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Dawn

Published Date: Mar 21, 2013

Accountability to flourish with democracy

Experts
and professionals from various fields failed to find a common ground on the
issue of combating corruption, but did agree that continuation of democracy
would help strengthen accountability in the country.

They
were speaking at a policy symposium on ‘Anti-Corruption strategy: a civil
society perspective’ organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute
(SDPI) here on Wednesday.

Speakers
discussed socio-economic, political and developmental cost of corruption and
compared policy options available to overcome it.

Though,
all agreed that corruption was a serious issue in Pakistan, they had their own
reasoning for the causes of corruption and the remedial measures.

Professor
Robert Klitgaard of Claremount University, California, lauded Pakistanis,
saying that they had the potential but weak governance and lack of
accountability hampered development.

He
referred to the ‘Global Competitiveness Report 2013 where corruption was
highlighted as the most problematic factor for doing business in Pakistan
followed by inefficient government, bureaucracy and policy instability.

He
also referred to various successful and innovative anti-corruption measures
taken throughout the world.

As
election fever is gripping the country, many speakers linked their discussions
with democracy in Pakistan.

It
was noted that by strengthening anti-corruption structures, democracy in
Pakistan would strengthen.

Economist
and former adviser to Sindh chief minister Dr Kaiser Bengali said corruption in
society resulted from gross inequalities as a few feudals and industrialists
controlled lives of millions of people in economic terms.

“Today
political parties were not competing for ideas for providing welfare but were
battling for distribution of spoils and state resources,” Dr Bengali said.

“Ruling
elite comes into power through corrupt practices so why they would place
accountability mechanism that can challenge them,” he added.

He
said institutionalisation of corruption and its use as a policy tool was first
seen in Zia’s regime in the form of allocating development funds to
politicians, and tacit and explicit distribution of bank loans which were later
exempted.

Former
interim chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Shamsul Mulk, said governments in
Pakistan were never ‘true representatives’ of the people and were not
interested in introducing accountability mechanisms or delivering to the
people’s demands.

He
said to reform governance structure introduction of local governance system was
a necessity to provide service delivery at micro level.

However,
other speakers, including former government officers, failed to present
concrete ideas for eradication of corruption in the country based on their
experience in service.

Syed
Kamal Shah, former interior secretary, suggested a top down accountability
framework and asked the top leadership of the country to exhibit exemplary
roles.

Another
speaker, Brigadier (retired) Musaddiq Abbasi, demanded greater autonomy and
constitutional protection for the accountability institutions while Sakib
Sherani, former economic adviser to the finance ministry, proposed systemic
disclosure of government information to show its commitment to transparency,
rule of law and accountability. Ambassador (retired) Shafqat Kakakhel, member
board of governors, SDPI, said the country was going to polls in the coming
months so there was a need to bring accountability discourse high in the
agendas of political parties.