Siddique Humayun

he sphere of corruption can be broadly divided into political, moral, and corporate corruption. When a government is corrupt, it is known as a “kleptocracy”, literally; “rule by thieves”. One should not be surprised to know that the cancerous cells of corruption can be of any type, raneging from electoral fraud, bribery, embezzlement, to cronyism and nepotism.  Although, none of these are present without a cause, a cause that can be bad governance, especially in case of Pakistan, weak rule of law, lack of investigative journalism, political instability, or red-tape. Such causes lead to corruption, and corruption then gives rise to inefficiency, undermining good governance, reducing accountability and representation, and even inflating the cost of doing business. While a society is falling into the abyss of venality and bribery; corruption further spreads its wings on the political and moral elements of a civilization.
politicians do affects the morals of a society on a much larger scale. Corruption in politics is an age-old phenomenon, perhaps as old as democracy itself. While public offices are used and abused for private gain, discontent and disharmony spreads among the masses. For instance, if one takes the example of modern day monarchies, nepotism and cronyism takes precedence over eligibility and merit; much of the Middle East is a glaring example in case. A country that has its whole system of politics and establishment entangled in the web of corruption is rightfully called, “kleptocracy”; the dreadful rule by thieves.
When those who rule are dishonest, those who are ruled will be discontent. Corruption will trickle down from the highest corridors of power to every sphere of life. Culture and civilization will degenerate and the whole society will find bribery, larceny, fraud, and every type of mal-practice a necessity. Offices will be sold to the highest bidder, those in authority will grow stronger, and the masses will feel helpless. However, such a condition if last for a very long period of time; it will end in the moral death of a society. As it is, when public life is in such a corrupt state, private life cannot remain aloof.
Corporate business may employ methods of bribery and fraud to bypass regulations and red-tape. Officials may further complex the procedures and practices of office, leading to the filtration of new businesses that might not be able or willing to employ corrupt means. While in the beginning, bribery may sound like the 'easy-way out' of the labyrinth of red-tape, it is argued that eliminating red-tape openly is a far better and desirable option than covertly bypassing it. Although, corruption has many types, the most commonly applied ones are fraud in elections, bribery, embezzlement, nepotism and cronyism.
Electoral fraud is a common practice in developing countries and authoritarian regimes. This leads to misrepresentation and as a result those who ought to govern the people by their consent are by-passed by those who have their concerns in profit-making rather policy-making. In Pakistan, such practices have been very common. More recently, a bureaucrat who refused to bow down to such corrupt pressure in the Election Commission of Pakistan, setting an example, took pre-mature retirement rather be party to electoral fraud by postponing elections.  One finds numerous examples of embezzlement and bribery linked with electoral fraud and almost every sphere of life. It is not hard to imagine that those who refuse corrupt means are pressurized and bribed to give in, and if they are honest still, which is hardly ever the case in Pakistan, they are humbled out of office due to their own conscience.
World Bank has put the annual worldwide figure of bribery at a staggering One Trillion dollar. If one turns the pages of history, one finds numerous examples of systematic bribery and embezzlement in public office employed by statesmen of the now developed world. For example, Robert Walpole, the first Prime Minister of England quite openly used all the means of corruption and bribery to get his policies approved; so much so that the period is rightfully dubbed as the “Whig Oligarchy”. When Pitt, the Elder refused to take bribes or embezzle funds as Chancellor of the Exchequer, it was a sight of amusement and astonishment for the countrymen; much like the public and private life was astonished at the premature retirement of Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan. The life of the honest, as the road to righteousness, is always strewed with hardship and adversity.
While corruption is mostly regarded as bribery or embezzlement; nepotism and cronyism is still a reality of the world. One should be aware that while nepotism is favoring one's family, cronyism is favoring one's long standing friends. Countless examples of this can be found in Middle Eastern countries. For example, Moammer Gaddafi, leader of Libya, has appointed his sons on important public posts. Mustasim Gaddafi, for instance, is his father's National Defence Advisor. A government might find it feasible to replace high-ranking officials with those who are more inclined with implementing its agenda, and it may not be regarded as a form of corruption; however, if such a thing is done without regard to eligibility, competence, and ability, then it falls in the definition of corruption. The Chairman National Accountability Bureau is another such example where cronyism has taken precedence over integrity and merit. This leads to another important question, what causes corruption? If people feel and know bribe giving and bribe taking is a curse, then why do they do it?
The answer lies in bad governance as much as it lies in weak rule of law and lack of investigative reporting. When there is political instability in a country and people are unaware of what might happen tomorrow; the government has kept its place with the help of electoral fraud, and embezzlement of funds is a common practice, the culture of corruption takes its roots in the whole society. People lose confidence in
kept its place with the help of electoral fraud, and embezzlement of funds is a common practice, the culture of corruption takes its roots in the whole society. People lose confidence in government, public offices become a circus barbed with red-tape, and as far as a helpless common man is concerned, bribe becomes the only solution for him to be heard. In such a scenario, those in power seldom find it important to change the status quo. At times, procedures are made more complex and in a public office, the clerical staff may become a hurdle for the public they ought to serve. Bad governance leads and at times goads the public to employ unfair means to get their legitimate concerns pass through; whereas a little undue cash or linkages from above maybe able pull an otherwise undeserving individual up the ladder of success; bypassing more competent, yet less corrupt people; creating a vicious circle of bribery, nepotism, and fraud that feeds on a lack of or a weak rule of law as much as it nourishes instability and bad governance. Where whistleblowers are persecuted and judiciary fails to keep a check on such dereliction, corruption finds its place and grows exponentially. Media is either reigned in, or is happy to oblige, in the face of bribery, those who ought to be exposed. Such behavior has repercussions on the whole society.
One of the main effects of corruption is that it gives rise to inefficiency. What is supposed to be done without any requirement, is simply not done in hopes of bribes and/ it may become second priority to those things that are either backed by bribes or picked by links. This results in bad governance as merit is over-looked. Accountability is lost in the Black Hole of corruption and representation is sacrificed on the altar of electoral fraud. While at start it may reduce the cost of business, bypassing rules and regulation, it increases cost of doing and starting business as procedures that are obliged to be followed on the policy of merit are followed on the policy of exploitation. It is in such a condition that the diverse effects of corruption come to the forefront, making it the bane of a society that cannot be overlooked. Under such conditions and developments, where corruption arrives at its apogee, it also reaches the true meaning of itself. A society is shackled and utterly broken under the weight of corruption and so it falls into a gradual process of degeneration. Hysteria develops, the social fabric of a society is ripped to shreds and sooner or later it falls in disharmony and discontent – either to be saved by a miracle of statesmanship, or lost in oblivion as a forgotten tale of bribery, nepotism, and fraud. It is in such a scenario that the old saying comes true; corruptio optima pessima – the best things corrupted becomes the worst.
People may wish their society to be free of corruption, but this may not happen until and unless a bottom up approach is applied. It is only when the common man accepts the right way himself, and only after he realizes and accepts his merit through competition and hard work, can he dream of a society free of corruption. And it is only after such a collective thinking is nurtured in the Land of the Pure that the country can hope to improve its ranking from currently the 42nd most corrupt country to a competitive and honest one; from a kleptocracy to a democracy; and from degeneration to progress.