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Lessons for Pakistan in Xi’s Anti-Corruption Drive (Editorial November 2017)

Lessons for Pakistan in Xi’s Anti-Corruption Drive (Editorial November 2017)

Surah-20 Ta Ha/ Ayat 6: To Him belongs what is in the heavens and on earth, and all between them, and all beneath the soil.

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” ― Nietzsche

After the Panama verdict, it seems a drive of accountability has started in Pakistan. The gavel of the Supreme Court has finally struck to awaken the anti-corruption authorities that had been hibernating or had become a plaything in the hands of the omnipotent political class. Recent developments like re-opening of cases against Mian Nawaz Sharif and his family, arrest of Mr Sharjeel Memon (former minister in Sindh cabinet), and numerous others from political class as well as bureaucracy on the charges of massive corruption offer some clues on the future course the drive may adopt. It bodes well not only for democracy in Pakistan but also for the country’s debt-ridden economy. The process must continue with full vigour as rampant corruption in the country has eroded public confidence in state institutions and the ill practice has been, unfortunately, accepted as new normal in our culture. Needless to say that despite tall claims of the rulers for eradicating corruption from the society, Pakistan ranked116th out of 176 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2016.

In today’s world, only the nations having strong, robust economies enjoy a respectable place in the comity of nations. When the cancer of corruption plagues a country’s economy, it mars all the prospects for its growth and development. Then, external debts keep on piling up and people’s lives continue to be miserable. That is exactly the case with Pakistan.

Due to toothless laws and effete accountability institutions, more than sixty million Pakistanis still live below the poverty line. It was due to corruption that Pakistan was no way near achieving the Target 1.A of Goal 1 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which was to “[h]alve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1.25 a day.” Corruption is the ill that begets numerous other afflictions. For instance, the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2016-17 suggests that “in Pakistan poor are predominantly rural, young, poorly educated, mostly deprived of health facilities, and are living in larger households with more children.”

So, in order to provide people with even the basic facilities in health, education and other social sectors, it is necessary that there is zero corruption and public money is spent with complete honesty. But, regrettably, the loot and plunder of the public exchequer to the tune of billions of rupees annually has gone on unabated.

Eradication of corruption leads to better economic conditions, ergo prosperity, in the country. What can be a more suitable example to this than China, a neighbour and an all-weather friend of Pakistan! During the past few years, China has made great headways in the field of economic development so much so that it is now the world’s largest economy after the United States and is poised to bypass the US by 2023, as per some estimates. It has been striding in the economic sector, especially since 2012, when the incumbent president Xi Jinping started helming the country. He has made so deep an imprint on his country that during the recently-concluded 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Mr Xi was elevated to the status of a core leader which makes him China’s most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, and puts him on the same political level as Mao and Deng Xiaoping. First and foremost of those extraordinary achievements is Xi’s signature anti-corruption campaign under which more than 2 million officials have been handed down heavy punishments during the past five years. He referred to this fact in his long speech before the CPC wherein he said, “No place has been out of bounds and no grounds left unturned. No tolerance has been shown in the fight against corruption. We have taken firm action to take out tigers, swatted flies, and hunted down foxes.”

We should learn some direly-needed lessons from President Xi’s huge success. We should take guidelines from his policy of zero tolerance against corruption – a notion that, in Pakistan, has hitherto remained a part of political slogans only. We should also bring our own “tigers and flies” to the book. All those who have amassed ill-gotten wealth must face the music now. An across-the-board accountability will not only strengthen our “better-than-dictatorship worst democracy” but will also open up new vistas of economic development for the country.

The appointment of Justice (Retd) Javed Iqbal as new Chairman of the National Accountability Bureau is being seen as a ray of hope in the dark abyss of accountability in Pakistan. Although he took over NAB only a few days ago, the statements he has made and the inquiries he has opened bode well for the future. We expect that he will prove what he meant when he said, “There will be across-the-board accountability … I will ensure merit in all cases by monitoring them myself” and that “a visible ‘change’ will be witnessed in this regard in time.”

The entire nation is looking forward to the new Chairman NAB for carrying out unbiased, across-the board accountability and we expect that he will come down heavy on corruption.

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