Pakistan failed to improve its score on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), released by the Transparency International for 2017, but the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government splashed out millions of rupees on newspaper advertisement to tell the people the country has made huge strides to combat graft under the leadership of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
The government ads, which appeared on the front pages of all leading Urdu and English language newspapers, carried a picture of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, instead of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, and congratulated Pakistan for a five-point increase on the Corruption Perception Index from 2012 to 2017. “Our performance defies opaqueness,” it said and listed “historic achievements” of the Punjab government, which “saved Rs682b in 12 mega projects.” The celebrations showed as if Pakistan had banished corruption and topped the Corruption Perceptions Index while the fact is that it is ranked 117th, out of 180 countries, with no major change from 2016, when the country was ranked 116 out of 176 countries. Pakistan’s score is 32 in 2017, which shows there is no improvement from the previous year, when the score was the same.
New Zealand and Denmark were ranked highest with scores of 89 and 88, respectively. Syria, South Sudan and Somalia remained lowest with scores of 14, 12 and 9, respectively. The best performing region was Western Europe with an average score of 66. The worst performing regions are Sub-Saharan Africa (average score 32) and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (average score 34). The index ranks countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, according to experts and business people and uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. The index reveals some disturbing information – despite attempts to combat corruption around the world, the majority of countries are moving too slowly in their efforts. While stemming the tide against corruption takes time, in the last six years many countries have still made little to no progress. Even more alarming, further analysis of the index results indicates that countries with the lowest protections for press and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also tend to have the worst rates of corruption.
This year, the index found that more than two-thirds of countries score below 50, with an average score of 43. Over the last six years, several countries significantly improved their CPI score, including Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and the United Kingdom, while several countries declined, including Syria, Yemen and Australia. Analysis of the index results further examined the relationship between corruption levels, the protection of journalistic freedoms and engagement of civil society. It found that almost all journalists killed since 2012 were killed in corrupt countries. “No activist or reporter should have to fear for their lives when speaking out against corruption,” said Patricia Moreira, managing director of Transparency International.
The analysis, which incorporates data from the Committee to Protect Journalists, shows that in the last six years, more than nine out of 10 journalists were killed in countries that score 45 or less on the Corruption Perceptions Index. It means that, on average, every week at least one journalist is killed in a country that is highly corrupt. In addition, one in five journalists that died were covering a story about corruption. Sadly, justice was never served in the majority of these cases, it noted. Transparency International also looked at the relationship between corruption levels and the freedom with which civic organizations are able to operate and influence public policy. The analysis, which incorporates data from the World Justice Project, shows that most countries that score low for civil liberties also tend to score high for corruption.
Transparency International is a credible institution in the world but its Pakistani branch and its reports have never been convincing. In 2016, when Nawaz Sharif was the prime minister of Pakistan, he appointed Transparency International-Pakistan (TIP)’s Chairman and Adil Gilani as “honorary” consultant at the Prime Minister’s House. Gilani had risen to fame in the PPP government by identifying corruption in national institutions. He appeared on news channels daily with “proof” of corruption against ministers. Former Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry took suo motu notices almost on a daily basis against corruption by ministers and government institutions. The media highlighted it unprecedentedly. However, the situation changed after the installation of the PML-N government and the appointment of Gilani as the prime minister’s consultant. It also shows the style of governance of the Sharifs.
Adil Gilani had an office in the PM Secretariat. Despite being an “honorary” consultant, he was provided with an official car with drivers, tickets to fly between Islamabad and Karachi twice a month, heavy allowances and dozens of staff members. Pakistan’s ranking in the International Corruption Index started improving after his appointment. In October 2016, when criticism of his appointment increased, the government appointed him as an ambassador to Serbia. 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 organization and the latest report cannot be trusted completely.
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. The ruling party had launched its 2013 general election campaign with claims of “dragging the corrupt through the streets of Pakistan,” but it failed to take concrete steps to stamp out corruption.
The government’s self-projection on the Corruption Perceptions Index is in contrast to its performance. The ruling party has only paid lip service to transparency and accountability and failed to make laws for a fair and uniform accountable system. Instead, it aims to defang NAB. It has failed to reform government departments. Only the PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has depoliticized the police. It has removed corruption in the department to a large extent. The police in all other provinces remain highly politicized and corrupt. When the government has not reformed laws and empowered the institutions to curtail corruption, it has no justification to claim credit for it. If someone deserves the credit, it is Imran Khan. Through his persistent focus on corruption, he has built national narrative against corruption in Pakistan. He has educated and created awareness among the general public. His role will always be lauded, if Pakistan makes progress against corruption. It is a reality and the government should accept it.