Corruption, one of the most corrosive evils that has crept into Pakistani society, has not just destroyed societal systems from within, but has also displayed its harmful effects on the entire citizenry, a phenomenon which reached new heights during the tenure of the last government. It has become so common that even a casual audit of the financial dealings of a government institution, big or small, would reveal literally billions looted away, draining the exchequer, ruining the economy and trapping the country into debt of astronomical proportions. Understandably, therefore, the resolve to root it out figured prominently in the manifestoes of every political party as well as was a hot subject at the hustings. The Prime Minister’s letter to his cabinet colleagues and federal secretaries directing them to weed out the corrupt and the dishonest from the bureaucratic ranks points to the realisation that a mere containing of the power crisis or defeating terrorism would not let the economy flourish to its full potential. They have to be complemented by serious and definite steps to check the plague of rampaging corruption that stymie all efforts at good governance.

The PML-N must have become more conscious of the need to end corruption by the ignominious trouncing of the PPP at the general election. Thus, Mian Nawaz Sharif rightly drew attention of the addressees of the letter to the fact that the “people of Pakistan have reposed their trust and confidence in our government and to betray their trust in not an option.” He urged them to tackle upfront corruption, nepotism, inefficiency and conflict of interests. They have been advised to issue directions to the officials working under their administrative control as well as “contractual appointees, inductees and deputationists” to perform their duties in the interests of the general public. There should be a proper screening to remove those who are corrupt, do not enjoy good reputation and are unfriendly in their attitude towards the public; for such officials cannot deliver as required in a democratic setup.

Outright pilferage of official money in the country is reported to be of order of hundreds of billions of rupees and not a day passes without the media digging up stories of such outrage committed in a public institution. Tuesday’s papers carry in bold headlines the leakage of Rs 40 billion in the funds of the Employees of Old Age Benefits Institute. That even the people who have served the nation with the sweat of their brow for their entire life are not being spared points to the depth of moral degradation the society has fallen. The media, the suffering public, the civil society and the government would have to make concerted efforts to stem the rot. The coming months will show whether the Sharif government is serious in its resolve, or whether it felt Mian Nawaz's goal achieved by just the receipt of the letter.