Musharraf by the Numbers: Corruption Under Musharraf

2 Feb

Hard data on Pakistan is hard to come by. Where available, doubts exist as to its veracity. For example, it is widely believed that the government numbers on inflation are fudged. Since the census is used for distribution of funds, jobs, and enrollment in colleges, political considerations are thought to affect it. Sometimes the numbers offered by different government departments about the same quantity don’t match. And no explanation is offered about sudden wide fluctuations in numbers. For example, the number of students enrolled in the country’s universities nearly doubled from 126,000 to 218,000 in 2003–2004. (I tackle the mystery in a future column on education.)

It’s time to open the bright orange black box!

Musharraf came into power on October 12th, 1999 after removing Nawaz Sharif in a bloodless coup. He installed himself as the ‘Chief Executive’ and has effectively controlled Pakistan along with his coterie since then. The history of power is the history of corruption—mostly. As Selig Harrison, writing for the International Herald Tribune, argues, Musharraf may contend that he clings to power to protect the country from the scourge of corruption and fundamentalism, his real reasons are banaler—maintaining the $5 billion commercial empire under the control of the military. (The figure is supported by Ayesha Siddiqa in Military Inc.)

Corruption in the third world is endemic. And so are inadequate and inefficient legal structures. Pakistan’s courts carry the yellowing remains of at least 1.3 million (2004 estimate, 2003 figures; Law and Justice Commission) pending cases in its orifice. The situation in India is considerably grimmer with an estimated 30 million pending cases. (RTI India).

Since 1995, when Transparency International started its cross-country surveys on corruption, Pakistan has consistently dredged the bottom. It scored an exceptionally low raw score of 1 in 1996 under Bhutto, and the scores have never gone beyond 2.7 (1998).

“One of the biggest curses from which India is suffering is bribery and corruption. That really is a poison. We must put that down with an iron hand and I hope that you will take adequate measures as soon as it is possible for this Assembly to do so.”

Address by Quaid-i-Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on his election as President (11th August 1947)

Taking Jinnah’s cue, Musharraf signed into law National Accountability Ordinance (1999, amended 2002 and 2003), and launched an anti-corruption drive—National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) in 2002. National Accountability Bureau, an “apex anti-corruption organization”, came into force as part of NAO to enforce anti-corruption measures. A police order (No. 22) was also signed into place in 2002 with the intention of reforming the police. It appears that all this activity had a modest temporary effect, with raw scores rising from 2.2 to 2.6 between 1999 and 2002, and then taking a sharp fall starting 2003.

TI Corruption Perception Ranking for Pakistan*

Year	Rank	Score
1995	39/41	2.25
1996 	53/54	1.0
1997 	48/52	2.53
1998	71/85	2.7
Musharraf came to power near the end of 1999
1999 	88/99	2.2
2000 	Pakistan not included
2001 	79/91	2.3
2002    81/105	2.6        
2003	96/133	2.5        
2004	134/145	2.1       
2005	146/159	2.1       
2006	142/163	2.2
2007	138/179	2.4

Source: Transparency International

To help put Pakistan’s scores in perspective, Pakistan scored lower in 2007 than Uganda, Malawi, and Cameroon. While Pakistan regularly trawls the bottom of the Corruption Perception Index, its neighbor India has done better. In 2006 rankings, it sat in the middle with a rank of 70, though the raw score differential was a mere 1.1 points.

A survey within Pakistan found that the most corrupt province was Punjab followed by Sindh. Similarly, the most corrupt departments haven’t changed much between 2002 and 2006 except taxation, which is now seen as less corrupt, and land department more.

2006	2002
Police	Police
Power  Power
Judiciary Taxation
Land	Judiciary
Taxation Custom
Custom	Health
Health	Land    
Education Education
Railway	Railway
Bank	Bank

Source: Major Findings of Pakistan National Corruption Perception Survey 2006

Further Reading: