Imran Khan’s strategy: End corruption

Published: June 21, 2012

Imran Khan pledges to wipe out corruption in Pakistan in 90 days as PM. PHOTO: FILE

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf  leader Imran Khan has pledged in his political manifesto to eliminate major corruption in Pakistan within his first 90 days as prime minister. This is a tall order and was being derided by Nawaz Sharif yesterday as impractical and naive.

Despite his tenure in office, Sharif has failed to understand the different modes and echelons of corruption in Pakistan. Khan intends to target specific government level corruption which is most damaging in a series of enforceable reforms based on forceful transparency and assertive accountability.

Imran Khan is right to see the fight against corruption as a priority and instead of criticism he should be receiving national support for the huge task ahead. Corruption in Pakistan is widespread, systemic and deeply entrenched at all levels of society and government and is a substantial obstacle to the country’s development.

With losses due to corruption in Pakistan being estimated at Rs8500 billion, it has been described as “plunder” in a country where people still lack the most basic needs. Pakistan’s main anti-corruption body, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NAB) admitted in 2008 that Rs200 billion are wasted through corrupt practices at higher government levels with more billions locally. Petty corruption in the form of bribery is prevalent in law enforcement, procurement and the provision of public services; widespread financial and political corruption, nepotism and the misuse of power are rife.

Transparency International (TI), a Berlin-based organisation that puts out an annual Corruptions Perception Index (CPI), attributes corruption to autocratic governments, sprawling government bureaucracies of under-paid, under-trained civil servants and a lack of media freedom to keep track of fat government contracts and easy money. TI ranked Pakistan 139th among 180 countries in its 2009 CPI.

Pakistan has undertaken anti-corruption proceedings over the years but has avoided scrutiny of senior officials. The National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) issued by the former President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, on October 5, 2009, granted amnesty to politicians, political workers and bureaucrats who were accused of corruption, embezzlement, money laundering and even murder. A list of 8041 individuals who benefited from NRO included 34 politicians, further reducing public trust in leadership and encouraging the spread of corrupt practice at federal, provincial and local government level. It was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on December 16, 2009, throwing the country into a continuing political crisis.

Pakistan’s citizens expect to pay bribes to obtain services such as electricity, health care and education and in dealings with the police. In the absence of a democratic and effective taxation authority, bribery can be seen as a form of illegal taxation in a country where the national budget is inadequate for the delivery of social services. This is damaging to the social fabric of society but it is low-level petty corruption nevertheless.

It is the illegal use of power by politicians and bureaucrats that deserves immediate attention and urgent scrutiny in Pakistan and Imran Khan recognises the need to put an end to these predatory practices that waste resources that should be invested for the good of the country.

Just one example of the direct impact of increased corruption is the rise in the prices of food commodities which according to the latest official data of Federal Bureau of Statistics, have increased up to 120 per cent in one year.

Lack of transparency and accountability have allowed the awarding of government contracts and licenses to one’s family, relatives or to corporations where one is a shareholder, allowing for private greed to overrule the public good. This type of corruption at a governmental level can be tackled relatively easily by enacting conflict of interest and transparency legislation – and enforcing it aggressively.

Imran Khan has already set an example and proposed that all politicians should also declare their assets.

A short blog like this is not the most effective medium to convey Imran Khan’s strategy in its entirety, but I can assure the naysayers that a comprehensive and effective policy is being developed alongside a strategic implementation plan. This is a powerful first step in clearing up corruption in Pakistan, vital for Pakistan’s survival as a democracy and hopefully the shape of government to come.

Read more by Azeem Ibrahim here or follow him on Twitter @AzeemIbrahim


Azeem Ibrahim

An International Security and Geopolitics Lecturer at the University of Chicago. Fellow and Member of the Board of Directors at the Institute of Social Policy and Understanding and a former Research Scholar at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and World Fellow at Yale. He is the Strategic Policy Advisor to Imran Khan and he tweets as @AzeemIbrahim (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • 3footninja

    Doubters will always remain doubters, losers will always remain losers, and whiners will continue to whine forever. IK will prove them wrong, after all he is the only one capable of doing so.Recommend

  • Asad Mahmood

    Excellent Dr Azeem.

    These people keep on wanting to fool the nation with their rheotric. Both of the current ruling parties have not got anything to show for.

    Inshallah Imran Khan will be the next PM of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Ali q

    Power at the top must be diffused in a government setup (especially, one as large as Pakistan’s). The corrupt just don’t seem to diffuse it efficiently. The benefits of every initiative by the leadership are held hostage to corrupt civil/political or military servants.

    I am grateful to IK for politicizing this important issue – and making it a priority in our national political discourse (if it were left to the current crop of parties, this piece would have certainly drowned out eg NRO).Recommend

  • Taimoor

    I dont intend to criticize just for the sake of it but where exactly in your blog have you shared any information on “HOW’ IK intends to eliminate corruption, other than just saying that a plan is being prepared etc etc, which we have been hearing since, i dont even remember when!

    An example you shared, that IK lead from the front by declaring his assets etc, i am really sorry but in the same press conference he said all PTI leadership will declare their assets and if i remember correctly SMQ was sitting right next to him and said YES i/we will declare our assets… Can you please name ONE, just ONE PTI leader other than IK who has followed the very well set example of their Chairman?

    P.s I am a PTI supporter and i had very high hope from people like yourself, but your blog is very disappointing, we need to do a far better job than this to change things around in Pakistan, please put in more efforts, please! Recommend

  • Hassan R

    Great article Dr Azeem! You are an essential part of PTI’s dream team, please continue writing such blogs/op-eds for Pakistani media.. The people need to hear from you! Recommend

  • Noor

    I think only IK is choice in current situationRecommend

  • Confused

    Yes, well, thanks for the blog and research on how corrupted we exactly are. I know he is planning to end corruption, its just that how is he going to end it… which is still being strategised, really?…replace these corrupt politicians with whom? I can’t even think of any non-corrupt people by now. Get more transparency in such a politically steeped country like ours? I mean, PTI is also getting ex-members from other parties, it’s not that simple to differentiate between the people unlike the claims by IK, heck even the party can’t be managed right now.
    I realize he’s got everything theoretically right, of course transparency, education and fair, strict hiring regulations will lead to a better society, you can find these solutions in any management text book, what you won’t find is how to implement them without either going autocratic or just collapsing. One should also realize this is an overhaul and will take considerable time and patience, probably years, something that I don’t think he even grasps the scope of.
    In other news, Nawaz Sharif deriding IK is not surprising either, that’s pretty much all he could play at. One should know better than to fall in these soap drama battles.
    Just know that we need to be critical. This is not a shouting match that ‘yay, i was right, IK is all words no actions’ or ‘yay, stupid anti-ik people got sixed/drowned in the tsunami’, this should be discussed as much as possible. I don’t hate IK, I just have every right to criticize him as a politician, why should I not? These questions and skepticism will bring him to further cement his position as a smart leader too, if he can answer them fully.Recommend

  • adeel ahmed

    Actually that is the difference between Leader and ordinary politician. Leader dream big and go for it and ordinary politician could not even think of it.Recommend

  • http://NewYork Falcon

    Agreed. As a whole, we Pakistanis need to realize that the country can not be run like this for long since it is already coming apart at the seems. Just look at energy crisis. If you get to the root cause of the issue, it is also corruption since those involved in the related decision making and procurement wanted to get kickbacks from expensive energy infrastructure. And this has been going on for decades now. We don’t have many friends left to help us out financially. Therefore, we need to generate funds internally. But for that, we will have to get our act together. Who is going to pay tax to current leadership when they can see them plundering money so blatantly? Recommend

  • Pakistani

    Leave them IK please, listen to our basic and only demand , generate electricity at lowest rates in this region of world . Rest we private sector will do the job Recommend

  • usama

    Nation Has no Reason To Not to Vote IK … Recommend

  • ahsan Kureshi

    the point of this article again? yes we already know the issues brought forth by corruption, was that ever up for debate? the reason Mr Khan is scrutinized is due to his rather novice and naive claims and his absurd obsession over the period ’90 days’. We expect more of Mr. Khan than just claims that would, eventually and irrefutably, tend to disappoint and crumble the false hopes he brings with him. The issue was never “Why corruption?”…it was ALWAYS…”How-in-the-blue-hell-in 90 days?”Recommend

  • Future_of_Pak

    I fully support the PTI’s manifesto to remove (or vigorously challenge) the systemic corruption that is spread through almost all layers of government. It will be an immensely difficult job. I think the naysayers are representing an idea of futility, that it is too hard to accomplish. Perhaps they’re right, but hey, its worth a shot right? Many reasonable sounding people benefit from the corruption epidemic in Pakistan, so it is difficult to win everyone over since the ethical boundaries of this issue become hazy when increasing personal wealth is concerned. However, if one were to analyze the economic benefit of even these current beneficiaries, the gains would be staggering because in a corruption model, its a risky game and losing out to a better bid or a phonecall and being sidelined for your “cut” is very high.

    The author has written a nice article, but it would be good to discuss the implementation strategies of PTI as well. I suggest bringing in a large, multinational accounting firm, partnered with a large management consultancy firm. These are companies that are extremely large and well placed, and can easily take on a project of this nature. For e.g. Ernst and Young, partnered with McKenzie and an international law firm as well, should be hired by the PTI if they come in to government (completely worth the cost in my opinion) and be set to work under the new PTI government’s protection. They have routinely audited and analyzed massive corporations with over 150,000 employees, widely believed to be more complex at an organizational level than most national governments. I think it is one of many strategies that PTI should use, and it is an entirely feasible and viable strategy.Recommend

  • Future_of_Pak

    I think the 90 days claim, which is certainly difficult to digest, is a matter of how you deconstruct the claim critically. There is systemic corruption in Pakistan. It flows from the top to bottom. Imran’s claim throughout has been, as he replaces the top 20 – 30 jobs in the country (once in power), i.e. the major ministry heads and appointed staff, it will be their specific salary structure and income flow that will be monitored and restructured/made transparent in the first 90 days. There are models to do this, as they exist in other countries, and we all live in an online audit friendly worldRecommend

  • Ali

    If our leaders are corrupt what right do they have to demand that the masses do not indulge in corruption? Answer : None.
    The president refuses to let anyone investigate 60 million dollars in his Swiss Bank account; and that’s all that we know about. The losses that the PPP endure while protecting his loot are declared as sacrifices like Zulfiqar Bhutto or Benazir.
    Nawaz Sharif is a master at telling lies and miss leading. His assets are in the billions of dolalrs but he declares a pitttance of that. Instead all of a sudden his wife and his family members become fantastically rich while he ends up a pauper. Are we meant to believe that?

    The PML-N and PPP (Pakistan Feudal Party) are only good at deception and telling lies.Recommend

  • karim

    Nawaz sharif is the biggest tax evader in Pakistan.He was brought by a dictator and later on he has supported corrupt practices in politics.PPP and PMLN are in power for the last 30 years but done nothing for the country.Their wealth has multiplied whereas Pakistan institutions have gone down.It was Nawaz sharif who attacked supreme court and now making hue and cry about independent judiciary. Imran khan is the only hope for Pakistan and people of Pakistan should come out and support PTI.Recommend

  • chan Makhna

    My question is to author, would u like to explain that IK would take actions only against financial corruption or also moral corruption as well??? 2. IK would take action against other parties politicians or his own party members alsol??? If he will take action against every corrupt then what will be the status of jamal Laghari, Awais laghari (NRO beneficia), Javed Hashmi (Mehran Bank Scandal), and many other his party members in his party?????
    He will never do as, it is only his rhetoric. Recommend

  • NO BS

    Amen to that, end of days for the Zardaris, Sharif and GilanisRecommend

  • faraz

    Imran said he will eliminate corruption in 3 days; you are trying to downplay his greatnessRecommend

  • Fahad Raza

    Why do we look at heavens above when we can solve it ourselves I ask. The Kaptaan can’t do any thing if individuals are hell bent to bend the rules. Like a common man will give bribe to get out of his own unlawful acts. The corrupt and the corrupting individuals are both criminals. We give so they take. Lets deny giving bribes , stop asking for any undue favors, quit flattering. Yes we will be pressed, stressed, might starve as well but perseverance in these situations will have a long lasting result. Then only, if not in 90 days but may be in 3 to five years the trend will change for good. Recommend

  • Imran Con

    You’re effectively blaming everyone else for Imran Khan’s poor brain-to-mouth connection.Recommend

  • Mohammed Abbasi

    Agreed – Corruption in Pakistan is widespread, systemic and deeply entrenched at all levels of society and government and is a substantial obstacle to the country’s development but only a few people are talking about it and are serious about it. I am not part of any political group but I sense Imran is the only serious contender to help Pakistan and Pakistanis. Thanks for this article Azeem – sharing!Recommend

  • LionOfPunjab

    NO BS 6 hours ago
    “Amen to that, end of days for the Zardaris, Sharif and Gilanis”
    If imran can end corruption in 90 days…i think “Zardaris, Sharif and Gilanis” can tranform themselves to honest politicians in 90 days. no?Recommend

  • raw is war

    good luck then.Recommend

  • Nasim Mengal

    If one can’t do it then it doesn’t mean other can’t do it too. When the issue of Malik Riaz came to limelight it was only Imran Khan who opposed him directly and clearly stand behind Judiciary. He is not perfect but he is not in the ranks of Gilani and Sharifs. He has performed and he is committed to perform. Pakistan is facing worst form of democracy where MNAs and MPAs are suppose to get funds. Usually this type of fund goes to local government in the rest of world and Imran Khan is champion of local government system for distribution of funds and empowerment. I think his ninety day plan is doable for high level corruption. We stand with Imran Khan because he stand for us. Love you Khan Sahib. Recommend

  • Shyam

    A corrupt but efficient government is far better than an honest but inept governmentRecommend

  • Abid

    @shyam, inefficient and corrupt go hands in hands. Corrupt governments are not based on meritocracy and can’t be efficient. When leaders have skill they don’t rely on other means (corruption) to run system. Recommend

  • Yousra Taj

    Don’t we all know corruption is a problem? Putting an end to corruption maybe your objective but what is your strategy? How do u plan to do that? Recommend

  • JB

    For all the naysayers and doubters of IK, can someone please please please explain what role the other parties have EVER played to end corruption in their respective tenures? The answer is NOTHING whatsoever. So please practice what you preach. PML N and the others can go about doubting and discarding IK’s claims, but should also look back and look at their contributions. Nawaz Sharif declared Rs.5,000 as cash in hand in his wealth statement. Is that even possible? C’mon PML N and PPP, man up and declare your assets truthfully!Recommend

  • Parvez

    Will the corrupt 2% who have always ruled and whose existence depends on the system they have engineered over a period of 65 years, allow Imran Khan in through the door to do as he pleases ?
    The Khan will have to rely on the 98% to enter and if that happens it will truly be a defining moment in our history. Recommend

  • AMK

    “The National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) issued by the former President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, on October 5, 2009, granted amnesty to politicians, political workers and bureaucrats” It was October 5, 2007 not 2009.
    Anyways good article. Now either this country or corrupt people will survive. Recommend

  • Freeman

    @chan Makhna: I think you should do some more investigation or ask who knows better. There is no Javed Hashmi’s name in Mehran bank case. Please check again. Javed Hashmi and Karachi’s Lawayer had personal financial dispute who blamed Javed Hashmi did nto returned my money which he invested in the business with Javed AHshmi. Javed Hashmi already clearled himself from this blame.Recommend

  • malik

    Will Imran take action if he finds evidence of corruption in …*cough cough * ……Army ?Recommend

  • Jawad

    Being a PTI supporter and reading this article, there is really NO plan for eliminating corruption. And it cant be easily out-rooted. In 90 days, institutions can be partially mobilized at best to form practical and implementable strategies for certain institutions.

    I personally believe the best way to go about it would be punitive action against those that are found guilty, and made very public. That is how our, or any society for that matter is able to learn and obey.Recommend

  • raza

    impossible man its impossible!
    Imran himself good but his team payers are corrupt once! There is no any new player in PTI which is not corrupt,if Javad Hashmi is perfect then why he support PML-N at every pitch & also a same story of Qureshi & other members who join PTI after showing the popularity of PTI b/w masses.Recommend

  • Nazir Ahmed

    Imran Khan can end corruption because he has resloved to do so. Ending mega corruption does not take much time if the people selected to head institutions are honest and competent. We hope elections are held soon and Imran Khan can form government to save us from predators and parasites.Recommend

  • http://www.msn Mohammad Yousuf

    Every thing is possible if some body is determined like Imran Khan. We trust him and believe on him that he can finish major corruption in just 90 days..Recommend

  • PTI Supporter

    Even if it’s not discussed in this blog, Mr. Imran Khan has explained at numerous occasions how he plans to work out his 90-days scheme. Yes of course it’s not a fool proof plan but then again, no plan is. At this point, what’s important is how much we trust his words on it and I believe we have Very good reasons to do so.. Recommend

  • Aasim Mukhtar

    Many have been commenting as to how will IK eliminate corruption and etc. There is no doubt that we need disclosures, but problem with disclosure is that the opponents tend to copy it quickly and the very fact that the opponents are in power, there is a real possibility that they might introduce a torn copy of IKs principles that would make us worried on whether IK’s formula will work or not. A similar instance was sen about a week ago when CM punjab inaugerated the first computerized centre for computerization of Land records in Punjab, and if we all remember this has been copied from IK. Even the law permits him not to disclose his complete menifesto untill just weeks to the elections, I am quiet sure that PTI would come up with the complete strategy by then. I trust them because they have the likes of Imran Khan (himself), Asad Umer, Azeem Ibrahim and Jahangir Khan Tareen among thier ranks and they are finest of the minds that our political arena has to offer today.. Recommend

  • Abbas

    Hmm corruption is the biggest challenge right now! But could anyone of you remember that we had the same practice of throwing out the governments in the name of corruption? Secondly, financial matters come after the right to live. In Pakistan, the biggest challenge is terrorism, killings in the name of honors, sects, rapes, exploitation of underage kids. All these have serious effects and impacts on the lives and on the society as a whole.

    Do eradicate corruption but first fight the terrorism, because to spend one must live first. Sorry IK, you have nothing to say on these serious issues, rather you are highlighting the very same propaganda of corruption which we used to see in Pakistan since its inception.Recommend

  • Tahir Iqbal

    Insha’Allah!!! Within 90 Days major corruption will be eliminated. But we, people of Pakistan has to do self accountability if we want 100% corruption free Pakistan. If we continue to add water in Milk, inject sugar in water melons, color the peaches to make them look ripe, color eggs to make them look Desi instead of Walyeti and many other forms of corruption that we all do individually. If we end it, we’ll end every sort of corruption. Imran Khan can’t do all of it himself.Recommend

  • vickram

    Corruption is not the biggest problem in Pakistan now. In India, many states, such as Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have had corrupt leaders for decades and yet they have made progress. Corruption (also known Lubrication Funds) have made easier for businessmen to invest in infracstructure and generate employment. Even with corruption, there can be progress.

    The problem with Pakistan now is not Corruption but with the growing moral support for extremism. As people are fed more and more anti-US stories, anti-Americanism is growing and along with the support for violent extremist groups who want to harm American interests. It appears that the majority of population – considering the support they give moral and financial and political – would now gladly settle for a diluted version of Talibanic-rule. As someone noted, anyone who advocates more pious behavior in public life in Pakistan is likely to get very popular and no one would dare oppose him for fear of being labelled as ‘anti – Islam’. Imran Khan seems to have understood this.

    Hatred for anything is bad but this excessively obsessive hatred for a super power will finally consume a country. That should be the chief worry for Imran Khan. But, then, his career thrives on anti-American rhetoric, doesn’t it ?Recommend

  • Abbas

    @Vikram: Well said bro! Actually state and statesmen are ought to be separated from religious aspects. Religion is one’s private matter. We, Pakistanis have been raised in such an ideology that is proving devastating for Pakistan and yet no body wants to learn and research the truth. Anyways, IK is not going to win by a higher margin rather he will take some 20-25 seats in NA unless establishment pat his shoulders. Recommend