The curse of corruption and non-transparency has haunted Pakistan for the past many decades. The most disturbing fact, though, relates to the past decade in which the Musharraf regime was involved in embezzlement of state finances and assets on an unimaginable scale. Over $15 billion in aid stands unaccounted for. The various procurements made for Defense, PIA, Railways, State Oil etc are also not quite balanced in books. The irregularities in award of the gold and copper mining contracts to an Australian firm are yet to be properly probed. However, the fact that transparency is still an issue after the 18 Feb, 2008 elections despite an elected civil government and a parliament being in place is most disheartening of all. When appointments of controversial individuals with a history of financial irregularities are made by an elected government, the questions arise about why they are done and why they are allowed to be done by the system? The issue actually is that of the mindset of the elected executive, which allocates to itself the sort of discretionary powers that do not exist in a democratic system. How else can the appointments in violation of merit and rules be made in Ministry of Health, PSO, Steel Mills, PIAC etc or the favors extended to construction firms in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad be explained. The Pakistan chapter of Transparency International has recently met the PIA management where they were faced with the stone-walling usual with all corrupt places. How can you expect transparency in an organization which blatantly violates rules and makes irregular appointments in key management positions like that of DMD, Director Finance, Chief Internal Auditor etc? Those who made the criminal mess in the Ministry of Health had merited an exemplary punishment for endangering lives of thousands of patients, including infants of the poor. Even the accounts of the Karachi City government have not been audited although every paisa of public funds must be accounted for. There needs to be a thorough audit of all defense procurements too. Democracy suffers when those elected flout rules and abuse their powers of discretion. -RAHAT SIDDIQI, Karachi, January 17