Corruption is middle-class morality

Published: July 24, 2012

There exists a general presumption amongst Pakistanis that corruption has penetrated deeply into our blood.

While millions of Pakistanis expressed their astonishment and dissatisfaction with the election of Raja Pervez Ashraf as the new Prime Minister of Pakistan on June 22, the news didn’t come to me as a shock at all.

Raja Pervez Ashraf has been widely criticised; the new prime minister has been labelled in the media as “Raja Rental” because of the kickbacks he is alleged to have taken being the water and power minister.

An investigation to which, by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), is still in progress against him.

History is riddled with examples of corrupt politicians being rehabilitated. Ayub Khan disqualified politicians who were later placed in ministerial offices. Ghulam Ishaq Khan declared Asif Ali Zardari as the most corrupt man in one of his speeches and a few years later swore him in as a minister. Nawaz Sharif was charged with cases of loan defaults and tax evasion but later returned to power. Did we witness any political party challenge the election of Asif Ali Zardari as the president when everyone knew of his past record?

More recent, is the thrust of “corruption allegations” in the political battlefield involving the next generation of politicians – as witnessed in the Ephedrine case against Ali Musa Gilani (son of former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani) and a parallel score settlement with accusations of bribery against Arsalan Chaudhry (son of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry).

A few days ago, Abdul Qadir Gilani won the NA-151 Multan by-elections too.

Were we really that naïve to be expecting an election of a candidate who is clean as a whistle?

I sometimes wonder that if all institutions are prone to corruption and to the vices of their members – the “religious” institutions that claim to be upholding the moral code provided by God are not exempted either – then why do we constantly beat the corruption drum outside the government doors? At present, the corruption of the high-profile politicians and their associates seems to be in much more focus, but does it alleviate the burden from lower level corruption that encompasses voting and approaching the same individuals for illegal favours?

It is time we accept that corruption and nepotism are now accepted as a part of middle-class morality in Pakistan and are deeply entrenched at all levels of society and class hierarchy.

Not being rich in Pakistan is now indicative of lack of opportunity rather than adherence to morality.

Hence, using empty slogans against corruption of politicians in the social media and other avenues is not likely to achieve the objective of Pakistan’s success. By doing so, we are merely heeding the political vendettas of the ruling class and in fact creating more obstacles to the “democratic” evolution, which are likely to pose an even bigger loss to the economy by a further delay in decisions on matters of socio-economic significance.

The recent political victimisation of the parties in the court of law – that itself appears to be compromised on the “rule of law” – has not achieved anything except unsettling the “democratic” process and interrupting key decision-making on development and commercial issues.

However, to dismiss corruption as a non-issue is as naïve as assuming that it is the only problem. Universal, studies have shown a concrete relationship between poverty and corruption, as it may undermine investor confidence, weaken the contractual obligation environment, promote an uneven distribution of benefits, and undermine state led development initiatives amongst others. But in the context of Pakistan, it is an unproven cliché that elimination of corruption will set Pakistan on a path to prosperity.

Rather, we need to focus on the process of wealth generation by taking progressive decisions on economic development and commercial issues. Political sloganeering on corruption and perhaps a wrong diagnosis of the problem has resulted in the wrong action plan. It is not possible to eliminate corruption within 90 days as claimed by Imran Khan through an imposition of administrative and judicial measures – except maybe in a few high profile cases.

However, with development of economic policies as a focal point, average income and living standards may rise, and that can certainly steer us in the right direction.

Read more by Sana here or follow her on Twitter  @Sana_H_Baba

Sana Hameed Baba

Sana Hameed Baba

The author is a financial services professional in London and a part-time Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) student at BPP, as well as a member of Lincoln's Inn. She has been actively involved in youth led initiatives for Pakistan in the UK. She tweets @sana_h_baba (, and can be found on Instagram @sana_hameed_baba.

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