Corruption like malignant cells has penetrated deep
through the fibers of our society. It has grown massive in size and
multidimensional in nature. There may be several reasons of our
financial ruin. But, the basic derangement that is the root cause of all
our failings, which underlies all our shortcomings, and which counters
all the corrective measures, is Corruption.
Moreover, the gene of corruption is the financial
corruption. It is the mother figure that nurtures all other species of
corruption. Obviously, therefore, if financial swindlings alone are
contained, all other channels of misdoings and misgivings are likely to,
if not fully dry up, at least flow at low ebb.
Nationwide awakening is needed on this issue. Lately,
people at the helm of affairs seem to have turned on the alert. NABís
seminar on corruption vividly indicates govern-mentís concern to
disseminate the devastation this menace has in its fold. It is high time
any body who may have any thing in his quiver to hit right at its roots
should come forward with his prescription. Hence, these submissions.
Once we reach the conclusion that corruption is the
basis of all other evils, the question that arises next is, how to check
it? It is a million-dollar question that remains unanswered despite
superabundant rhetoric. What is more alarming is the common belief that
the situation is, or at least seems to be, incorrigible. The disease has
since been diagnosed. Great many amulets have been proposed. Several
consultant physicians, both indigenous and hired from IMF museum,
assumed in rotation charge of the patient, each claiming his
prescription to be the panacea, devolving on himself the Kar-e Maseehai
(assignment to cure the incurables), and claiming to bring the dead to
life. Yet the relief is not forthcoming. On the contrary, we are heading
fast toward a total collapse. Why is it so? What is that which is
instrumental to such an undying devastation? Sooner an answer to this
question is found, better would it be for our financial health, thereby
leading to an overall convalescence.
The most widely proclaimed line of action for
eradicating corruption is to strengthen accountability process. The
proposition, although sounds expedient, is not an unmixed blessing.
Punitive actions, no doubt, have their own impact. However, they can not
be the substitute of preventive measures.
Corruption is an attitude of life. It is a behaviour
of human beings. It has, therefore, to be dealt with in consonance with
the human nature that prefers material possessions and physical comfort
to moral values. In order to smoothly overcome this nature of mankind,
it is immensely desirable that emphasis should be shifted from punishing
the corrupt to preventing the corruption.
This does not, however, mean that corrupts should be
allowed to go scot-free. It rather suggests that priority should be
given to creating the conditions in which resorting to corruption
becomes, if not impossible, at least difficult. Simultaneously,
systematic and consistent efforts should be made to strengthen the moral
fiber of the society to operate as a deterrent against all sorts of
misdoing. Impartial, judicious, transparent, and brazen-handed
accountability culture should also coexist, although to be looked upon
as a last resort. This of-course refers to future. Accountability for
crimes already committed should be fast and meaningful.
It may be argued here that severe punishment operates
as deterrent against crime. This is not an unmixed truth. The
"Consent" or "Acceptance" Theory of managerial
Authority presents limitations to this phenomenon. One may possess
formal authority which is meaningless unless it can be effectively
exercised. And, an authority can only be exercised effectively if those
on whom it is exercised accept it. Formal authority, in fact, is merely
nominal; it becomes real only when accepted.
It is also the attitude of the individual convict
that determines the impact of punishment. Habitual criminals donít
care even for life terms. Capital punishment also fails to tame the
hardened outlaws. There are also the ethnic and emotional repercussions,
instantaneous reactions, and ancestral traditions that at times
stimulate crimes. Suicidal bombing, karo kari ó honour killings ó,
vani ó girls trade-off ó, blasphemous retaliations, ethnic killings,
and diffierent kinds of terrorist activities are the examples to quote.
Moreover, punishments often convert the casual
wrongdoers into hard-liners. Again, wide-ranging and indiscriminate
punishments create an atmosphere of fear and apprehension, which tends
to vitiate initiative and decision-making capability.
What, therefore, we actually ought to ensure is that
the crimes which have not been committed shall not be committed. This
needs a socio-cultural set up that has built-in checks to discourage
AB IMO PECTORE
The first and the most effective step in this
direction is to enforce complete documentation of financial transactions
in all walks of life. Ours is a cash-ridden society. Most of our
day-to-day financial transactions are settled in cash. This, on the one
hand, facilitates embezzlement, and, on the other hand, makes it
difficult to lay hand on the culprit for want of adequate proof. The
underlying temptation encourages swindlers and borderline wrongdoers to
adopt wrongdoing as a permanent way of life. Hence, tax evasion, bribe,
commission, kick back, misappropriation, fraud, embezzlement, and all
sorts of financial swindling flourish in a cash-nurtured society. We
have to dispense with this culture if we want to have financial
discipline in our ranks.
In cases where documentation becomes unavoidable, a
small part of the money involved is declared, while the remaining major
part changes hands surreptitiously. The most glaring example is that of
undervalued registration of sale deeds of immovable properties. This is
how the vendor evades wealth tax, the vendee saves the duty on the
amount paid beneath the table, and the functionaries of the sub-
registrarís office get their share of butter and honey. The only loser
is the public exchequer.
These transactions take place right under the nose of
the people at the helm of affairs, inflicting on the exchequer a loss of
millions of rupees every day in the wake of the persistently deficit
budgets, smashing the national economy year after year. All concerned
have turned deaf ears towards such a massive monetary swindling as it
serves their vested interests, notwithstanding the cost the nation has
to pay for it.
The government of Sindh has recently (reported in the
print media on September 2, 2002) issued Stamp (Sindh Third Amendment)
Ordinance 2002, whereby stamp duty on all sorts of conveyance deeds
regarding movable and immovable properties has been reduced from 5% to
3%. Further, registration fee has also been slashed from 1.5% to 1%.
This is a step in the right direction that should encourage
documentation of these transactions for the full amount of the deal.
This was only one example to symbolize the pecuniary
corruption, which like termite is eating up the roots of our national
economy. There are many more manifestations of wide spread corruption.
Any attempt to illustrate them would be a futile exercise since the
majority of the populace is already seized of them. There would hardly
be a person who, directly or indirectly, in one way or the other, would
not have fallen prey to them.
How to proceed with the documentaiion process?
Over-bearing rhetoric, tall claims, and
ill-conceived, half-baked? or impracticable measures, or the measures
pursued with low or no commitment, lead to no where. Money, time, and
energy spent on them go down the drain. These rather add one more layer
of frustration to the morale of an already dejected nation.
What is needed is just one bold step to turn the
corner. It should be self-contained and self-controlled, that is to say,
a one-time action that needs no monitoring or follow up for being
continuously operative. A three-in-one step as under shows adequate
potential to take up the glove with success.
Financial transaction in cash in excess of the prescribed limit should
be declared illegal through an Act of Parliament. Violation of this law
should be treated as an offence attracting exemplary punishment.
No debt or financial obligation, public or private, for amount exceeding
the prescribed amount should be recognized by law as paid or settled
unless it is paid through approved banking channels. In other words,
currency notes should not remain legal tender for exchange of goods and
services and settlement of debts beyond the specified amount.
Currency notes of the denomination of Rs. 500/- and Rs. 1,000/- should
be demonetized straightaway, and their value credited into the bank
accounts of the owners, without requiring them to declare the source of
The cash-free culture that would emerge as a result
of this three-fold step will be self-maintainable. No person on earth
will be willing to acquire or possess the money which he will not be
able to use. Money is a means, not an end. When it ceases to serve the
end, it becomes non grata. Thus, there will be no violation of this law,
and, therefore, no monitoring or supervision by any government agency or
functionary will be needed to ensure its unhampered implementation.
In the recent past, government had made an attempt to
pay by cheque salaries to its employees of specified grades. However, a
short while later, the practice was abandoned. Such decisions are the
test of the nerves of the decision-makers. Obviously, rulers toiling
under their own weaknesses could not withstand the resultant pressures
from interested quarters. Again, payment of a sum of Rs. 50,000/other
than by crossed cheques, bank drafts or pay orders would not qualify for
tax credit, adjustment or deduction, or refund or drawback, or zero
rating at tax. These measures denote a half-hearted beginning of a
really good job whereas what is desirable is a full-blown action in one
go for the nation as a whole, leaving no room for its sabotage by vested
To achieve this objective, developing of banking
habits and popularising of cheque currency are prerequisities. Lately,
government has withdrawn excise duty and withholding tax on cheques, pay
orders, and all other modes of remittance. This is a welcome step.
Surprisingly, the excise duty on cheques withdrawn by the government has
been reimposed by the banks in the name of "cheque book issuing
charges". This is unprecedented and unjust, and should be
One more obstacle in the way of the popularity of
cheques is the lack of effective legal cover against their dishonour.
Government had a plan to provide that cover. Some spadework had also
been done in this regard. Then, probably the idea was shelved or
committed to cold storage. This needs to be revived and enforced
expeditiously if any decisive role is intended to be assigned to cheques
in our monetary system.
Yet another excuse usually put forth against
augmenting the use of cheques is the low literacy rate in Pakistan. How
strange is this? Instead of making any serious efforts to raise the
literacy level, we curb enlightened activities in the name of
illiteracy. Moreover, we donít mind switching over to credit cards and
ATMs, which indeed is a function one step ahead of cheque culture, but
are scarce of cheques. The excuse is nothing but a hoax. Illiterate
villagers taking agriculture loans or making Hajj deposits utilize
banking services freely. Moreover, our bankers have never been deficient
in handling the accounts of illiterate persons, purdah nasheen ladies,
or disabled accountholders. Training material of our banks and code of
banking practices are quite self-sufficient to manage these categories
of accounts, and our bank officials are well versed with the practical
snags and legal requirements of maintaining such accounts.
OMISSION: NO LESS AN EVIL
Corruption has two faces: one, the wrongdoing, i. e.
commission: two, the wrongful undoing, i. e. omission. The former means:
"to have done what should not have been done" It is visible by
nature. The latter signifies: "not to have done what should have
been done". It is by nature invisible, and therefore tends to be
The commissioning part of corruption can be
identified, prevented, controlled, and brought within the ambit of law.
We had so far been discussing this aspect of corruption. The other facet
of corruption, i. e. omission; is outrageous for the reason that the law
finds itself helpless in attacking it.
The inaction, dereliction, or delayed action ends in
greater devastation as its effect is not quantifiable; its impact can
not be measured. It may take as great a toll as loss of half of the
country and may still remain unidentified. It cannot be controlled or
countered by law or by administrative orders. You can stop a man from
doing a thing, but you can not make him do a thing over a period of time
if he is not willing to do it.
security of job has been mainly responsible for inefficiency. This must
be done away with. Each employee, from top to bottom, has to justify his
or her being in the job every day. This, in other words, means that
powers of hire and fire should vest in the management. There may be
instances when this power is exploited or misused. To check and control
excesses of management, Services Tribunals should be mandated to award
summary judgements within the specified maximum time.
Trade unions have done immense harm to industry. These should be done
away with. The jurisdiction of Services Tribunals may be extended to
take all out care of the employees.
Seniority should be assigned the same sanctity in all the organizations
as it enjoys in judiciary. All prestigious placements and postings, and
promotions should base on seniority. Reasons of super session should be
advised in writing to the aggrieved person. Corruption in banks
increased manifold after the politicians and bureaucrats placed their
cronies at the helm of affairs at the cost of seniority, mercilessly
exploiting the name of "merit".
Punishments and rewards should be prompt and transparent Undue
interference and meddling from any quarter should be curbed with iron
hand as it kills initiative and power of decision making.
All sorts of perks for all categories of staff, irrespective of grade
and rank, must go. Transport provided to an executive due to the nature
of his job should be used strictly for official purposes only. Family
members should not be allowed to use or share the official car with the
executive. However, salaries should be rationalized to match the cost of
living. These should be raised twice a year: once, effective from 1st
January as normal grade increment; next, from 1st July, at the prevalent
rate of inflation.
Recently, government has banned purchase of new cars. Earlier, ex-Prime
Minister late Mohammed Khan Junejo had also taken the similar action.
What was the outcome of that is no more a secret. Why should we then
resort to such actions, which can be reversed any time? What is actually
needed is the basic revision of Service Rules, eliminating the very
provisions of perks and allowances, so that future governments may not
be able to reverse the decision simply be administrative orders, without
getting through the Parliament.
Some other causes of inefficiency and corruption in government offices
are: lengthy and cumbersome procedure; undue secrecy of government
businesses; and centralization of powers. Services of professional
bodies may be utilized to ameliorate and simplify procedures, which may
be widely publicized so that people should know what they are exactly
required to do. Thus, extortion of money from them would become, if not
impracticable, at least difficult.
Prize bonds schemes are speculative that create easy money, leading to
all sorts of dubious practices. All such financial papers, which are
prone to speculation, gambling, games of chance, and money laundering
should be withdrawn forthwith.B