Political Elites, Accountability, and Corruption in Pakistan
In an attempt to thwart corruption investigations into his administration by Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has triggered a debate in Pakistan.
Corruption in public sector organizations and state run entities has been rampant for decades but during the last three years Pakistan has improved due to the proactive role of the NAB, the country’s top accountability body. The NAB is working on scores of mega corruption scams, in which representatives of the ruling government and key ministers of federal as well as the Punjab government are accomplices. The Punjab Chief Minister, Mian Shahbaz Sharif, is the younger brother of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Opposition parties are claiming that the government is going to clip the powers of the NAB in order to avert investigations relating to alleged underhanded mismanagement and embezzlement by ruling government representatives.
The NAB has been waging a massive anti-corruption campaign in the country for the last two years with the sole objective of purging state departments and state functionaries from corruption.
There are approximately 179 corruption scandals in which billions of rupees scams have already been identified by state accountability departments. The Prime Minister is accused of misusing his authority over the construction of a road from Raiwind to the Sharif family house where Rs.125.664 million were misappropriated, according to the official NAB documents.
According to the list of corruption scandals, posted by the Accountability bureau on its website, Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif has been accused in another case of making illegal appointments to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) by misusing his authority and influence.
Apart from these senior ministers in Sharif’s cabinet, there are also top businessmen facing NAB investigations. According to high level sources in the NAB Islamabad there is pressure from Prime Minister Sharif, backed by the Finance Minister to close the probes against the Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Mian Muhammad Mansha, and Jahangir Siddiqui (JS Bank).
Under these circumstances it’s really hard for the Prime Minister Sharif and the others accused in his cabinet to save their skins from these ongoing investigations and corruption charges.
There is a debate in the Pakistani media regarding these corruption scandals and it could land Prime Minister Sharif and his associates in big trouble. None of his previous two tenures completed the five years terms due to the same corruption charges.
Social media in Pakistan is openly criticizing Prime Minister Sharif on corruption scandals and asking him to answer these charges rather than restricting the country’s accountability bureau. The NAB authorities are facing strong pressure from the media and public to shun their double standards and to take action against the accused in the Sharif cabinet and others.
Opposition parties in Pakistan have reservations about ongoing mega projects in Pakistan like the LNG gas deal with Qatar and the China Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC). The Chinese National Bureau of Corruption Prevention Assistant Minister, Liu Jianchao, conveyed a strong message to the Sharif’s government last year in November. He termed corruption a major threat to security, peace and socio-economic development and he warned that China has a policy of zero tolerance for corruption.
Liu said that thousands of Chinese, involved in corruption, have been punished and those accused who fled were forced back home and were charged according to the law. The Prime Minister of Pakistan has boasted that he is completely eradicating corruption from the country. However these claims do not apply to him, his cabinet nor his cronies.