responsible for this menace as it promotes a culture of graft and entitlement. The country has remained under martial laws for more than half of its political existence and the dictators instead of reforming the system concentrated more on prolonging their own power stints. The politicians also remained oblivious to the need for reforms and rather perpetuated the archaic colonial system of governance to serve their own vested interests. The result of this criminal apathy of the rulers to reform the system scuttled the ability of the successive governments to deliver essential services to the people and to ensure social and economic justice.
Some agencies of the UN and global organizations like Transparency International keep a constant watch on the prevalent corruption in the countries of the world and based on their assessments issue annual reports on the Corruption Perception Index (CPI). Pakistan has invariably figured on the top rungs of the corruption index. The Transparency International Report for 2012 issued by the agency revealed that as compared to 2011, Pakistan had gone from the 42nd most corrupt country in the world to 33rd most corrupt country on the CPI index.
However it is satisfying to note that under the PML-N government corruption has been on the decline. Reports for the year 2013, 2014, and 2015 issued by Transparency International (TI), have indicated a reversal of the trend. The CPI index for the year 2013 released by the TI showed Pakistan to have gone down on the corruption scale by almost ten points, especially during the last six months of the year. It also indicated improvement in governance as no major corruption scandal had been unearthed by the ever vigilant TI and the media. The report for 2014 revealed that the corruption ranking of Pakistan had further gone down by one point, confirming the fact that corruption undoubtedly was in a nosedive since the installation of the PML-N government. The report for 2015 issued by TPI during this week unraveled a further decline in corruption by three points. As compared to 2012 the rating has improved by 14 points which is unprecedented since the TI started issuing the report in 1995. According to the press release of TI, Pakistan has done better as compared to China, India, Iran, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal in blocking avenues of corruption. Amongst the five SAARC countries, Pakistan was the only country which has improved its CPI score. The credit for reducing corruption indeed goes to the PML-N government, which has shown impregnable determination to tackle this phenomenon and ensure transparency in its transactions and implementation of policies in all spheres of the national life.
The government, in line with its manifesto, has been striving hard to improve governance. It has made deliberate and conscious attempts to tackle corruption on top priority basis, especially at the higher echelons of the political system which is quite evident from the agenda of economic reforms put in place by the government to revive the economy and providing finances for self-employment to the youth of the country in a transparent manner, as well as the political and legal reforms to improve law and order, security and fighting terrorism. There are also steps in the offing to remove the inadequacies of the eighteenth amendment and bringing other constitutional amendments to improve governance. The government is presently engaged in a consultative process with the parties represented in the parliament in this regard. The sincerity of purpose and determination with which the PML-N government is working in these areas is quite encouraging.
Pakistan has a free media and an independent judiciary which has given birth to a new culture of accountability. Both these institutions did a tremendous job in exposing and checking corruption at the higher echelons of the government during the previous regime as a result of which billions of dollars and rupees have been reclaimed from the plunderers of the national exchequer. The government has also shown abiding commitment to further strengthen these institutions and showing zero tolerance for the corrupt elements. The job is being done with unruffled commitment, notwithstanding the administrative, political and legal constraints.
It goes to the credit of the PML-N government that no mega corruption scandal has been unearthed during the last two and half years. The PML-N government has not only taken steps to hold the corrupt elements accountable for their misdeeds but has also put in place measures to rectify the systemic maladies that encouraged and facilitated corruption.
Good governance is about bringing political and economic reforms, maintaining law and order, free access to information and data, improving and strengthening judicial system, a responsible and accountable administrative apparatus, institutional reforms, judicious taxation system, encouraging civil society organizations to monitor the performance of the government and the existence of a free media in the country. Honestly speaking, despite the formidable challenges that the government had inherited, it has made discernible progress in all these areas and the results are quite visible.