Targeting Pakistan

Courtesy:- S Rahman

Is Transparency Int’l transparent?Does the use of suffix ‘international’ confer the right on an organisation of Pakistani origin, like The Transparency International (TI), to launch a self-destruction campaign which, even if not proved right, possesses considerable potential of damaging the country’s image in an interdependent world?Obviously, every conscientious Pakistani will condemn TI’s self-ignominy campaign that is even otherwise based on perceptions and not on actual acts of corruption.

Certainly, this doesn’t divest TI of its right to expose the wrongdoing in different sectors but it does make the people think and rethink about the excitement with which the TI projects the false image of Pakistan, as if taking pride in telling the world to rejoice Pakistan’s ‘rise’ to rank 33, from the previous 42 in the list of corrupt countries.This is what has been stated in the TI’s annual report over corruption in the year 2012 although this report in itself lacks authenticity. TI’s excitement is really disgusting and more embarrassing is the TI’s mechanised churning out of figures that just can’t be adjudged on existing, reasonable benchmarks. Some analysts rather believe that TI has developed the skill of creating imaginary figures since it knows well that precise, mathematical rebuttal of such figures is more difficult a task than even grudgingly swallowing such horrible allegations. This is tragic indeed. The entire country is eclipsed by such props and pretexts that are being used with a juggler’s finesse to tarnish the image of the targeted people, whether they are the government of the day or the political party in power or any other specific institution.TI reports are good examples of use of such props and pretexts. They know that by publicising huge figures of corruption, the people will believe the TI and the government will be technically unable to rebut it with exactly the same ‘confidence’ with which the TI fields or unleashes its data. And that makes the TI another legend of the century for this hero-hungry nation that has now developed the craze for creating heroes, ‘if there is none’, courtesy the persistent efforts of TI and some misled – and also misleading – segments of media.As a matter of fact, the TI report is in essence a perception index. It prepares reports, not on corruption but on perception of corruption whereas the PPP-led government is taking concrete steps to combat corruption. One example is that of Public Accounts Committee that comprises of vocal members of leading parties of the parliament and that does not spare anyone involved in corruption whatever his stature or privileges. If TI was seriously desirous of reforming the society or our officialdom, it would have collected concrete figures instead of generating junk studies and then handed them over to PAC since this Committee is not the government but a broad-based parliamentary body.Now coming to TI report, at one point it says that the rampant corruption in Pakistan has intensified as the country has entered into the election year, with both federal and provincial governments doling out tens of billions of rupees to their members of parliament (MPs) in the name of development projects to attract a large number of voters in the next elections.This allegation, though vague, is not far from reality but it can’t be described corruption. It may be called favouritism to some extent but the ultimate beneficiaries of such funding are the people of Pakistan who, in turn, get new roads, better infrastructure and other amenities and utilities like gas, electricity, water supply etc.Let us now ponder over the TI methodology vis-à-vis the so-called report on corruption.It was based on a survey by Gallup Pakistan (not related to Gallup Inc, headquartered in Washington DC, USA) that surveyed 2,500 Pakistani men and women adults.The questions asked were: “In the recent 12 months, did you or your family get a chance to contact any of the following institutions or not?” and second, “Did you feel compelled to pay a bribe?” The institutions’ number was 10 and included police, revenue, military, excise and taxation and education.But nobody asked why the surveyed people felt compelled to pay a bribe and whether the bribe was actually accepted. And nobody seems to have considered that those people who had contact with institutions like the military might not want to tell a complete stranger who phoned them that they ‘felt compelled to pay a bribe’ and thought an institution like military was corrupt. With regard to the education department, does ‘tuition’ count as a bribe? How was this explained to the survey participants? It appears from this methodology that TI didn’t find 2,500 people who had contact with each institution among the ten institutions marked for the purpose.Furthermore, you can’t rank these institutions because the samples are completely different and the answers are ambiguous. You would be comparing apples to oranges.The government has rejected the Transparency International’s annual report in which facts have been twisted. According to the government officials concerned, millions of rupees have been recovered from the plunderers and state institutions are working hard to recover the money from the fraudulent people.Moreover, the PPP-led democratic government has volunteered to present itself for accountability by starting audits from its own tenure.As for TI’ stress on Auditor General’s report revealing corruption cases of about Rs 350 billion, the people who have carried in-depth study of the audit department know well that the audit system has gradually degenerated into tracking of compliance of accounting and administrative procedures, some of which date back to the British period.In fact, there is no guarantee that the audit will unearth corruption because as a routine it targets procedural lapses like who approved the expenditure and who should have.Last but not the least, surveys conducted by other entities (other than TI) can be biased or based on misperceptions. TI has itself mentioned on its website that surveys are not conducted by TI and that it (TI) bases its reports on other sources.This ‘disclaimer’ is more than sufficient to expose the inherent flaws in the TI’s system and in its own transparency.


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