Weekly Reflections: Footprints of corruption

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Dr. Abdul Saboor

It is heartening to admit that in Pakistan, corruption has become part and parcel of the public life to somehow or the other. There are very few who could confidently say that they have never committed any kind of corruption or they will not be the victim of corruption in their professional and public life. It appears that we have taken its presence for granted which demonstrates the fact that the society has accepted it. This might be the reason that various footprints of corruption are not annoying us. It seems as if we were living a happy life in the age of corruption. So, more or less, responsibility fixes on all of us.

We have accepted the wounds of corruption for the reason we would practice some kind of corruption to counter the cost of corruption going against us. This explains the trickle down phenomenon of corruption. Generally, we bear the pangs of corruption with this intention that when we get an opportunity to exercise it, we will do it more rigorously. Our acceptance also shows that we cannot do anything good for its reduction and that we have been disappointed from our justice system. Such classical imperatives of corruption are not truly identified in the running indexing techniques.

Some consider the practice of corruption as the survival of the fittest. Some of the political contestants believe that by doing corruption in the pursuits of elections, they will get opportunity to do corruption at high level. They need to do corruption to stay alive in the political system. Some money has to be saved for rainy days when they are to lead an exiled life or out of government portfolios. Innocent public believes that all this is being practiced in their best interest. Similarly, business community is bound to bribe the government for their own vested interests. Earning abnormal profit through the agency of various cartels and mafias is also a kind of corruption.

For our own self-satisfaction, we have given different names to the corrupt actions we did and the money we bribed. We try to justify the actions of corruption either considering it a necessity or for the purpose of avoiding some heavy social or economic loss for not committing corruption. That is why a sober word-donation-is gaining momentum and replacing the connotation of corruption. Luxury gifts including the offer of Umrah and Hajj are also in the common place as a reward of favoritism and nepotism.

This is unfortunate that corruption is not only spreading across various state organs but is also taking new routes with new ways and means. The causes of each of these new dimensions of corruption are quite deep rooted even not completely understandable for the scholars who are trying to find its underpinnings. One can find the such footprints of corruption in almost all the public institutions. Even anti-corruption departments may not the exceptions. There are rarely very few top level politicians in almost all political parties who are free from the charges of corruption. Corruption has thus become an essential part of whole economic business.

There are explicit and implicit elements of corruption. The former can be identified through formal legal mechanism while the latter is hardly tangible and traceable. Most of the time our intention and initiatives are towards the tracing and solution of explicit kind of corruption. The authorities fail to sketch this corruption because the so called culprits are quite expert in preparing the background documents in their support which cannot be challenged in any court of law. Sometimes, the institutional failure at civil and high courts goes in the benefit of corrupt mafias. Poor cannot afford the luxury of getting justice.

Social system has all the clues and evidences of the footprints of corruption though the courts are unable to find this truth. Every one of us knows that corruption has been made in a particular project or development initiatives but it is quite hardly that one can prove it. In reality, one cannot prove it because there is heavy cost and time involved in establishing such kind of corruption cases in the court of laws. Ironically, the truth which is very much in the knowledge of society cannot be justified at any legal forum.

The implicit nature of corruption is reflected in the shape of dishonesty, discrimination, favoritism and nepotism. Some of the wrong doers in these lines of fraud are even not aware of the fact that they are committing some kind of crime associated to corruption. When we wrongly utilize the public money, even if commission is not deducted, we are leaving some footprints of corruption. When we snatch the right of a meritorious candidate, we commit the crime of corruption. Even when we are not performing our duties with complete devotion and dedication, with full spirit and sobriety, with punctuality and regularity, we are implicitly included in the traces of corruption.

Some argue that corruption is kind of compulsory cost of democracy and development. This narrative further keeps the door of corruption open for all the governments and public men in a developing country like Pakistan. There is a common belief that some extent of corruption makes the developmental work effective and efficient. Even some educated class would prefer to bribe the concerned officers and public men for prompt completion of their tasks. Economically as well as socially, saving of time is much more important for some people than the kick backed money involved in getting the work done.

In this way, there is a corrupt mind set which has been led to this level through years long struggle on the part of those to whom it suits well. This kind of mind set sitting almost in every state institution is not only looking for opportunities to get benefits by hook or by crook but also inventing new techniques either to find new ways and means of corruption or to hide the footprints of corruption. This makes the wounds of corruption more deep and defective. It is highly challenging to address the issue when corruption is of demand driven nature.

For getting a solution of the problem, a rigorous overhaul of the society along with some renovation of regulatory system is required so that the footprints of corruption could easily be identified. For that matter a country wide movement should be started initially to trace the footprints of corruption in various pillars of the state. General public may be taken on board to get them involved and trained for pinpointing the elements of corruption in the state machinery.  Once the explicit and implicit dimensions of corruption are registered in an exclusively designed portal, the state machinery consisting of some serious minded and honest public men could deliver prompt results.

For a sustainable solution, the top leadership at all sectors of the state and at each level of governance and management will have to demonstrate honesty and integrity. This is the right way that the general public could be convinced and sensitized for anti-corruption movement in the country. The forensic audit and social surveillance system may also be strengthened to counter the corrupt forces and mafias both in public and private sectors. A zero tolerance policy against corruption may be announced in all the state organs.

Some solid interventions may also be made in schools, colleges and universities by turning the new generation towards honesty through formal and informal arrangements. Printed and electronic media may also be mobilized for achieving the same goals. Their major role would be to reactivate the fading value system in the families for addressing the minor nature of wrong activities that may cause corruption. Besides creating the hate against corruption, spirit of contentment needs to be installed among the masses particularly among the youth who is the true hope for Pakistan.

Dr. Abdul Saboor, Professor of EconomicsDean, Faculty of Social Sciences, PMAS Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi.

drabdul.saboor@uaar.edu.pk