When the New York Times was able to secure President Trump’s tax-return data for the last two decades—reportedly paying a meagre sum of $750 in total—many felt that this is why the President had been dodging the question since his first election campaign. He is the first president, in 47 years, who had refused to adhere to the established notions of transparency that a democratic nation requires. This phenomenon is one that we are all too familiar with in Pakistan, where the influential flout the rules and fail to lead by example. In the longer run, all this does is nurture a setup which tolerates deceit by leaders who neglect their democratic responsibilities.

In principle, any country that adopts democracy as a system of governance requires its politicians to be law abiding citizens in order to inspire faith in their ability to create, discuss and implement law and policies. As such, it is imperative for prominent members of the government, especially presidents and prime ministers, to disclose information regarding any debt they may have, sources of income, tax payments and the like. The failure to do so can result in countless audits—like the one being led by the Internal Revenue Service on Trump’s $72.9 million tax refund—by authorities and, consequently, public backlash that diminishes confidence in governance.

Pakistan, over the course of the last few years, has cracked down on officials who were suspected of unscrupulous dealings that went against the interests of the country. Countless cases of money laundering, tax avoidance, tax evasion and corruption were, and continue to be, initiated by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in order to enforce accountability and prevent instances of corruption that rob the state of valuable resources which can be used to aid the population.

As soon as powerful individuals make dubious statements or refuse to prove their abidance of the law, the entire system threatens to crumble under the weight of underhanded works of self-interest.