Transparency International report sparks debate over corruption in Pakistan

The following mention appeared on Arab News website on January 25, 2021 at the following link

ISLAMABAD: A recent Transparency International report that places Pakistan on 120th number on the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) has sparked a fierce debate in the country on the subject.

Islamabad slipped three spots from its previous ranking despite the increased anti-corruption efforts of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government. Last year, it occupied 117th slot on the index that was developed by the organization after it surveyed 180 countries.

The three-spot dip in the rating has provided an opportunity to the opposition to grill the government for its failure to curb the menace. The opposition parties have termed the report a “charge sheet” against the ruling administration, saying the report has exposed Prime Minister Imran Khan’s claims of eliminating corruption.

Khan came to power in August 2018, promising a drive against corruption in Pakistan and claiming that the phenomenon was eating away the country’s resources. Some major opposition leaders, including former president Asif Ali Zardari and ex-premier Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, were also arrested on graft charges in recent months, though nothing has so far been recovered from them.

“We have serious reservations over the authenticity of the report, but even if it is true who was responsible for putting the country on the 117th number on Transparency International’s corruption index for the last so many years,” Ahmad Jawad, secretary-information of the ruling party, asked Arab News on Saturday.

He said that his party had come into power for the first time and was “fully committed” to eradicating corruption from the society. “Opposition parties should first see their own track record before criticizing us,” he said.

Opposition factions claimed, however, that the corruption committed by the PTI government in the last 16 months was way more than any government in the past decade.
“This government only believes in political victimization of their rivals on the pretext of fighting corruption,” Mushahidullah Khan, senior lawmaker of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, told Arab News. “They have totally failed to ensure transparency and openness in all their projects, and the TI report is a certificate of their incompetence.”
However, independent analysts said the report was not a reflection on the performance of any single government in Pakistan since Pakistan had been historically ranked among “the most corrupt” countries in the world.

“It is the collective responsibility of all political forces to eradicate corruption from the society,” Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, president of an Islamabad-based think tank, the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency, told Arab News.

Explaining the widespread media debate on the issue, he said this was the first Transparency International report during the current administration’s tenure, adding it had generated some criticism since the government had been claiming it was fighting against corruption in the country.

Asked about the authenticity of the report, Mehboob said that it was “credible” since many international organizations like the World Bank and others scrutinized and used it for different purposes.

“Our political parties and governments need to be transparent in political financing, if they want to improve Pakistan’s position on the corruption index,” he added.

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