“TIt is not a coincidence. Corruption enables human rights violations, triggering a vicious and growing spiral. As rights and freedoms are eroded, democracy declines and authoritarianism takes its place, which in turn allows for higher levels of corruption. – Abstract, Corruption Perceptions Index 2021
The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2021 published by Transparency International (TI) lowered Pakistan’s overall score from 31 to 28 due to lack of rule of law and state capture and lowered its ranking from 124/180 (2020) at 140/180. This is a huge setback for the outgoing Prime Minister’s narrative, as his entire policy is based on this single issue.
This report not only undermines his credibility, but also exposes his style of governance. He ranked his government as the most corrupt at the time. An overview of the ranking assigned to Pakistan over the past two decades includes the tenure of General Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistan People’s Party government under Asif Ali Zardari and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) government, as well as the three years of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) under the leadership of Imran Khan.
Pakistan got the worst ranking in the region. The country saw an increase in corruption for the third consecutive year, slipping 16 places to rank 140. Under the tenure of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), the Corruption Perceptions Index had recorded some improvement and Pakistan were ranked 117/180.
Now, what are the root causes of the failure to improve our ability to eradicate corruption? In its manifesto, the PTI promised the nation that it would ensure full autonomy and build the capacity of the National Accountability Board (NAB) and other accountable institutions and prosecute all major corruption scandals, regardless of their nature. political affiliation.
The PTI has criticized previous governments, accusing them of stifling institutions of accountability to create an environment in which the corruption of the ruling elite was concealed rather than aggressively exposed. The PTI also pledged to review the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999, to strengthen its independence and the process for appointing the president, support the head of the NAB in driving organizational reforms, close legal loopholes in the liability laws, including review of voluntary return and plea. to negotiate.
He also pledged to provide support to the NAB in tracking key indicators to improve performance, transparency and the corruption score, including the number of referrals, length of prosecutions and expenditure-to-recovery ratio.
However, during his three-and-a-half years in power, the focus remained on alleged political victimhood and selective accountability, ostensibly in an effort to bolster his power base. The promise to give the NAB more independence to ensure transparency did not materialize and it became Pakistan’s most controversial institution. Even the Supreme Court has pointed out that the NAB was deliberately used for political engineering purposes.
The promise to introduce reforms has also not been kept. Before coming to power, Imran Khan had mentioned in various international forums that Pakistan lacked qualified professionals to investigate white collar crime. However, after taking over as head of government, he did not introduce any measures to control corruption/white collar crime. Although the government has recommended some changes to the NAB ordinance, these have been criticized in the media and legal experts have called them “an act of saving one’s own skin”.
Transparency International has downgraded Pakistan due to corruption scandals linked to various members of the Prime Minister’s Office. It’s time for the Prime Minister to honor his promise and start the process of accountability.
As promised, the government was supposed to maintain transparency, introduce reforms to improve law enforcement’s understanding of transnational dimensions of corruption, train them in intelligence gathering, develop a mechanism to engage public sectors -private in sharing information, increasing their resources and applying the beneficial ownership rule, but nothing concrete has been done.
Pakistan also needed to introduce specific regulations regarding high-risk businesses concealing illicit cash or laundering proceeds of crime. The will of government, law enforcement and the judiciary is required to hold corrupt elements accountable by maintaining transparency and extending the right to a fair trial provided for in Section 10A of the Constitution.
Any accountability must be generalized, regardless of political affiliation. Transparency International has downgraded Pakistan over the past three years due to corruption scandals linked to various members of the Prime Minister’s Office. It’s time for the Prime Minister to honor his promise and hold accountable those involved in the sugar crisis, the wheat shortage, the medical scandals, the ring road scandal, the BRT scandal, the Tosha Khana scandal (linked to the Prime Minister), allowing the sale of subsidized wheat for the poultry sector. The list continues.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) assessment of Pakistan is approaching. In the recent past, we have witnessed two major developments which may impact our FATF assessment. Recently, the Federal Investigation Agency uncovered a $100 million fraud, admitting potential money laundering using cryptocurrency. The way cryptocurrency is handled in Pakistan invites a lot of risk. The watchdogs might end up revising our note on recommendations 15 and 23.
Moreover, the latest transparency ranking which has further downgraded Pakistan may prompt FATF members to review the level of compliance with recommendations 12, 22 and 36, as the majority of scandals highlighted in the media involve politically exposed persons. , including the Prime Minister.
The 2021 index suggested corruption levels have remained at a standstill around the world. The report assesses 180 countries and territories with their perceived level of public sector corruption with a scale of zero (classified as very corrupt) to 100 (very clean). However, the report recorded no visible change in the Global Perception Index for the tenth consecutive year with two-thirds of countries scoring below 50.
The report’s global highlights indicate that more than two-thirds of countries (68%) score below 50 and the average global score remains stagnant at 43. It further highlights that 25 countries improved their scores while 23 countries have decreased considerably.
The ranking by region shows that Western Europe and the European Union rank among the top-scoring regions with an overall score of 66, Asia-Pacific 45, Americas 43, Middle East and South Africa. North 39, Eastern Europe and Central Asia 36. Saharan Africa is ranked as the lowest region with an overall score of 33.
The comparison by region shows that the Americas made no progress over the past three years with the same score of 43, while Asia-Pacific showed improvement in reducing petty corruption. The issue of grand corruption could not be addressed, therefore the average score stagnated at 45 out of 100 for the third consecutive year. Eastern Europe and Central Asia is still the second worst performing region.
The Middle East and North Africa maintained their score of 39 for the fourth consecutive year. However, the region is trying to achieve the desired results to reduce corruption. However, political misconduct and private interests take precedence over common interests and this region is already devastated by various conflicts.
An interesting fact highlighted in the report is that the sub-Saharan region, ranked as the most corrupt region, showed no improvement over the previous year. 44 out of 49 countries still score below fifty. The index notes that progress in recent years to root out corruption has stalled.
While ranking the countries individually, the index ranked Denmark, Finland and New Zealand as the cleanest countries with an overall score of 88 each. South Sudan, Syria and Somalia are listed at the bottom of the index. According to the report, countries experiencing armed conflict or authoritarianism tend to have the lowest scores. These include Venezuela, Yemen, North Korea, Afghanistan, Libya, Equatorial Guinea and Turkmenistan.
The report shows that from 2012 to 2021, twenty-five countries improved their control to fight corruption while the scores of 23 countries fell. The status of 131 countries remained the same. It further indicates that the control of corruption has stagnated or worsened globally over the past decade.
Abdul Rauf Shakoori is a US-based corporate attorney and white-collar crime and sanctions compliance expert.
Huzaima Bukhari is a High Court Barrister and Adjunct Professor at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)