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Endemic corruption

Pakistan is going through an immensely difficult era. Is it because of democracy? Is it because of the legacy that Musharraf left behind? Whatever the diagnosis the fact is that Pakistan will have to set a straight course if it has to be respected in the comity of nations. When the National Accountability Bureau Chief Fasih Bokhari spoke of there being only two legs of a tripartite arrangement in which the third leg has been fractured he was not wrong.

In fact what he was stating was what has been proved right in the recent events that have unfolded. That the political system had been black-mailing the bureaucracy was understood but the civil society unlike the former East Pakistani society has not learnt to take on issues that can have long term consequences on the stability of a nation. There in East Pakistan we could, even as Punjabis, stand up to the Governor (Monem Khan one of the worst tyrants that could ever exist-Kalabagh had at least a value system and did not foul up the honest officers). There are no exceptions. The provincial governments are worse than the Federal government. One has to go through the assets of these political persons to realize what is going on. On TV channels, the more corrupt that they are the more aggressive they look. It is almost a dance of a black gram on a hot plate. The jump of the gram is random and most of our politicians are in that mould. Every one else is to blame but themselves.

Is corruption irreversible? Moral and social forces that bring about a decay do bring about the death of a nation and of a society. National Accountability Bureau was the first one to deeply enquire into this phenomenon and I quote ‘They think that the result of incapacity or negligence of the predecessors. They are wrong.’ Is then this like a doctor dissecting a plague-ridden body? It is difficult to find evidence and this makes it a disease which obeys its own laws and it is almost always fatal. The cure is almost as terrible as the disease. The recent events in Pakistan where the PM is likely to be incarcerated for his role in the rental power plant scam has led to a funny kind of cry from the blood seekers and from our neighbours. The theory I told you so and many other forms of anecdotes are floating in our country. How is surgery to be done. Take the case of someone who comes on the TV. His hereditary assets were Rs 1.25 lakhs (50% share of family house inside the walled city of Lahore). He is worth many crores today. If one were to access these documents many reptiles will come to the surface. The leaders of this nation are self-serving ones. In this hammam all are naked. The election commission has the records and these records are updated every year. These public representatives do not pay any taxes and some do not even send a statement to the internal revenue. They have recently floated a bill in the Parliament saying that they are exempt from taxes. Great. What self-serving egoists can do to the country?

The cure requires radical reorientation of society away from the sources of corruption. Who will damm these sources so that they are not available to the corrupt? The CJ of the SC has already stated that the bureaucracy is not to obey orders that are illegal. That is easy said and difficult to do as the bureaucracy can then be put on the mat and tortured mentally. Corruption is contagious. There are no medicines for this virus as it feeds on itself. And once established it is difficult to remove. Countries that have this in endemic form will have to be with it. If not then they should be ready to pay a heavy price. Eunuchs and effete eunuchs in the bureaucracy are not wanted. Can one afford to say this? One can if one’s track record is clean; the case is of either grapple or perish.

I do want to bring in two quotes: one from none other than Winston Churchill ‘There are sins against the commonwealth of mankind, against the phenomena of life itself. The stigma of which would cling through death, and for which there was pardon only in annihilation.’ The other quote is from Kierkegaard ‘the individual cannot assist or save a time he can only express that it is lost’.

On both quotes we have been found wanting. I do not want to say that corruption is universal for one is not interested in its universality and one feels that the society in which one exists must be the one that must be made as chaste as possible. The cure is terrible but so is plague.

Sensitivity required in a developing country requires that the intensity of life of the poor be understood. When one is intensely involved in public life the intensity becomes in many forms usefulness to the humanity that surrounds the policy maker. Sure one can go wrong but then there is no mens rea [intentional guilt]. Is this not criminal that the corrupt have all the shining weapons-a stinking rich house (possibly one of many), the gaudiest dress, the plethora of public utilities doing their dirty work. The wish of the corrupt seems to be the writ of the country at the moment. Want me to list the misdemeanours nay criminal neglect of the most wanted of this country. China is right when it says that the public servants will be held accountable of negligence-criminal negligence if they do not report such acts to the highest in local command.

Are technology and glitter responsible for this corruption? What happens when the deprived also are the depraved and the two superimpose on one another then societal norms are destroyed. The hidden persuaders in society can be of many forms. In the political system friends, classmates and relatives play a huge part. The absolute statement is that only the corrupt can be rich in the developing countries. There is more corruption in mental format through policymaking. Come and apply yourself. Everything that one takes from society without working for it comes into this definition. For freedom to work there has to be an element of defiance. There has to be a body of men that are men (gender included). There are manifestations of a corruption-free society. It is portrayed in its culture, in its ideas and discussions and what Jung called ‘Enantiodromia’ the friction of opposites to move forward. Friction can be a healthy form of ideas exchanged and worked out. Unfortunately, however, these are not one-to-one situations for much thinking has to go in this. There has to be respect and there has to be an understanding of creating a humane society. No act that is against humanity can be condoned. Corruption aside, anything that demeans humans is unworthy of a nation. The question is what does one do to remove the cause and thereby the effect? Can one be false in petty things and be true in big things. Go to Salmon on jurisprudence ‘false in little things false in big things’. The answers, my friend, are not written in the wind-these have to be sought with much soul searching. Please do not be sorry on lost time!!!

Zafar Altaf, "Endemic corruption," Business recorder. 2013-01-19.