Corruption is defined by some as the abuse of public power for private use. Another school of thought refers to corruption as a violation of the formal rules. Defining corruption as a violation of the rules is appropriate only if one is referring to an otherwise ideal and law-abiding society. Although it is difficult to come up with a universally acceptable definition of corruption, it is not difficult to recognize corruption or corrupt activities.
Corruption can take many forms such as bribes, preferential treatment to friends and/or relatives, nepotism and underperformance. Corruption can also be divided into categories such as economic and political. Political corruption refers to gains that are mainly in terms of political power. Corruption can involve both the private and public sectors where the former plays the role of bribers and the latter as a recipient of the bribes.
Even within private corporations, someone can abuse his/her position for private benefit. Corruption exists, for example, in procurement and hiring. Several causes of corruption have been noted in the literature. Low salary received by public sector officials is one of the main causes of corruption. Corruption is likely to be more severe if the probability of catching the offenders is low and the punishment imposed on offenders is not significantly high.
How Corruption Affects National Interests
Corruption discourages foreign investment. It is well known that corruption results in a suboptimal level of public investment, which can be detrimental to the economy in the long-term. Corruption leads to the inefficient allocation of resources and discourages foreign investment. Endemic corruption highlights the underlying problem of governance, which is associated with the problem of weak or dysfunctional institutions.
There is no doubt that corruption is a major problem in Pakistan. It is well recognized by an ordinary citizen, as well as, international agencies such as Transparency International, which has consistently ranked Pakistan among the countries where corruption is a very serious problem. From an economic theory point of view, the optimal level of corruption just like the optimal level of pollution would not necessarily be zero.
Good Corruption, Bad Corruption?
Some level of corruption where those, who are disadvantaged are, compensated by those who gain from it, can be tolerated in a market economy. From a national point of view, there may be a temptation not to describe certain activities as bad or undesirable especially if such activities appear to foster national interest. For example, Dr. Abdul Qadir Khan’s act of unauthorized copying of confidential documents and handing them over to Pakistan’s nuclear scientist is a clear abuse of power, which can be categorized as a corrupt activity.
However, this corrupt activity appears to have earned him, the accolades of a large majority of the population. As indicated earlier, it is difficult to provide a general definition of corruption. What is perceived to be a corrupt activity is based on a society’s acceptance and level of tolerance. In developing countries such as Pakistan, corruption is like a virus that has infected almost every social and economic activity.
The Paradox of Naya Pakistan
Corruption has spread to an extent where some of these activities are not even considered as corrupt practices. For example, in a developed country, paying money to receive some benefits or privileges that one may not be entitled to, is considered a corrupt activity. On the contrary, in a developing country like Pakistan, one may need to bribe the concerned officer to do the very job, he is being paid for, by the government.
For instance, one needs to pay to a tax collector or custom officer in Pakistan to submit his/her tax returns or pay custom duty. In such cases, people prefer to evade taxes and just pay token money to the tax collector. Similarly, in a purely agriculture based country; poor farmers are refused to have access to agriculture loans (to buy seeds and fertilizer) unless they pay a share of the loan money to the bank officer.
I feel that this is the worst kind of corruption where common people are the main victims of corrupt practices. In Pakistan, for example, everyone from a traffic policeman to high official has been accused of corruption. However, in general, law enforcement agencies and the bureaucracy are considered to be the most corrupt element of society. The recent incident of an SHO unabashedly demanding sexual favours and money from the victim’s family is a case in point.
Sar-e-Aam is a Pakistani television show, aired on ARY News and hosted by Iqrar ul Hassan. The show strives to expose corruption and anarchy. When hapless mother approached Sar-e-Aam team, Iqrar could no more hold himself and decided to act. A sting operation was conducted by Team Sar-e-Aam to vindicate the poor elderly woman whose 12-year-old daughter was missing and police was demanding a bribe to even start investigations.
Following an ingenious methodology, Sar-e-Aam sent two of its representatives (one male and one female) as the elderly woman’s nephew and niece. The duo met SHO Mandi Sadiq Gunj Abdul Razzaq Shah and told him that the old woman sold her flat to arrange for the bribe-money after which the police officer accepted Rs 9000 as hush money to start the investigation.
This was just the beginning of an ordeal which would reveal how Punjab police treat complainants and even doesn’t spare women in demanding bribes. Team Sar-e-Aam’s representatives approached the investigation officer of the case, a police officer named Nazir Ahmed. Nazir too demanded a bribe. Condescendingly while receiving the bribe, he planted a kiss on the woman’s hand.
Nazir Ahmed then demanded a car and petrol and took Sar-e-Aam team representatives (who were posing as the elderly woman’s nephew and niece) to Hasilpur to “check brothels for the missing girl”. Instead of looking for the missing girl, Nazir shamelessly spent the precious time in consuming liquor and merry-making at the expense of vulnerable widow.
Nazir not only devoured expensive meals but also bought fans from their money. When the woman representative contacted SHO Abdul Razzaq for further investigation, he exhorted her to join him on a video call. Once on the video call, Razzaq asked her to strip. Woman naturally declined. Razzaq removed his clothes before the camera and demanded her to do the same.
Next day, Sar-e-Aam representatives went to meet SHO. Razzaq asked them to proceed to his residence. When two representatives reached there, the SHO ordered the male representative to leave his place and then started misbehaving with the woman. Before he could harm the woman, the Sar-e-Aam team reached there.
When confronted, SHO unabashedly denied misconduct. Finally, Sar-e-Aam team had to show him all the proofs of the crimes. The matter was brought to the notice of DPO Bahawalnagar Ammara Athar. She acted promptly and asked DSP Bahawalnagar to meet Sar-e-Aam team. Having obtained a briefing about evidence, suspended SHO Abdul Razzaq and IO Nazir Ahmed. She further ordered an inquiry against the two officers.
The normal working class Pakistani seems to have no real basic rights as an individual. They struggle to find jobs, hospital admissions or justice without some sort of inducement. Albeit, not open the word bribe has now been replaced with ‘Chai, Pani’.
Riyasat-e-Medina is the term invoked by PM Imran Khan to describe his vision of Naya Pakistan. He meant a humane and just society based on timeless principles of humanism that Islam preached. The dream of Riyasat-e-Medina seems just that, a dream. A dream, which I pray, becomes a reality if the right people are placed for the right jobs. The dream of a beautiful and prosperous Pakistan will only become a reality if all Pakistanis, as caretakers of their beloved country adhere by some basic principles. Chivalry and respect towards women are extremely important aspects of a civilized society.
Razzaq and his staff are not only corrupt to the core; they are simply savage and barbaric and that is, putting it mildly. What is astonishing, is that it took a media channel to bring these goons to book. It indicates utterly failed state machinery. There is a high possibility of the even higher echelon of Pakistan Police Service to have the same mindset and be susceptible to exploit and torment the powerless sufferer. Only suspension will not help. Perpetrators of crime should be subjected to, the harshest possible punishment in consonance with the severity of misdeed. This will set an example and act as a deterrence for people in authority in general and police staff in particular.
16 May 19/Thursday Written by Naphisa