According to the popular analyst Najam Sethi corruption is an essential ingredient of capitalism. It provides the incentive for efficiency. Without personal gains no system can be made productive. In Pakistan over the years the common good has been totally ignored. With non-functional institutions the corrupt have nothing to fear. Even in case of cut throat, unbridled capitalism there are some regulatory mechanisms to contain misuse of authority and power but no such oversight exists in the land of the pure.

Pakistan started off well. People at the helm were both able and honest. Common good was the overriding agenda. Institutions were functional but in transition from colonial controls to service to the people. Transportation was efficient and effective. Pakistan Railways (PR) was profitable and Pakistan International was one of the best airlines of the world. One of the PR employee was caught transporting personal goods without payment. An inquiry was held after which he was dismissed from service. He then started his legal practice and rose to be a leading lawyer of his times. He was an able individual whose dishonesty was caught and punished. Today no such control mechanisms exist.

During the Zia regime, Lt. Gen Saeed Qadir was assigned the task of improving the performance of the national carrier. He brought in a fresh lot of able individuals as the professional Railway men went home in protest. Today, while PR is running record losses most of these able personalities are facing NAB investigations.

In Iran after the 1979 revolution, all the Shah’s able officers were rounded up and convicted after summary trials. Their dishonesty to the nation was punished . A fresh start with young and honest individuals was made. Instead of ability, honesty was preferred. Soon these newcomers picked up the required skills to perform their duties with honesty and ability.

In the land of the pure, today there is a clear divide, most able individuals are dishonest, while the honest are not so able. With no check and balance mechanisms in place it is a big mess. The able deliver but for themselves while the honest sit and watch only to complain. Instead of learning from their able companions and superiors, the honest are being cornered or hounded.

Early eighties I drove across Europe to enter Pakistan at the Taftan border. I could cross several borders but needed a bank guarantee to enter the motherland. My father arranged the paperwork through his bank. On entry I changed some US dollars for local currency. Next morning while I was still in bed in my hotel room in Quetta there was a knock on the door. I was informed that a team from the bank wanted to meet me. They informed me that they had miscalculated the exchange rate and overpaid me. I was impressed by their efficiency; they traced me down when their own interest was involved. I went back to the bank and settled the matter.

These so called able for themselves individuals have hurt us bad. They enjoy salaries and perks from public money while they serve their own personal interests with almost zero service to the people they are meant to facilitate, at least as a first step all perks should be immediately withdrawn from the able who have perfected the art of their misuse. Government officers transport and fuel bill runs into billions. There is no justification for individual transport allocation. Only transport pools should be allowed with strict log of use.

A similar situation prevails for most public records. The able and the corrupt can manipulate record at will while the honest helplessly watch. In Iran it took them a decade to weed out the able but corrupt. The honest novices who replaced them took a few months to saddle their responsibilities. For a long time most departments were headed by young and inexperienced but well educated professionals who had commitment for common good. Now a cadre of honest and able managers has emerged who are leading from the front. Iran is at the take off stage once the state controls are reduced and private sector allowed to operate the country is ready to enter the ranks of the Asian Tigers.

For better governance these able but corrupt sharks have to be pushed out of the system enabling the honest to take charge, learn and then lead. Without honesty of purpose no task can be accomplished. Since 1958 common good and nation building has been stalled enabling the viscous vultures to feed over the flesh and blood of the nation. This has to stop for the people to grow and prosper. Service to the masses not to themselves matters everything else is secondary.