Of all the civilizations of premodern times, none appeared more advanced, none felt more superior, than that of china. Its considerable population, 100-130 million compared with Europe’s 50-55 million in the fifteenth century; it’s remarkable culture; it’s exceedingly fertile and irrigated plains, linked by a splendid canal system since the eleventh century and its unified hierarchic administration run by a well-educated Confucian bureaucracy had given a coherence and sophistication to Chinese society which was the envy of foreign visitors. To avert the fall of the great Ming dynasty (1368-1644), Chinese emperor in the early ages was filled with the notion of rooting up the bureaucratic corruption, to which the earlier Yuan dynasty had fallen prey. Officials accused of taking hefty bribes had their skin stripped off before execution and fastened with the mannequins found in the scarecrow temples to serve as a precedent and warning to others. In worst scenarios the entire clans were inflicted with death punishment. However like other empires, this one had to collapse under the burden of its bureaucratic corruption and was later thrown away by the invading Manchu armies.

Chinese president Xi Jinping rule is no more different to Ming’s dynasty. Since holding the office back in 2012, he has embarked to undertake an array of exceptional initiative, amongst the most prominent and applauded is the anti-corruption campaigns. Xi being an avid student of imperial history is well conversant with the old dynastic cycle involving the “mandate of heaven” — The Chinese philosophical concept under which emperor’s divine right to rule — was certainly vanished, all thanks to corruption, inequity and ineptitude. In spite of this awareness, it’s interesting to ponder how China’s contemporary anti- corruption framework imitates the Ming’s touring corruption inspector’s system. It was clearly stated in a recent research paper published, by the group of academics at Beijing Normal University that the country is following the footsteps of its predecessors- old imperial system in discipline and inspection regime, but its subject to the same flaws, as in past. The Chinese tradition of strong family ties, prevailing since the time immemorial hasn’t until lost its value, where it’s still considered deplorable to let down your family, clan and friends than to breach the law in Ming’s era, the corruption inspectors, abiding the said principles laid down under the constraints of Confucian morality exercising ultimate powers without effective supervision, thus many inspectors had fallen prey to corruption. Another flaw to bring down the empire was the lack of independence found within the imperial anti-corruption system and inspectors were used by the emperor as a tool to rule the plebeians and courtier. In present china, this certainly applies, as Xi’s anti-corruption drive had thrown out all the senior officials, who were members of the powerful political rival group, but his act cannot be disregarded to root out corruption, however he is of a view that his rule might be under threat and may create political instability, when no one left to rule after clean sweep.

To the contrary, In Pakistan’s distorted political structure with failing state apparatus and futile anti-corruption laws; we have unfortunately failed to include the definition of corruption. The explanation of the term corruption was not found in the legislative framework, prior to the promulgation of the Ehtesab ordinance 1997. In addition, the Ehtesab ordinance and later superseded by National Accountability ordinance 1999 in explaining corruption and corrupt practices, through six characteristics by the former, and then through 12 characteristics by the latter.

Until 1997, our supreme lawmakers in the comfort of parliament had only focused on anti-corruption laws targeting government servants; it includes people employed by the state, such as every officer of the bureaucracy, the police and a court of justice or tax official or land, but not the people’s representative. The constituent assembly adopted the first anti-corruption legislation under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1947; its enactment was constrained to public servants and in force but lacks in defining corruption than criminal misconduct. Moreover, there is a list of laws to curb the corruption menace, which are no different to its predecessors, such as the ombudsman’s laws and provincial anti-corruption laws, including Discipline and Accountability Act 2006, Punjab Employees Efficiency, and the Sindh Prevention of Bribery and Corruption Act 1950. The application of Provincial anti-corruption laws has the limitation upon the government officer employed by the provincial governments and doesn’t apply to hold senior officials of a province accountable, either during or after their office tenure and so does the Wafaqi Muhtasib’s law are suffering from a same deficit. In addition, the provincial anti-corruption establishment has failed to work within its defined parameters. Under the creation of Federal Investigative Agency Act 1974, The Federal Investigative Agency has a section dealing with the corruption offences relating to the federal government; however this law enforcement agency is swayed by the political interferences. The institutions- the offices of ombudsman, FIA and provincial anti-corruption establishment are impotent to investigate the corruption against certain state institutions established by dedicated laws, such as the army, medical or legal practitioner

The aforementioned institutions have failed to define corruption and it’s in rare practice that any institutions may proceed against members of their body, thus resulting in zero conviction, which makes the institutional laws futile. The trouble within this state is the multiplicity of anti-corruption laws, which are obsolete and prevent a certain class of people or institutions to fall within their ambit, as a result they enjoy an implied immunity.

Furthermore, our legislatures must ponder and acquaint with the significance of whistle-blowing laws which ensures to a public servant or any other private employee of zero retaliation from the employer on exposing instances of corruption. This measure will help to strengthen the lost trust and would give courage to government servants to reveal the tales of corruption and fraud without any fright of being subject to the state persecution. In addition, the anti-corruption laws enacted by the lawmakers in their self-interest and providing safe heaven to some institutions is no more less than a criminal approach. Then, the anti-corruption institutions are not equipped with the autonomous powers, all thanks to our legislatures, who have failed to empower them. Thus, both the state and its institution have become the victims of political interferences, which have barred transparent investigations. The key to success lies with the legislature, if we are determined to root out the corruption.


The writer is a freelance columnist.