FeaturedNationalVOLUME 15 ISSUE # 12

Corruption perceptions in Pakistan

The Transparency International has ranked Pakistan 120 out of 180 countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2019. It has placed Pakistan three spots behind its previous year’s ranking despite increased anti-corruption efforts.

The report becomes contentious after Transparency International’s Pakistan chapter said the performance of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has remarkably improved in the PTI government and called it “a ray of hope” in the country. The ranking also becomes controversial after claims that the government of General Pervez Musharraf was the most corrupt, followed by Imran Khan’s government, then by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and placing the last PML-N government at the bottom. It clearly shows the report is biased towards the PML-N and its allies and against its rivals.

In fact, Transparency International’s reports on Pakistan have been incredible since 2015, when former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who believed everything and everybody can be bought with money, appointed Transparency International-Pakistan senior adviser Adil Gilani as “honorary” consultant. It not only exposed the working of international NGOs, which favour certain governments and groups, but also the mindset of the Pakistani rulers to lure institutions which can create trouble for them.

Former Transparency International-Pakistan Chairman Adil Gilani rose to fame in the PPP government by pinpointing corruption in national institutions. He appeared on TV daily with “proof” of corruption against PPP ministers. Former Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry also took suo motu notices of corruption almost on a daily basis. The media highlighted it unprecedentedly. However, the situation changed after the installation of the PML-N government in 2013. The Transparency International-Pakistan openly joined hands with the Nawaz government and there was no Iftikhar Chaudhry to take up suo motu notices. The media also became silent.

In the Nawaz government, the Transparency International-Pakistan was appointed “consultant” for the PM Inspection Commission and its adviser Adil Gilani would sit in the PM Secretariat. Though the post was “honorary,” yet under the contract he got an official car with a driver, tickets to fly between Islamabad and Karachi twice a month, other allowances and an official with staff in the PM Secretariat.

Gilani also faced probes by the Federal Investigation Agency for graft. He was accused of massive corruption when he worked at the Karachi Port Trust as a government employee. He is “embedded in all major government institutions on the pretext of promoting transparency whereby he initially threatened and acted against government officials by publishing negative articles and news reports. After a strong smear campaign, Gilani would offer to clear government officers and their departments if they signed a memorandum of understanding with Transparency International, allowing Gilani to become the de facto approver of government bids. He would, therefore, collude with the highest bidder and get terms of the bidding (contract) in his favour. By using the model, Gilani was able to penetrate into various government organizations, like PIA, KPT, TDAP. Under the guise of transparency, he hijacked government offices,” charges said.

Then, the Nawaz government decided to appoint Gilani as the Ambassador to Serbia. Critics say former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif rewarded him for making bogus reports in favour of the PML-N government. Almost all reports released by the Transparency International-Pakistan during the PML-N government showed that Nawaz Sharif had not only controlled corruption but also introduced good governance in Pakistan.

In the latest TI report, Pakistan was assigned a score of 32, a point lower than its score of 33 on the 2018 index and well below the global average of 43. Many developed countries including Canada, France, the United Kingdom and Denmark have scored less than last year, though Denmark attained the first rank on CPI 2019. In the index, the average score for Asia-Pacific is 45 out of 100, showing Afghanistan as “highly corrupt” with a score of 16. New Zealand was on the top of the ranking in the region with a score of 87 followed by Singapore ranked fourth with a score of 85.

More than two-thirds of countries score below 50, with an average score of only 43. Since 2012, only 22 countries have significantly improved their scores including Estonia, Greece and Guyana. Twenty-one have significantly declined including Australia, Canada and Nicaragua. Four G7 countries score lower than last year: Canada (-4), France (-3), the UK (-3) and the US (-2). Germany and Japan have seen no improvement, while Italy gained one point. To reduce corruption and restore trust in politics, the Transparency International has called on governments to control political financing to prevent excessive money and influence in politics in addition to tackling preferential treatment to ensure budgets and public services are not driven by personal connects or bias towards special interests.

The Transparency International is a credible institution in the world but its Pakistani branch and its reports have never been convincing. Pakistan’s ranking in the International Corruption Index started improving after Adil Gilani was appointed “honorary” consultant and then ambassador to Serbia by the PML-N government. It lent credence to doubts he was rewarded for making bogus reports in favour of the PML-N government. He still enjoys clout at his former organisation and the latest report cannot be trusted.

Corruption has been part of Pakistani politics for decades. All graft-busting institutions, like National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), have failed to perform. The Panama case would not have reached the Supreme Court of Pakistan for adjudication, if the institutions had been performing their duties.

Despite the dubious report of the Transparency International-Pakistan, the PTI cannot be blamed for rampant corruption in Pakistan, though it has not yet taken steps to reform the police, bureaucracy, lower courts, hospitals and other departments dealing with the public. The opposition, especially the PML-N and the PPP, cannot blame the PTI because it is only its first year in power in the Centre, while they have been in power for decades. In fact, the PPP still rules Sindh. However, the PTI government should introduce reforms in every department to provide relief to the people at the earliest.