FOOD FOR THOUGHT: The crushing weight of corruption
DR ZAFAR ALTAF
If corruption were to be defined as any benefits which fall free to a nation or its population then the extreme position is corruption by inheritance. The only redeeming factor is that one’s parents must have worked for it. Even then the saying in the West is ‘every generation must find its own oil (meaning assets). The ‘goras’ (white men) used it to their benefit and gave lands to the Muslims and Hindus and used that ploy to rule India.
It was an established policy for them to make the inhabitants dependent on them. The landed assets that were given could also be taken back through the Land Acquisition Act just in case the blackies misbehaved. The second ploy was that since they had a standing army they utilised the services of locals to find the standing armies requirements like horses and mules. They then created establishments and policies like the Ghori pal murabey and the Khajar (mule farm) at Sarghoda. They then created collectors of these and these people were given cosmetic and decorative designations. They started with the rank of captain and then some of them went up to the honorary rank of colonel. The British knew how to develop loyalties amongst the people. That is how they created influence and the locals were always purchasable. The landed were given such rights at a cost of two annas per acre, or the land can be yours as much as you can ride a horse from sunrise to sunset, or anything that can be covered till noon. If this was not stuffed bribery what was. For the contractor there was another option. He was illiterate so the job of an overseer was created so that the measurement book (mb) could be written and the work documented. The contractor is now literate but the overseer still lives on doing nothing. The contractors of those days are no longer contractors but tycoons that rule the system through all kinds of innuendos and intrigues. It is also in the nature of things that those that have got to assets in a corrupt way will continue to go that way and will not stop at any point in time. The birth of an organisation based on corrupt practices cannot be corrected. In this list comes the corporate sector as well for have they not done badly by the country by over-invoicing? Has the industry not been based on gross over-invoicing? Has the customs investigator not played with them and allowed them to debase the country for some considerations? Are the rich in this sector not guilty of tax evasion? The noises one hears from the filthy rich in policymaking positions is to the effect that so and so has done that – particularly about agriculture. The corporate sector in any case does have to look at themselves and not the other sectors. Have they done well by Pakistan?
So corruption takes on and is manifested in many ways. Warren Hastings created the Nawabs of Dacca (remember Kh. Nazimuddin etc) and the Waderas of Sindh. There are still 37 of them and what a mess they have created, the feudal of Punjab and KPK not withstanding. Balochistan with its tribal culture is a better place for development and one can interact with them. The Sanjrani tribe has already carried out land reforms (at least when I was trying to develop the tribal Balochistan). So when the legacy of bribery and corruption is so rich and has so much variety what can a new or relatively new nation or its people do about it. The French and the Russian Revolutions as well as the Kuomingtang Revolution are evidence of what can happen in a correct society that breaks down by its own corrupt weight do about it. So if the landed or the ‘khajar’ or mule party is walking tall they should realise what there legacy is. Is it not as old as the oldest profession? Viva la Khajar party.
Pakistan’s corruption is endemic. There is a tough line to draw between the corrupt and the ones that break the rules for the sake of development or for what they know to be in public interest. A rigorous interpretation would not be in order. So when public power is used for personal benefits it is only a minuscule part of corruption. We now know that the white-collar crime is difficult to determine and even more difficult to establish and monitor. The investigation of white-collar crime requires a deftness that is not available in the institutions in Pakistan. It would require a person with the flexibility and passion to get to the roots of the corrupt. The present evidence admissibility act will, if properly used, be a weapon for the checking of the corrupt. How then is mens rea (guilty intent) to be established as against non intentional discretional use? Should people at the policy vision level play to routine work or should they try and force the frontiers of knowledge? The answer is to be determined and the vocabulary is to be understood. Do you want invidious honesty or do you want the country to progress or do you want the visionary to fall to the disgrace of those who do not understand where Pakistan has to be in the comity of nations. Perfunctory work is where you will be? The answer lies in doing the job to the levels that is expected but the tragedy is that the working visionary is the one who will get to the wrong side of things. And I dare say be punished for it.
Yet the issue is not that difficult if secondary evidence were to be considered. Collaterals have always been important and secondary evidence provides the wherewithal to these heavy but difficult aspects of corruption. Unfortunately, however, the lawyer and the judicial functionaries are not given to exponential knowledge but are rather one dimensional. In physics one can be one dimensional as Einstein was (giving him great advantage in his research in a vertical manner) but where assets are unexplainable or against the norms of ordinary human effort then the corrupt irrespective of who they are can be dealt with through and by people that have a vast repository of knowledge. There are no holy cows. Then the asset formation institutions must allow for the examination of their record and then determine where and how the act has been done. How can the development agencies be considered as the handmaiden of those that are in power as we have seen in the LDA, CDA, KDA and BDA to name only a few. Criminal intent is always manifested in the economy and there are then who can pick up the details. If the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) is a social insurance scheme then that insurance is for the poor. If the scheme has been twisted the manifestation will be in the economy. Then the decision makers are to be held accountable. But if as has been reported the scheme is performing for the poor then there is no criminal intent. This goes for the Punjab government as well. It is so for the Sindh and the KPK government too.
That is one simple aspect of the effort to restrict corruption. Now the ones that are in power have to be examined and have to be seen to be better than Caesar’s wife in terms of taking benefits. The minute the areas of influence is considered that very minute the practices that have led to that increase in corruption is determined and the ways in which public trust has been twisted comes to the front. In public policy is there a case for policy truancy? That to my mind is the crux of the matter. But policy you will ask me. Yes policy for therein is wilful mass-scale mental corruption. I rate this as more important than the monetary part of corruption. It is recurring and circulatory and will erode the very basis of the country.
The list of corrupt is not exhaustive. It will keep on increasing. But if the salary of those that are corrupt in government or private service continues to be ridiculously low there will always be a cutting of corners. A policeman’s salary has to be commensurate with his living requirements. If it is not it is useless to tell him to be upright. The Bobby in the UK at the age of forty receives the same amount as a senior lecturer in a university. That explains it all. The rich have no such excuse? The temptations of the rich are different from the requirements of the poor. The rich are the new deprived and depraved. Ever considered the mental state of the deprived and the depraved? They may be ready for cognitive behavioural therapy. That is a longish explanation but we will leave it for the moment and come back to it at a later stage.
No need to be afraid of the rich or the powerful – Pakistan belongs to the massive poor. If anyone is innocent on any or on all the counts he is welcome to debate that maybe not so decent!