Our Beacon Forum

Corrupt ways seem to be here to stay
By:Mubashir, Canada
Date: Tuesday, 24 January 2017, 12:46 pm

Corrupt ways
NOMAN AHMED — PUBLISHED about 13 hours ago

The writer is chairman, Department of Architecture & Planning, NED University, Karachi.

NO news bulletin is complete without a comprehensive update on the Panama Leaks case in the Supreme Court. The form of corruption being deliberated can be categorised as ‘financial corruption’. But this is not the only form of corruption. Other forms include individuals and institutions shirking their responsibilities, taking unfair decisions regarding the running of state affairs, deviating from governance norms, etc.

For instance, for over two weeks, a judicial inquiry commission comprising a Sindh High Court judge has been investigating the causes behind the poor quality of water being supplied and the poor sanitation and environmental conditions in the province. It is examining the roles and responsibilities of over two dozen public agencies. Had these agencies functioned according to laid-down responsibilities, such a commission may not have been formed. But the evidence of malpractice and inaction is too glaring to be avoided. Note, for instance, the heaps upon heaps of garbage in every nook and corner of Karachi and other cities in Sindh, the thousands of people rushing to hospitals due to water-borne ailments and the unchecked rise in enterprises generating pollution.

Karachi is also plagued with the construction of a rising number of high-rises everywhere. Legal instruments such as the Sindh High Density Board Act, 2010, permit the utilisation of land and properties for unplanned densification. Meanwhile, a former chief of the Sindh Building Control Authority is reported to have transferred billions of rupees abroad during the past few years. As per press reports, NAB is investigating multiple corruption complaints against him.

Nothing moves without greasing palms.
Initiatives in builder-generated real estate have carved out options in investment for the super rich without yielding a single square yard to millions of the urban poor in this unfortunate metropolis.

The perils of corruption swell when laws, statutes, rules and regulations are not followed. A worse scenario is the selective enforcement of legal provisions. Our society provides countless examples of laws being applied differently to different sets of people. A poor hari can expect the worst even on the mild accusation of a crime by a member of the landed elite. Conversely, the relative of a wadera can escape punishment even after committing the most heinous of crimes. Remember the Shahzeb Khan case?

The reasons for this state of affairs are several. Legal provisions are kept as a tool for hegemony and enhancement of the clout of the already powerful — not for the dispensation of justice. The rule of law invariably requires a change of attitude among the elite. In other words, rules and laws simply have to be followed by individuals of all ranks. But going by the current trend, this appears a remote possibility.

Another related issue is the popular perception of corruption. A few decades ago, the average person considered corruption an unpardonable vice, something which had to be instantly eradicated. He or she would stay away from those who had dubious sources of incomes or lived beyond their financial status. It appears that society at large is greatly confused regarding its own position on corruption. The infiltration of corrupt practices into society has distorted the distinction between the clean and corrupt to a sizable extent.

Bribery is defined as a standard form of corruption. Over a period of time, it has acquired very sophisticated forms. As per a report by the World Bank, 88.2 per cent of the firms operating in Pakistan are believed to have paid a bribe of some kind to win a government contract. In previous years, one would find a nervous-looking visitor handing over a notebook or diary containing a few currency notes to an official. The whole operation had to be covert.

But times have changed. Bribery in many domains has become a standard exercise. Rates, modes of transaction, delivery, receipt and accumulation are familiar practices. And the finesse with which this form of crime is committed is such that one cannot catch the culprit. The existence of a high-volume informal economy, the culture of cash transactions, absence of documentation of assets and wealth are a few of the main causes. Whether it is a matter of registering an FIR or acquiring a trade licence, nothing can move without greasing the palms of those concerned. In some cases, bribery deals are contracted outside the country. High-value gifts also comprise this category.

As said earlier, corruption cannot be eradicated without a change of attitude in society. The prevailing high-consumption lifestyle and ostentatious living will have to be swapped with simple, frugal practices. Examples have to be set at the top for a trickle-down impact. If our rulers continue to be the embodiment of lavish living, the lower cadres shall continue to strive for the same using fair and unfair means.

The writer is chairman, Department of Architecture & Planning, NED University, Karachi.

Published in Dawn January 24th, 2017

[and the nation goes crazy if some one insults the blessed Prophet - Only problem is that they don't want to follow his guidance based on the Quran]