One factor putting us low in the global corruption perception index is our weak regulatory framework that is poorly designed and in utter disregard for international best principles to ensure transparency. For example, it is the fundamental principle of law that the burden of proof rests with the prosecution, but in the NAB law, the onus of proof is shifted to the accused. Now, the incumbent government has tried to change it by introducing amendments to the NAO 1999. In the past, NAB used to charge the accused at the initial stage without discharging the necessary onus, so when contested before superior courts, it could never sustain. Secondly, it is a fundamental right enshrined in Article 12 of the Constitution that no criminal law shall take effect retrospectively. However, in blatant violation of the land’s supreme law, NAB law was made effective from January 1, 1985, and continues to be valid to date.
Yet another factor that needs to be taken strictly into account is maintaining the privacy of personal data/matters of the accused. Sharing of information must remain strictly official with specific directions about data confidentiality, but in Pakistan, few select journalists have recently claimed that top officials of key institutions have been sharing with them records and case files of various politicians implicated in NAB cases to harm their reputation. Such breaches are not tolerated in any civilised society upholding the rule of law. The Apex Court needs to investigate this matter, and if verified, the culprits must be punished to prevent a serious breach of privacy that can cause irreparable damage to the overall accountability process. This testifies to the fact that the accountability process in Pakistan has mainly been for arm twisting and political management. In our case, due to selective accountability and arbitrary judicial decisions, corruption has infested all segments of society and destroyed the country’s economic standing. Resultantly, global lenders have started requiring a comprehensive framework to avert corruption. The recent negotiation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is a classic example of global concerns attached to our measures against countering corruption.
Similarly, Pakistan has been dealing with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) since 2016, when for the first time, it warned us about our deficiencies in the Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Countering Financing of Terrorism (CFT) Regime. Despite addressing the major part of technical compliance, we have failed to win the trust of this global community in countering financial crimes. Pakistan being a responsible state, should act in accordance with standards set by FATF et al. Though we have comprehensive laws and regulations but these are arbitrarily used against opponents while the real culprits, due to their strong connection with the powerful elite club, escape prosecution. Reports of corruption scandals alluded to the PTI government in various sectors such as sugar, wheat, ring road project, Tosha Khana, which are linked to those at the helm of affairs. Other allegations are related to medicine prices, BRT, LNG etc., including taking favors from a known real estate tycoon and using a friend of the First Lady as a proxy which still needs to be investigated on merit and after fulfilling the requirements of Article 10A of the Constitution.
To curtail corruption, the first and most important step is to reform our judicial system. An independent judiciary not only strengthens the country’s democratic culture but also ensures the fulfillment of citizens’ basic rights under the constitution-ultimately creating a congenial environment for society and businesses. The process of appointing judges to the superior judiciary and their accountability should be revised. This role should solely be the prerogative of parliament. The concept of self-accountability through judicial commission needs reconsideration. This can be inferred from the cases of Mr. Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui and Mr. Justice Qazi Faez Isa. Moreover, in the last few years, some judgments related to high-profile political cases became controversial allegedly for want of jurisdiction under Article 175A of the Constitution, proving that without putting proper checks and balances in place, we cannot strengthen our institutions to eliminate corruption. Moreover, international institutions and regulatory bodies frequently update their methodology to combat this international challenge. Financial institutions and lenders who work closely with world economies are trying to implement global best practices to ensure rational utilization of allocated resources.
We also need to realize that with changing technological trends, governments can benefit from advanced tools to eradicate corruption. First, the legislature needs to devise a clear legal framework for any information-sharing mechanism for domestic as well as global community to follow the illicit flow of funds obtained through corruption and corrupt practices. The government should integrate tax administration and agencies involved in detecting and preventing corruption. We have to implement Article 5 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption which requires that each state takes an effective and coordinated approach to the prevention of corruption. The government should develop and implement comprehensive anti-corruption policies to encourage the participation of the public and private sectors. The government should ensure the rule of law and promote transparency in public administration. It should also set up a helpline and promote the culture of speaking up so that people can freely report any incident related to corruption. An overall culture of transparency alone can promote compliance; in this regard, the open government model with free access to information can help in discouraging corrupt practices. Accordingly, the role of strong and determined political leadership is critical to exhibiting reform agenda and developing institutions with appropriate resources and regulatory support to ensure accountability for all. Otherwise, we as a nation will continue to face embarrassment before the international community.
Dr. IkramulHaq, Advocate Supreme Court, specialises in constitutional, corporate, media, ML/CFT related laws, IT, intellectual property, arbitration and international tax laws. He is country editor and correspondent of International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation (IBFD) and member of International Fiscal Association (IFA). He is Visiting Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and member Advisory Board and Visiting Senior Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE)
Abdul Rauf Shakoori, Advocate High Court, is a subject-matter expert on AML-CFT, Compliance, Cyber Crime and Risk Management. He has been providing AML-CFT advisory and training services to financial institutions (banks, DNFBPs, Investment companies, Money Service Businesses, insurance companies and securities), government institutions including law enforcement agencies located in North America (USA & CANADA), Middle East and Pakistan. His areas of expertise include legal, strategic planning, cross border transactions including but not limited to joint ventures (JVs), mergers & acquisitions (M&A), takeovers, privatizations, overseas expansions, USA Patriot Act, Banking Secrecy Act, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)
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