October 28, 2010

Transparency International says it all

The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions
Index 2010 rates Pakistan as the 34th most corrupt
nation in the world. (Photo: Dawn.com)
The recent report by Transparency International has gotten the heads of the majority of us spinning. While the government vehemently denies its findings, the people wallow in self pity in amazing style. It is particularly disheartening to see that the government instead of making amends calls Transparency International as neither “being transparent, nor being international.”

At the heart of this new corruption debate lays our conscience which is so fractured, we’re actually surprised at the thought that we’re not yet the most corrupt nation on earth. There is of course a fine line between satire, and reasoned debate and for some odd reason, the majority of us overlooked that distinction. No doubt, scoring 143 out of the 176 positions up for grabs is disheartening, but it affords us the time to introspect and make amends. Lest we forget, the people of Pakistan are equal party in perpetuating this menace.

Most people will disagree with me and say that corruption is the "oil" that keeps our country from catching rust. My answer to them is simple: If you have refused to even believe that you can make amends, then there is no need for you all to clamor up and down, throwing tantrums and suggesting that Transparency International has lost its balls. Neither is the notion that Transparency International is a one man operation in Pakistan correct. A highly competent team of professionals selected from across the most prestigious universities of Pakistan are assigned the task of monitoring the corruption levels of the various departments of the government and public sectors. I know this because my Pakistan Economy teacher was involved in last year’s assessment of the Transparency International data collection in Pakistan.

We have a habit of hiding behind a fa├žade of conspiracy theories which culminate in the idea of the whole world ganging up on us to bring us down. I doubt the veracity of these claims because as far as I’m concerned, we possibly cannot fall any further. And what mileage could Transparency International gain by naming Pakistan as the 34th most corrupt nation on earth? Before you answer this question, do indulge yourself in the thought that rampant corruption has increased massively with the advent of the PPP. Before the PPP supporters start giving me flak, let me just say that I do not believe that had Nawaz Sharif been in power we would’ve fared better, or differently.

The idea now is to implement broad range changes across the board, and make accountability an integral part of our justice system. The only problem with this idea is that we expect the very same corrupt people to implement these changes, who are known forerunners in dispensing corruption left right and center. So is there no hope left for us? There is. That hope stems from the ideology that the fragmented Pakistani nation can rise up on its feet and challenge the status quo.

The other big problem of course is that corruption is now so deeply ingrained into our mentality that getting rid of it is next to impossible. It is a shortcut; an addiction that has granted the majority of us our whims. Take the examples out of the life of a commoner. Getting a traffic license will take only 5 minutes if you can spare 3000 – 5000 rupees depending on the place. And if you know the right person, you’ll get it for free. The long queues at the passport offices can easily be avoided and the passport renewal process can take as little as an hour if you are willing to part with Rs 4000. Corruption affords us comfort and luxury which in an otherwise clean society is unheard of.

So how do we battle this menace? Well the first instant would be to take matters into our own hands. This is particularly true of the upcoming generation which will have to make amends if it wants to put Pakistan on the right track. When the client refuses to cooperate with the corrupt, naturally the seller will disintegrate. That’s a start. Of course this will require a collective effort and not merely the energies of a few people. Start by educating yourselves and someday, we will reverse the trend of Pakistan’s constant decline in the Transparency International annual reports.