Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has claimed his government is corruptionfree and has not been tainted by even a single financial scandal. The claim
is also repeated daily by his brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz
Sharif. However, the public perception and ground realities about corruption
beg to differ.
The government has silenced the media to a large extent through an
advertisement campaign of billions of rupees. From the payment of
Rs480b circular debt few months after coming to power to the Nandipur,
Neelum-Jhelum power projects, Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park in Bahawalpur,
Metro train and buses, laptop scheme and almost Rs1b expenditure from
the national exchequer on the Raiwind Palace are glaring examples of corruption.
The record of the Lahore and Multan metro bus projects was burnt
even before they were launched to avoid audit.
According to a recent report of the US State Department, Pakistan
loses more than $10b a year to trade-based money laundering. According
to the Swiss National Bank, Pakistanis have stashed more money in Swiss
banks and bought properties worth billions of rupees abroad in recent
years even after the onset of the Panama Leaks. According to another report,
Pakistani politicians and bureaucrats have purchased properties
worth Rs700 billion in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the last few years.
Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer survey for Asia
Pacific countries for 2016, shows that around 70pc of Pakistanis who came
into contact with either the police or the courts had to pay a bribe. Over $9
billion are illegally remitted outside Pakistan, according to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). Finance Minister Ishaq Dar says tax evaders have
stashed up to $200bn in Switzerland.
The 969 megawatt Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project was launched
in haste that caused immense losses, including loss of human lives. Initially
estimated in 1989, to cost Rs15.2 billion, the project cost ballooned to
Rs414 billion in 2015, according to Water and Power Development Authority
(WAPDA) documents submitted to the Planning Commission. Almost
Rs990 billion graft was suspected in the project. The project
management had deployed expensive tunnel-boring machines, which
were bought at an exorbitant cost of Rs19.5 billion, on the claim that the
project would start generation by November 2016.
The Nandipur power project is another model of incompetence, corruption
and mismanagement. The PML-N government criticized the PPP
for corruption in the project but made the most of it after coming to power.
The government tried to knit a web of deceit and lies to hoodwink the nation
about its operational and financial viability. The project, which was to
cost Rs22-23b, reached a whooping Rs65b billion in three years of the
The Orange Line Metro Train, which Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz
Sharif calls a great gift of China, is another project rife with corruption.
Many contractors have been arrested for corruption in the project. The
biggest flaw in the project is that its details were kept secret from the public
by the ruling party. However, calling it a gift of China is a cruel joke on the
people. It is loan, at about 3pc mark-up, which is very costly, considering
recession in the world and loans offered by the International Monetary
Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) at much lower rates. In 2006, interest
rate on the original loan for an underground train project, negotiated with
the WB, was 0.3pc. But the PML-N government scrapped the underground
project, planned by the then Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi, and took
a new loan at a hefty interest rate. Then, Rs16 billion subsidy on the
Rs200b project every year will overburden the national exchequer further.
The Punjab government is already providing Rs1.8b billion annual subsidy
on the Lahore metro bus service. Launched at a cost of Rs30 billion
(critics say it cost Rs70b) on a 27-kilometre-long route, the bus service is
causing a daily loss of approximately Rs5 million to the government while
the Turkish company operating the buses has almost recovered its cost
within a year, according to figures by the Metro Bus Authority. It has caused
almost Rs2 billion loss to the government since its inauguration in February
2013, in terms of subsidy, which the government has paid to the Turkish
company. A passenger pays Rs20 for one-way travel while the government
has to pay a subsidy of Rs40.
Besides, the government is providing Rs2b subsidy annually on the Islamabad
metro bus. According to the subsidy sharing formula, — calculated
on the basis of ridership and length of track by the Punjab Metro Bus
Authority (PMBA) — the Centre pays Rs1.2 billion and the Punjab Rs0.8
billion annually to keep the bus service running. Of the total length of the
metro corridor, 8.5km falls in Rawalpindi and 13.9km in Islamabad. It cost
the nation Rs44.2 billion. The total annual subsidy on the three metro projects
is about Rs20b.
The Punjab government has spent almost Rs1b for the security of the
Sharif family's private residence at Jati Umra. The allocation of a hefty
amount for personal safety from taxpayers' money is unprecedented even
in Pakistan's history. Taxpayers' money was used to build a wall around
the private residence of the prime minister. Over 2,751 police officials have
been deployed for the security of the family. They perform duties as chief
coordinator of security, chief minister's squad in Islamabad; Rawalpindi;
CM's Office GOR-1; Banquet Hall, 90 Shahrah-e-Quaid-e-Azam, Lahore;
CM's residence, 96-H, Model Town, Lahore; CM's residence, DHA, Lahore;
PM's residence, Jati Umra, Raiwind, Lahore; a squad for CM's son
Hamza Shahbaz; a squad for Mrs. Nusrat Shahbaz, wife of the CM; a
squad for Salman Shahbaz, son of the CM and his family; a squad for Mian
Imran Ali Yousaf, son-in-law of the CM, a squad for Begum Tehmina Shahbaz,
wife of the CM, 51-A, Judicial Colony, Lahore; and Punjab House,
CM Secretariat GOR-1; 108-H, Model Town and Jati Umrah. According to
media reports, security for the Sharif family costs taxpayers over Rs20m
a month. This is too much for a country, where over 60pc of the population
lives below the poverty line. The huge spending on the Raiwind Palace
from the public exchequer is the worst form of corruption. It could have led
to the ouster of any prime minister in the world. It would have been intolerable
even if a PPP prime minister or chief minister had done it.
The Senate recently found "criminal negligence" and "blatant irregularities"
in the payment of Rs480b circular debt, the first task the PML-N government
performed after coming to power in 2013. The Senate has
decided to refer the case to investigation agencies for a detailed probe.
Over Rs60.7 billion was paid to some favourite Independent Power Producers
(IPPs), which had not even run their plants.
Every project of the government is tainted with huge corruption. However,
it has attained special skills to hush it up through its experience of
decades. The Panama case shows its past skills, when it built motorways.
New cases of corruption will emerge after its ouster from power