To the delight of the government of Pakistan, but the utter surprise of many, the Transparency International Pakistan released the TI’s report on Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2015 last week, maintaining that Pakistan was the only SAARC country which had improved its CPI score during the year 2015. According to this much-trumpeted report, the 2015 CPI score for Pakistan has again increased from 29 to 30 (one point), improving its international ranking by three. As usual, the PTV, a state-run broadcaster, extensively highlighted TI’s report portraying it as another proud feather in government’s cap. The PML-N loyalists were also seen boasting about the good governance of the ruling political party in the country. But on the other hand, disagreeing with the politicians, the chairman NAB was quite insistent on attributing this ‘historic success’ to NAB’s current anti-corruption initiatives and its so-called zero tolerance policy against the corruption in Pakistan. Consequently, there was some confusion as to whether the government or its premier anti-graft body should really be applauded for this ‘extra-ordinary benchmark’ reached by Pakistan.

As matter of fact, there is no any specific mention of Pakistan in Transparency International’s annual CPI report released by it on January 27, 2015. In this report, it has been said: “Although corruption is still rife globally, more countries improved their scores in 2015 than decline”. Greece, Senegal and the UK are the only three specifically-mentioned countries that have seen a significant increase in scores since 2012. Therefore, it may just be the handiwork of TI Pakistan that Pakistan has started looking like the most transparent SAARC country after the ‘significant reduction’ in its corruption level. It is a fact that India and Sri Lanka still have better CPI scores than Pakistan in the region.

Transparency international is a Berlin-based international NGO which has been publishing the Corruption Perception Index annually since 1995, ranking countries by perceived level of corruption. The so-called corruption perception is generally determined by it through expert assessments and opinion surveys in various countries across the world. However, the modus operandi adopted by the TI for the same purpose is also often criticized for being complex and non-transparent.

For some time, Transparency International’s Pakistan Chapter has been a bit controversial in some way. Its former chairman Adil Gillani was also criticized for multiple conflict of interest issues by various journalists in Pakistan. TI has not adequately explained, or specifically rebutted, these allegations so far. Now TI Pakistan has explained that TI’s Berlin report shows that Pakistan’s rank has been improved in 2015 by nine countries as against 2014 through only a typographical error. Pakistan’s actual rank has been improved by only three, from previous 50th most corrupt to 53th most corrupt countries in the world. Therefore, before being overly jubilant over TI’s current report on Pakistan, now it is quite advisable to first confirm the fact that current one point surge in CPI score is not necessarily a result of another typographical error.

Ironically, no one in the country has yet bothered to discuss World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index 2015 in which Pakistan’s international ranking has observably deteriorated, from 96th to 98th position, among the 102 assessed countries in the world. The WJP is a Washington-based international organization working to advance the rule of law around the world. WJP’s Rule of Law Index is another important assessment tool designed to offer the comprehensive picture of the state and extent to which countries adhere to rule of law in practice.

This index is based on multiple factors, including the fact of absence of corruption in any particular country. Obviously, the WJP has painted a very gloomy picture of Pakistan this year.

Recently, in order to aware people about the ill effects of corruption, the NAB has also started an ‘Awareness and Prevention’ campaign through its message “say no to corruption”. For this purpose, the NAB is all set to launch an extensive media campaign in collaboration with the civil society, various governmental and no governmental organizations. Now, the NAB is also actively striving to propagate its message through text books, text messages, newspapers, utility bills, cigarette packets, Banks’ ATM’s etc. in the country. Thus the premier accountability body in Pakistan has been reduced to a public campaign organization. In fact, almost a similar message carried by the currency notes in Pakistan for a long time has already fallen flat on the die-hard nation.

In 2014, the then chairman NAB revealed the starting figure of daily corruption in Pakistan which just hovered around Rs12 billion. In this way, the annual figure simply touches Rs4000 billion to Rs5000 billion. Last year, the additional prosecutor general of NAB submitted a report in Supreme Court of Pakistan claiming to have recovered Rs263 billion over 15 years. This figure of Rs263 billion also includes the Rs181 billion that have been recovered from loan defaulters only. Therefore, the net amount recovered from those involved in corrupt practices is around Rs82 billion which is by no means an impressive figure. In fact, NAB has only recovered proceeds of corruption that roughly cover the period of just one week in the last 15 years. Indeed, there can be no joke bigger than that what has been played on this disillusioned nation in the name of accountability.

Presently, the NAB is recovering the proceeds of corruption in Pakistan in accordance with ‘plea bargain’ and ‘voluntary return’ provisions provided under Section 25 of the NAB Ordinance 1999. In fact, these legal provisions are utterly incompatible with the so-called zero tolerance policy against the corruption, which is being excessively propagated by the NAB in the country. Besides this, the NAB has been recovering amounts from loan defaulters of the financial institutions. Recently, it was also tasked to recover outstanding dues from the electricity defaulters. It is quite unfortunate that the premier anti-graft body, which is supposed to launch a rigorous accountability drive in country, has eventually confined itself to recovering outstanding loans and utility dues from ordinary people.

Unluckily, despite rampant and pervasive corruption in the country, we have hardly observed the required degree of resolution and commitment on the part of government to curb this menace so far. Therefore, countering corruption has been nobody’s cup of tea in the country. Consequently, the corruption has deeply penetrated the body-politic. Certainly, there can be no easy-fix solution to this problem.

When it comes to identify this menace in Pakistan, a state of denial would be as hazardous as the state of corruption itself. To combat monstrous corruption, we need to adhere to an efficient anti-corruption regime after introducing a stringent and stricter anti-graft legislation in the country. And obviously, there should also be an independent and pro-active anti-graft body to strictly enforce these laws.