Imran Munir Awan There are a few countries in the civilised world where both the President and the Prime Minister, along with a number of Cabinet members, are mired in allegations of corruption. But there would not be any where the highest court of the country finds itself inundated with cases of corruption and mismanagement involving the government one way or another. This singular honour belongs to our own country. Welcome to the Land of the Pure Granted, the problem of corruption is not new to our society, but it is alarming when the government of the day is perceived to be patronising shady practices. There is a massive lack of credibility in this government, a deficiency which surpasses all others, and which the government is not doing enough to redress. Ironically, hardly a day goes by when some bright character from the ranks of the government does not court a new controversy. And much of the precious time they are supposed to be spending on planning and policy-making for us is spent trying to cope with the fallout of their gratuitous behaviour. Whats more, this government seems to possess a monumental talent for choosing figures with unclean or questionable credentials for highly important posts. Perceptions matter, as all in the business of politics should know rather well. Political leaders, more than anyone else, usually devote a huge amount of energy and resources in trying to cultivate favourable public personas. Maintaining at least an outward appearance of sincerity and trustworthiness is vital to their political prospects. But the present governments lack of earnest effort in repairing its blemished public image is singularly daft, to say the least. It is hard not to worry when almost every important ministry and institution is rocked by scandals of corruption or mismanagement on a regular basis. Everyone, who happens to be anyone, seems to be in a race to plunder this country to its bare bones. And it does not help when ministers and representatives of the government confronted to answer for the mess simply laugh it away in disdainful arrogance. Such brazenness is born out of impunity, which the rulers of this country have enjoyed throughout its history. But since this government so proudly flaunts its democratic credentials, it cannot conveniently forget that the idea of accountability is fundamental to democracy. But what does this dwarfish moral stature of our current leadership portend in the wider context of society? One is stumped trying to name figures on the national stage with the ability to inspire us in any significant way. This sort of vacuum leads to numerous political and social consequences, jeopardising the chances of any meaningful progress. Already, a close look at the moral fabric of our society will most likely reveal a ghastly, moth-eaten reality. Things are pretty ugly down there: A gruesome picture of downright selfishness and greed, unbounded corruption, and shameless hypocrisy. Even though a social scientist will probably dig much deeper for the causes, our so-called leaders scramble for power and money, and its trickle-down effect on various segments of society, leaves little to the imagination. Of course, the problem of corruption is not unique to us, but its endemic nature in our society suggests that we are unduly tolerant of this evil. It does not elicit the kind of social disapproval that it deserves. Inevitably, when people in important positions are seen to be devious and shadowy, it is hardly surprising if ordinary people also feel justified in dishonest practices. One would have to be wilfully blind to deny that most government-owned organisations are rotten to the core. So much so that even the most honest among us are forced to offer bribes and gifts, or risk not getting a legitimate job done, such as the procurement of the national identity card, passport, or a driving licence. Having spread its tentacles in almost all sections of society, corruption has lost its shock value. When something vile fails to offend our morality, it threatens to become acceptable behaviour. And when the fraudulent and the crooked thrive, putrefaction is a natural consequence. Interestingly, however, it would be wrong to assume that the monster of corruption is intractable in Pakistan. Most probably, our biggest bane is institutional corruption, which can always be tackled with effective safeguards and a strong system of checks and balances. There is always hope in the case of systemic problems because they can be addressed by reforming the system. All systems are modifiable, provided someone feels the need to change them, and has the will to do it. To begin with, the least this government can do is to undertake a comprehensive reforms initiative for all state-run institutions. In fact, this is an incredibly easy task to perform, as long as the political will is there. All we have to do is closely examine the way developed western countries have organised their institutions. There are successful models there waiting to be embraced by anyone that comes looking for them. In any case, to be effective at all, those at the helm of affairs will have to put their own house in order first. They must, first of all, establish their own credibility. The task of cleaning up has to start at the top. Leadership is established through example, not by sheer rhetoric and hollow promises. A leader, as Napoleon Bonaparte said, is a dealer in hope. Leadership is all about vision, strategy and resourcefulness. And more than anything else, it is built upon impeccable and unimpeachable character. What this country actually requires is someone fitting this description. The writer is an academic. Email: