Musharraf by Numbers: Corruption

Hard data on Pakistan is hard to come by. Where available, doubts exist as to its veracity. For example, it is widely believed that the government numbers on inflation are fudged. The census numbers are hugely controversial for it is used as a basis for distribution of funds, jobs, and enrollment in colleges. Sometimes the numbers offered by different government departments don’t match and no explanation is offered about sudden wide fluctuations in numbers. For example, the number of students enrolled in the nation’s universities nearly doubled from 126,000 to 218,000 in 2003-2004. (I try to tackle the mystery in a future column on education.) Then there exist a whole domain of variables which cannot be succinctly reported in numbers -like the longer term impact of rise of Islamic fundamentalism in SWAT and Balochistan, or the impact of extended military rule. Hence, where possible, I provide additional qualitative assessments to supplement the numbers.

Its time to open the bright orange “black box”!

Musharraf came into power on October 12th, 1999 after removing Nawaz Sharif in a bloodless coup. He installed himself as the ‘Chief Executive’ and has effectively controlled Pakistan along with his coterie since then. The history of power is the history of corruption – mostly. As Selig Harrison – a mediocre scholar for an equally middling institute, writing for the International Herald Tribune, argues that while Musharraf may contend that he clings to power to protect the country from the scourge of corruption and fundamentalism, his real reasons are more banal – maintaining the $5 billion commercial empire under the control of military. (The figure is supported by Ayesha Siddiqa in Military Inc.)

Corruption in third world is endemic and pandemic. In Pakistan, it bored into Bhutto’s socialist economy through ‘license quota’ raj, then bled into Ayub and Zia’s military economy through the ‘fauji foundation’ economy. The only things consistent throughout were- the impassive mass of bureaucrats – who only snapped out of their languorous daze to partake ‘chai paani’ – standing at the gates of bureaucracies that reigned over daily life, the hectoring police raj, and the inadequate and inefficient legal structure carrying yellowing remains of at least 1.3 million (2004 estimate, 2003 figures; Law and Justice Commission) pending cases in its orifice. The situation in India is considerably grimmer with an estimated 30 million pending cases. (RTI India).

Since 1995, when Transparency International started its cross country surveys on corruption, Pakistan has consistently dredged the bottom. Except for the exceptionally low raw score of 1 in 1996 under Bhutto, the scores show a stubborn tendency to never go beyond 2.7 (1998).

“One of the biggest curses from which India is suffering…is bribery and corruption. That really is a poison. We must put that down with an iron hand and I hope that you will take adequate measures as soon as it is possible for this Assembly to do so.”

Address by Quaid-i-Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on his election as President (11th August, 1947)

Taking Jinnah’s cue, Musharraf signed into law National Accountability Ordinance (1999, amended 2002 and 2003), and launched an anti-corruption drive – National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) in 2002. National Accountability Bureau, an “apex anti-corruption organization”, came into force as part of NAO to enforce anti-corruption measures. A police order (No. 22) was also signed into place in 2002 with the intention of reforming police. It appears that all this activity had a modest temporary effect with raw scores rising from 2.2 to 2.6 between 1999 and 2002, and then taking a sharp fall starting 2003.

TI Corruption Perception Ranking for Pakistan*

Year	Rank	Score
1995	39/41	2.25
1996 	53/54	1.0
1997 	48/52	2.53
1998	71/85	2.7
Musharraf came to power near the end of 1999
1999 	88/99	2.2
2000 	Pakistan not included
2001 	79/91	2.3
2002    81/105	2.6        
2003	96/133	2.5        
2004	134/145	2.1       
2005	146/159	2.1       
2006	142/163	2.2
2007	138/179	2.4

Source: Transparency International

To help put Pakistan’s scores in perspective, Pakistan scored lower in 2007 than Uganda, Malawi, and Cameroon. While Pakistan regularly trawls the bottom of the Corruption Perception Index, its neighbor India has done better. In 2006 rankings, it sat in the middle with a rank of 70, though the raw score differential was a mere 1.1 points.

A survey within Pakistan found that the most corrupt province was Punjab followed by Sindh. Similarly the most corrupt departments haven’t changed much between 2002 and 2006 except taxation, which is now seen as less corrupt, and land department more.

2006	2002
Police	Police
Power  Power
Judiciary Taxation
Land	Judiciary
Taxation Custom
Custom	Health
Health	Land    
Education Education
Railway	Railway
Bank	Bank

Source: Major Findings of Pakistan National Corruption Perception Survey 2006


Further Reading: