Feb 25, 2009
The curse of corruption
The prime minister has said that the National Accountability Bureau is to be abolished. The move will be welcomed by many. For the past seven or eight years in particular, NAB has come to be seen as a body guilty of all kinds of harassment. It had lost its image as a body able to offer across-the-board accountability only months after it was set up almost nine years ago. Mr Gilani has said a new body will be established to replace it. But the fact is that all such organizations have failed to deliver and have instead become tools of political victimization. The prime minister, who has claimed to be a victim of just this process, will be well aware of what misery it can inflict. Who can forget the notorious Ehtesab Bureau of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, run by the deeply vindictive Saifur Rehman, who even today seems to enjoy the protection of key PML-N bigwigs.The fact is that these bodies have failed to make any headway against corruption. Indeed, the problem seems to have grown. Today we hear shocking stories of misdeeds by people in high places and by their close relatives. Some of these rumours speak of a systematic stripping away of wealth – or what still remains of it – from the national reserve. It seems unlikely that all of these are true. But the fear in all our minds remains that some of them could be. True or false, the stories that abound everywhere act to discredit democratic government and thus further weaken our systems. We desperately need to tackle corruption. The curse is eating into our society at many levels. As economists such as Nobel laureate Dr Amartya Sen have so brilliantly proved, corrupt practices at the top of the political hierarchy encourages malpractice at the petty level and also feeds into the inefficient governance that handicaps development and social progress. We need an autonomous setup of some kind; that much is clear. But to succeed this must also be combined with other strategies to tackle corruption and all the evils that accompany it.