The PTI-led government has enhanced the punishment for corruption to 10 years by amending the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947. It deserves applause for taking a significant step towards elimination of an ill that is eating into the vitals of the nation. After getting clearance from the Senate and the presidential assent, under the amended law those convicted of corrupt practices will be awarded a maximum of 10 years and a minimum of five years in jail.
This amendment was the need of the hour considering the ever-expanding net of the vice, more so when the country has dropped four points on the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI). In the 2020 edition of CPI, Pakistan has been placed at 124 out of 180 countries. It is, however, surprising that previous governments did not feel the need to raise punishment for dishonest practices in the public sector to rein in the bane of corruption. It appears that 1947 happened only a few years ago, and not 70-plus years back. This government has realised the harmful effects of corruption on all spheres of life — it arrests and even reverses economic progress, disrupts society and undermines the rule of law. Here a concise definition of the dirty word is in order. Corruption has been defined as the abuse of a position of trust for the benefit of yourself, your family, friends and financiers.
In most developing countries, funds worth billions, allocated for development, find their way into offshore bank accounts. It is easy to level allegations of corruption especially against those in positions of authority, but it is difficult to prove them, which is because clever wrong-doers don’t leave evidence of their misdeeds. All such countries need to devise means to catch practitioners of dishonesty and ensure deterrent punishment to them. Unfortunately, we have been miseducated about corruption because some myths are associated with it. The most important one is that it’s not a crime.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 5th, 2021.