Corruption, like malignant cells, has penetrated deep
through the fibers of our society. It has grown massive in size and
multidimensional in nature. Its manifestations are widespread. 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.
There may be several reasons for our gradual but
continuous ruin. But, the basic derangement that is the root cause of
all our failings, which underlines 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. NAB's
seminars on corruption vividly indicate government's concern to
disseminate the devastation this menace has in its fold. It is high time
that any body, who may have any thing in his quiver to hit right at its
roots, should come forward with his prescription.
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 health clinic,
assumed in rotation charge of the 'patient', each claiming his
prescription to be the panacea, devolving on himself the Kar-e Masihai,
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? The sooner an answer to this question is found, the
better it would be for our financial health, thereby leading to an
The most widely proclaimed line of action for
eradicating corruption is to strengthen the accountability process. The
proposition, although sounds expedient, is not an unmixed blessing.
Punitive actions, no doubt, have their own impact. However, they cannot
be the substitute of preventive measures.
Corruption is an attitude of life. It is a behaviour
of human being. 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 win over 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
misdoings. 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. It is,
therefore, the attitude of the individual convict that determines the
impact of punishment. Habitual criminals don't 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, KaroKari — honour killing
— Vani — Girls trade-off — blasphemous retaliations, ethnic
killings and different kinds of terrorist activities are the examples to
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.
Lastly, punishment for one offence can be averted by
committing another. As an Urdu verse reads:
Leke rishwat phansgaya hai deke rishwat choot ja
(if entangled by taking bribe, get off by offering
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
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 wrongdoings as a permanent way of life. Hence, tax evasion, bribe,
commission, kick back, misappropriation, fraud, embezzlement, and all
sorts of financial swindlings 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-registrar's 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 the 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.
This is one example to symbolize the pecuniary
corruption while there are many more, which like the termite are eating
up the roots of our national economy.
In September 2002, when it had already become
exceedingly overdue, the Government of Sindh issued The Stamp (Sindh
Third Amendment) Ordinance 2002, whereby stamp duty on all sorts of
conveyance deeds regarding movable and immovable properties was reduced
from 5% to 3%. Further, registration fee was also slashed down from 1.5%
to 1%. Although belated, it was a step in the right direction that
should have encouraged documentation of these transactions for the full
amount of the deal.
Overbearing rhetoric, tall claims, and ill-conceived,
half-baked, or impracticable measures, or the measures pursued with low
or no commitment, lead to nowhere. 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 stated thereunder shows
adequate potential to take up the glove with success.
Financial transactions 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
Currency notes of the denomination of Rs.500 and
Rs.1,000 should be demonetized, and their value credited into bank
accounts of the owners, without requiring them to declare the source of
acquisition. The decision to issue currency notes of the denomination of
Rs.5,000 should be revoked forthwith.
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 pressure
from interested quarters. Again, under yet another decision, any payment
of Rs.50,000 or more, other than by crossed cheques, bank drafts, or
payment orders, would not qualify for tax credit, adjustment or
deduction, or refund or draw back, or zero rating of 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 interests.
To achieve this objective, developing of banking
habits and popularizing of cheque currency are prerequisites. As a
positive step in this direction, a few years ago, the government
withdrew excise duty and withholding tax on cheques, payment orders, and
other modes of remittance. Surprisingly, banks in the name of "cheque
book issuing charges" reimposed this financial burden on the
accountholders. To start with, the rate of service charges was kept the
same as it was of the government excise duty, i.e. Rs.2 per cheque leaf,
probably to camouflage this ill intended manipulation. Later the rate
was raised to Rs.62 for 25-leafs chequebook, and now certain banks are
charging @ Rs.3/- per cheque leaf. This is unprecedented and unjust, and
should be withdrawn forthwith.
Adding fuel to the fire, banks with the collaboration
of the State Bank of Pakistan, arbitrarily penalized the accounts
maintaining less than Rs.5,000 credit balance with Rs.50/- per month
service charges. Even a shortage of Re.1/- even for one day would
attract the penalty for the whole month. No body cared to know that how
many Pakistanis were there who could deposit Rs.5,000 with a bank and
forget it for all time to come, keeping in view that to have a bank
account is no more a luxury. One is at a loss to understand why the SBP
surrendered to the banks' unlimited hunger for profit. Last year, banks
earned profit in millions and billions. What was the rationale behind
adding mole to the mountain at the cost of small accountholders?
Further, there is no check on banks' freely and excessively violating
the conditions imposed by the SBP as a pre-requisite to this unwanted
In the wake of these two most ill-conceived decisions
ñ issuance of Rs.5,000 currency note and levying service charges on
accounts with balances less than Rs.5,000 — it will be hoping against
the hope that any serious attempt is intended to be made to discourage
One more obstacle in the way of the popularity of
cheques was the lack of effective legal cover against their dishonour.
Although, under The Banking Companies (Recovery of Advances) Act, 1997
and the Recovery of Loans Ordinance XXLVI promulgated in 2001, it has
been made a criminal offence to issue a cheque that would not be
honoured, the acceptability of cheques in day-to-day settlement of
financial transactions is still non-existent. The reason is our
time-consuming and cumbersome legal procedure that ends in "justice
delayed is justice denied".
Yet another excuse usually put forth against
augmenting the use of cheques is the low literacy rate in Pakistan. How
strange! Instead of making any serious efforts to raise the literacy
level, we use it as pretence for our sluggishness. Surprisingly enough,
with the same level of illiteracy, we don't mind switching over to
credit cards and ATMs, which indeed is a function one step ahead of
Further, illiterate villagers taking agriculture
loans or making Hajj deposits utilize banking services quite freely.
Moreover, our bankers have never been deficient in handling the accounts
of illiterate persons, pardah 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 handling such accounts.
A reference here to the ever increasing cost of
living coupled with the government's apathy will not be out of place.
The continuous prices escalation has made it increasingly difficult for
the common man to make his both ends meet within his legitimate income,
which compels him to resort to illegal means of acquiring money.
Notwithstanding our tall claims for poverty alleviation, we have, on the
one hand, slashed down the purchasing power of masses by such
ill-conceived actions as substantially cutting down the rates of profit
of savings schemes, and, on the other hand, pushed the prices beyond the
reach of common man by measures such as fortnightly increase in the
prices of petrol and petroleum products. This Hippocratic attitude of
the government cannot be defended with any stretch of arguments.
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 with reasonable precision. Hence, it can be 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, and its impact
cannot 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 cannot always make him do a thing, if he is not
willing to do that.
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 judgments within the maximum specified time.
unions have done immense harm to industry. These should be abolished.
The jurisdiction of Services Tribunals may be extended to take all out
care of the employees.
should be assigned the same sanctity in all the organizations as it
normally enjoys in the judiciary. All prestigious placements/postings
and promotions should be based on seniority. Reasons of suppression
should be advised in writing to 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
killing the merit.
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.
5. 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 the
first day of the financial year of the organization as normal grade
increment; next, from the mid of the year, at the prevalent rate of
More than once the government banned the purchase of
cars of higher than the prescribed horsepower for its functionaries.
What was the outcome of these orders 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 the future governments
may not be able to reverse the decision simply by administrative orders,
without getting through the parliament.
6. Some other
causes of inefficiency and corruption in government offices are: lengthy
and cumbersome procedures, misuse of discretionary and centralized
powers, and undue secrecy of government business. 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.
7. Prize Bonds
schemes are speculative that create easy money, leading to dubious
practices. All such schemes, which are prone to speculation, gambling,
games of chance, such as, Bank of Punjab's Crorepati scheme,
should be withdrawn forthwith.