Corruption may be defined as a behaviour where a public official deviates from his duties, and works for private gains. Certainly, it is illegal and dishonest behaviour on the part of those who are at the helm of affairs. The problem of corruption is as old as human society itself though with the passage of time, the nature and modus operandi has kept on changing, yet the overall motive of the corrupt elements has always been to accumulate money and that too at the expense of general public.
Corruption and corrupt practices are the ways of selfish exercise of power and influence attached to a public office. The vices of accepting gifts for family members, relatives or friends, receiving presents on birthdays and marriages or accepting bribe for promotions and transfers are, unfortunately, omnipresent in our society, and public officials are also no exception to it.
In every political system, there are mechanisms, internal and external, to check corruption and corrupt practices. In Pakistan, during the recent years, some progress on curbing corruption by improving the performance of internal accountability mechanism has been seen, yet a lot is still to be done to root this evil out. A proactive approach for spreading awareness among masses through media, and by opening the doors of information to public has tremendously discouraged corrupt elements and now people have started to realize that their lot is in their hands.
The performance of Public Accounts Committee (PAC), and of National Accountability Bureau (NAB), no doubt, has boosted, albeit to some extent, the confidence of the people and foreign companies. The reasons may be varied but the appointments in NAB and chairing of PAC by the leader of the opposition has actually made the real difference.
Pakistan is facing multiple challenges in governance and we have not been able to strengthen our institutions partly because of corruption. Quaid-e-Azam in his address to the Constituent Assembly in 1947 said:
“One of the biggest curses from which India is suffering, I don’t say that other countries are free from it, but, I think our condition is much worse, is bribery and corruption”.
Even after nearly seven decades of independence, we are still struggling to cope with the menace of corruption, despite multiple anti-corruption agencies are working at provincial and federal level. Among other reasons of unsatisfactory performance of anti-corruption agencies is the outdated, slow and flawed process of investigation and partly very low conviction rate due to procedural formalities in court proceedings. According to a report presented before the National Assembly, 1.7 million cases are pending in courts for want of disposal, which means that for almost every hundred persons one is entangled in litigation. Keeping aside those cases which are pending in other courts and tribunals including anti-corruption courts purposely made to deal with different nature of cases other than civil and criminal cases.
Every policy has one important feature that is to create awareness among masses since without awareness one cannot sensitize the people about their rights and duties. Everyone talks about curbing corruption and tall claims are made in conferences and seminars but in reality, concrete steps seem to be completely lacking. Why cannot we come up with a national action plan against corruption as is being witnessed against terrorism? It is equally important to tackle this menace and drive the society and economy in right direction so as more funds could be made available for national development.
One such step in uprooting corruption is to have a centrally updated computerized database of all public sector employees: Though annual declaration of assets is being maintained by respective ministries/divisions/ departments yet no serious efforts are made to probe into those declarations except to fulfil a legal formality. More often wrong or misleading information is filled in those declarations by corrupt officials.
Anti-corruption committees can also be constituted in each organization to closely monitor the activities of the organization and individuals be mandated to refer the cases to higher authority for investigation where evidence of any corrupt activities comes to notice.
United Nations Convention against Corruption 2003 rightly identifies in its preamble and shows concerns about the seriousness of problems and threats posed by corruption to the stability and security of societies, undermining the institutions and values of democracy, ethical values and justice, and jeopardizing sustainable development and the rule of law.
This is high time that demonstrated strong political will to curb corruption from the society and took action to come up with concrete plan of action against corruption. All stakeholders should also be determined to defeat the corrupt and corruption.