Corruption is now accepted as a fact of life in Pakistan

Published: August 13, 2016
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Policemen deployed in Karachi to avert possible terror attacks are accepting bribes from commuters.

Perhaps the greatest danger to Pakistan is corruption. We can stand up to any hostile army trying to invade our sacred land, but corruption is eating away at our foundation, like termites which ultimately cause houses to collapse.

Owing to corruption, the government is not able to collect enough revenue, making it necessary to borrow from the IMF, which ultimately makes the country poorer and adversely affects our ability to defend the nation from terrorists and hostile enemies.

Corruption has enabled Pakistanis to invest Rs85 billion during the past six months and Rs512 billion in the past two and a half years in the Dubai property market. The bulk of this money has been earned illegally by corrupt officials, businessmen, politicians and similar black sheep in the country.

Owing to corruption, low-paid government servants like income tax inspectors, customs appraisers, police inspectors and others are able to buy houses in posh areas and maintain lavish lifestyles, spending much more than their salaries.

There was a time when men were respected for their wisdom (acquired through years of sweat and toil), even if they were poor. Today, the poor man is treated with contempt because he is honest and does not take bribes, even if he is in a position to do so. We think such people are fools. Now, only those who have accumulated enormous wealth are respected, even if they are highly illiterate, because they can buy those in positions of power and can get anything done.

In the good old days, houses and buildings were built according to approved standards. Construction was done strictly according to specifications; there was no question of building 15 floors when only five storeys were allowed. Such honest builders did not last long, they have been replaced by unscrupulous people who don’t think it is wrong to violate building rules and indulge in construction which is not in accordance with approved plans.

How are they able to do it? They bribe the officials who are paid to ensure that building rules are followed and peoples’ lives are not endangered. Both unscrupulous builders and officials become wealthy as a result.

As they say in Urdu,

“Iss qoumi hamam mein sub nangay hein.”

(In the national bathroom, everyone is naked.)

Will we ever see a corruption-free Pakistan?

I doubt it, because the state itself encourages corruption.

Consider the following facts:

1. The Benami Transaction (Protection) Act has been pending for years, although India passed the law about 30 years ago. When corrupt persons do not have any “white” money (income on which tax has been paid), they buy properties in the name of their friends or even their servants with their “black” money so that the anti-corruption department cannot take any action against them (there are hundreds, if not thousands, of such properties in the country). Just last week, the National Assembly Committee on Finance deferred consideration of the bill because the Finance Minister and the Chairman FBR did not turn up to attend the meeting. This law would allow the government to confiscate all such illegally acquired “benami” properties. Needless to say, the sooner this law is passed, the better it is for the country, but apparently our government functionaries think otherwise.

2. To make bribing of government officials difficult, India has not issued any bank notes of denominations higher than Rs1,000. Pakistan, on the other hand, has a Rs5,000 note, as well as readily convertible prize bonds of Rs40,000, Rs25,000, and Rs15,000 also. The highest bank note in the UK is that of £50, and in the US it is $100.

3. Recently the government succumbed to the demands of property sector fraudsters and fixed property values far below their actual worth. In most cases the fixed value is only 15% of the actual value. This means that the government gets only six or seven rupees in tax instead of a 100 rupees.

4. One way of ‘whitening’ black money is for the corrupt person to send it abroad through the “hawala” route, and getting it remitted back into his local bank account. To prevent this, the government should not allow more than $3000 to be remitted into an account every month. But will it do that? No, because some state functionaries are dishonest themselves.

Corruption is now accepted as a fact of life. And Pakistan will never be free of corruption, because the Pakistani state is itself the biggest facilitator of corruption.

Shakir Lakhani

Shakir Lakhani

Engineer, former visiting lecturer at NED Engineering College, industrialist, associated with petroleum/chemical industries for many years. Loves writing, and (in the opinion of most of those who know him), mentally unbalanced. He tweets @shakirlakhani (twitter.com/shakirlakhani)

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

  • Fahim

    An intelligence lead group should be created to visit public offices for different work. If they find any corrupt person, hand him on spot through military courts.Recommend

  • Sami

    How the author can generalize the whole Pakistan.?.
    Atleast in terms of Punjab I am watching the improvement in every walk of life. The author belong from Sindh and his assessment can be true for Sindh only.

    For example some days ago I have to renew my passport. I got in the line. Just waited for some minutes. Applied for renewal with no bribe whatsoever. Then on my trip to Lahore I was stopped by Motorway police and they politely gave me a challan without even mentioning any bribe. Similarly in other government departments I am witnessing a completely different picture. I have to transfer the land to one of my family member. The process was digital and I transferred the land without any Patwari and the bribe.
    Even in Punjab I can check my driving licence on DLIMS ( Driving License Information Management System) of Punjab government.

    So my request is to kindly stop giving Sweeping statements for the whole of Pakistan. PPP only rules in small part of Pakistan. PPP led regions cannot be considered the whole of Pakistan. Infact they are the worst governed regions of the entire country.
    Yes corruption is rife. But the improvement is there as well.Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    What about Panama Leaks? Some of those mentioned there are from Punjab, no?Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    There is an anti-corruption department, but it is toothless.Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    Moeenuddin Haider, as chairman FBR, once organized a survey of stocks in shops of Liberty Market, Lahore to assess the income tax being evaded by the traders. Within 15 minutes, he started getting calls from MNAs to stop the survey, and eventually he had to comply. He resigned shortly afterwards. This was in 1998.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Right. There. Exactly. To the point. Punjab is the ONLY province receiving MOST of the money from
    the Centre/Federal govt.. Courtesy of Nawaz. Oh! They even loot Karachi, the economic, financial powerhouse of Pakistan. The driving force/engine. The money generated in Karachi goes to take care of Punjab. Because he does not have the money to buy the ticket or a car to drive there. But these people will still vote for the Sharifs. Now THAT is called “Punjabi Provincialism” .Real Punjabi Nationalism. Sons of the Soil. Ever notice Nawaz hardly comes out of Punjab? Stays in Lahore.
    YOU ever wonder why? Recommend

  • Humza

    I agree with you. Public awareness, at least in Punjab and KPK is there and people are averse to any public display of corruption or even the insinuation of any corruption. That’s not to say it doesn’t go on but this awareness of it being wrong has permeated the psyche of common people. This has translated into less corruption. I would say that Pakistan has much less corruption than most Muslim nations, not just the ones that British PM Cameron called most corrupt like Afghanistan and Somalia. I have never had to pay anyone to get things done illegally in Punjab although in the past I have relied on contacts and people to help me get things done. No more though. Now more and more things are being done in an organized way in Punjab without resorting to asking people. Maybe in Karachi and Sind, there still is a ways to go in terms of improving awareness and stopping corruption but things have improved considerably up country. Ask people in Lahore, Sialkot, Rawalpindi or Peshawar.Recommend

  • Humza

    You need to ask whether the children of a serving PM rightfully have off shore accounts or not. Have they broken any laws in having an offshore account and if they have they should be charged. Also whether it is reasonable for an industrialist businessman’s kids to have several million dollars in off shore accounts. Remember just having money in an offshore account in itself is not illegal in most Western countries. So we all need to ask whether PM Cameron or the countless Western civilians including celebrities, business people and politicians ( not just their kids) have been charged for having legal off shore accounts. the problem in Pakistan is that people jump to conclusions without proof of any wrong doing. If we want our leaders families to not have off shore accounts, it should be made illegal through an act of parliament which is why PM Cameron did not step down for any wrong doing in the UK. How can you extend an argument about corruption about Panama Leaks without any proof. This only nullifies your whole article now.Recommend

  • Humza

    Thanks for proving a point. You had to reach back to 1998 to find an example to prove something in 2016. Maybe things have improved somewhat in Punjab and KPK but you haven’t noticed the change down in Karachi. I am not saying that things are by any means perfect but people do have a greater awareness and people understand the importance of rooting out corruption at all levels. It’s not going to just disappear but understand that Karachi and Sind is not representative of the cultural shift taking place up country in Punjab and KPK.Recommend

  • Gowpeet

    Why should we worry about Cameron? Or what is legal or not legal in Western countries. Pakistan is a Third World country. Living from loan to loan. So the vast majority of the mostly illiterate Pakistanis ARE interested in how the Sharif family, sons and daughter amassed this huge wealthRecommend

  • Patwari

    Yep. True. It’s all brotherly love in Punjab. Everyone helping
    everyone and his brother. One big communal pot of Punjabi
    love. They constantly smile/shower each other with rose petals.
    Plenty of nihari and jalebees to go around. It is so good in Punjab.
    No bribes, no sectarianism, no extremists and terrorists
    given safe haven in Punjab. No burning Christian neighborhoods.
    No beating, torturing, hanging and burning of a Christian couple.
    No Ahmadi slaughter. No Shia genocide. No Sikhs left. All gone.
    No terrorists wanted by the UNITED NATIONS that live and thrive
    in Punjab. No collection of donations from EVERY single banned
    outfit. No running of parallel Sharia courts in beautiful Punjab.
    No deal making with terrorists/extremists to leave Punjab alone.
    No blowing up 300 Christians on Easter Sunday. No blowing up
    250 other Punjabis near Wagah border. No helicopter trips by the
    Chief Minister during regular monsoon flooding. Handing pittances
    to victims who just lost EVERYTHING, because the Govt. does not prepare for the yearly deluge.
    No killing English women under “honor killing” mantra.
    See,…Punjab must be…..NIRVANA !!Recommend

  • Ahmad

    Well Said!!
    These people are So Delusional they Speak like Politicians. “Everything is Under Control, FDI is Increasing, We don’t need IMF, WB and ADB, terrorism has been rooted out, CPEC is Game Changer, Minorities are Safe in Pakistan (While a Hundred Thousand Hindus are Lining up in India For Nationality who migrated from Pakistan), Load-shedding is still 10 hours in my Village as it was 12 Years ago. BOOLLSHEET!!!

    Recommend