The Culture of War on Corruption in Pakistan

Pakistan is the world’s fifth-most populous country, a regional power in a strategic location with a powerful military, and nuclear weapons. Yet Pakistan is far from reaching its full potential, and corruption is a main reason for that. Corruption in Pakistan is well-known and well-documented, and extends from the top (the Prime Minister) all the way down to the bottom (the local bazaar). Talk to random Pakistanis on the street and chances are they’ll tell you how corruption has affected them—how they couldn’t get jobs in the police or be admitted into good universities because they refused to pay bribes.

Corruption has become part of the culture in Pakistan. It has become engrained in the beliefs, attitudes, and customs of the Pakistani people.

The corrupt (often wealthy and often politicians) in Pakistan have used their political influence to manipulate the laws, policies, and rules of procedure of the country to sustain their power, status, and wealth, causing serious and extensive harm to Pakistani society which has mostly gone unpunished.

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This sort of corruption eats away at state institutions like termites eat wood. Additionally, according to Transparency International, there is a “[strong] connection between corruption and inequality, which feed off each other to create a vicious circle between corruption, unequal distribution of power in society, and unequal distribution of wealth.” One has to look no further than the lifestyle of the corrupt ruling class in Pakistan as compared to the rest of the country to see the connection between corruption and inequality.

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The corrupt live in expensive bungalows in gated communities, drive fancy cars, have dozens of servants and security, and live luxurious lives—while four out of ten Pakistanis continue to live in poverty.

In a society where so few have so much and so many have so little, and where politically-motivated hiring, patronage, and nepotism reign supreme, you end up with a situation where becoming part of the corrupt system seems to be the only way out of poverty for millions of disadvantaged and deprived people. And in this way, subcultures of corruption begin to take root in the lower levels of society which all conform to the overall culture of corruption on the highest levels (e.g. federal and provincial governments). Consider the following stylized example, which despite its simplicity accurately captures how business often gets done in Pakistan:

Businessman “X” wants to build a factory in town “B,” but needs a permit to do so. Politician “C” is in charge of permits. C tells X he will grant the permit if X uses his money and influence to support C and his political party in the next election. X agrees, and donates money to C and his party. X is granted the permit and hires workers for his factory. Fearing that he has to keep C pleased or the permit may be revoked, X tells the workers they must support and vote for C’s political party in the upcoming election or they will be fired. The workers have no choice but to do so because they have bills to pay and jobs are scarce.

In this example, even though neither X nor the workers may have originally intended to be part of the corrupt system, they’re forced to do so if they want to get ahead. This example also demonstrates how corruption, if left unchecked, can lodge itself in the very arteries of a society and become very difficult to remove without systematic reform. A corrupt society is worse than anarchy because in anarchy, there is disorder due to the absence of authority whereas in a corrupt society, there is disorder despite the presence of authority.

Furthermore, because the people who have the power to end the corruption are the ones who do it, reform can take years even decades. This is why countries which are towards the bottom of the Corruption Perceptions Index tend to stay there. This is not to say that reform is not possible. It certainly is and countries have done it in the past. However, as Vito Tanzi put it 20 years ago, “the fight against corruption cannot be independent from the reform of the state.”

The fight against corruption has begun in Pakistan which is in no small part due to Imran Khan, the leader of Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) or Movement for Justice Party, which has become Pakistan’s second-largest political party. Khan was the petitioner in the recent Panama Papers case in which all five justices of the Supreme Court unanimously removed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from power due to his family’s corruption. The decision also effectively disqualified Sharif from holding public office which meant that he also had to step down as leader of his party. The case was the most publicized in Pakistan’s history and the decision is a very important step in the right direction in Pakistan’s fight against corruption. However, as we saw a few weeks after the decision, Sharif’s party changed the law to allow politicians like Sharif to continue to be leaders of political parties which shows that the system of corruption is still in place. The fight against corruption in Pakistan will be a long and arduous one but if Pakistan is to prosper, it is a necessary one.

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The Culture of War on Corruption in Pakistan. (2021, Dec 31). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/the-culture-of-war-on-corruption-in-pakistan-essay

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