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Pakistan - Corruption

Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan has said that Pakistan is a great nation but being ruled by corrupt thugs. “This is a great nation but corrupt mafia are sitting at the helm of affairs to loot and plunder, safeguarding one another,” Imran said while addressing Islamabad High Court Bar on October 26, 2016. Imran Khan’s broader narrative of tax evasion, illegal money transfer and lack of transparency in financial matters – which are draining Pakistan of desperately needed cash to provide basic amenities to the sixty million citizens living below the poverty line – is correct.

According to Panama Papers, some offshore companies owned by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s son Hussain Nawaz and daughter Mariam Safdar alias Maryam Nawaz Sharif; and assassinated Chairperson of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Benazir Bhutto, her close aide Senator Rehman Malik and her nephew Hassan Bhutto. The papers are not necessarily evidence of corruption, as using offshore structures is entirely legal. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s relatives Ilyas Mehraj and Samina Durrani also feature in the list. However, interestingly, no company was found to be registered in names of Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif themselves. Other political names include Pakistan Muslim League(Q) President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s close relative Waseem Gulzar and Zain Sukhera – a close friend of former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani’s son. Sukhera was also co-accused in Hajj Corruption Scandal along with Gilani’s son.

The Sharif family has property and business interests to protect. After the April 2016 release o thte Panama Papers, the prime minister hads no answers to the four charges that he was compelled to answer: concealment of assets, concealment of facts, failure to pay taxes and movement of personal funds using illegal channels. These charges have been around for over a decade and a half. Journalists had repeatedly written detailed stories, but like the subsequently proven wealth concealment cases against the PPP leadership involving the Surrey Palace and the diamond necklace cases, nothing had translated into conclusive legal action against any top political leader.

On 20 October 2016, the Supreme Court issued a notice to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and others over petitions seeking his disqualification on account of Panama Papers leaks. The Court ruled that it would not impede the PTI from exercising its democratic right to protest, but in doing so has transferred to both the PTI and the government the responsibility to ensure that any demonstration is peaceful. The Supreme Court has directed the government and other parties to present their Terms of References (TORs) for formation of commission on Panama Papers. Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said the government will fully respect the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) regarding investigation into the Panama Papers.

On 13 April 2018 the Supreme Court imposed a life-time disqualification from politics on Nawaz Sharif under Article 62 (1) (f) of the constitution, which sets the precondition for a member of parliament to be "sadiq and amin" (honest and righteous). The judges believe Sharif is neither "honest" nor "righteous" because he failed to declare some financial assets during the 2017 trial that saw him losing premiership. Some analysts say the disappearance of Sharif, who remains popular among the Pakistani electorate, from the political scene will give the military more behind-the-scenes influence.

In July 2018, a special anti-corruption tribunal found the three guilty of owning foreign assets worth beyond their known sources of income.The so-called accountability court sentenced Nawaz Sharif, Maryam and Safdar to jail terms of 10 years, seven years and one year respectively.The convictions were appealed to the Islamabad High Court.

A high court in Pakistan ordered the release of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam, and son-in-law Mohammad Safdar, suspending the sentences handed to them for corruption. On 19 September 2018, a three-member panel of judges ruled the sentences “shall remain suspended until the final adjudication of the appeal.” Sharif was released, along with the other members of his family late Wednesday and were greeted by party leaders and workers outside the prison. The Sharifs had been in prison in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, which borders the national capital of Islamabad.

The former prime minister and his Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) party reject the corruption charges against him as politically motivated and allegedly designed to keep the former prime minister out of the July 25 elections.Sharif and his party leaders accused the powerful military of orchestrating the judicial proceedings.

Corruption remains widespread in Pakistan, especially in the areas of government procurement, international contracts, and taxation. Giving and accepting bribes are criminal acts punishable by confiscation of property, imprisonment, recovery of ill-gotten gains, dismissal from governmental service, and reduction in governmental rank. In 2011, Pakistan ranked 134 in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (with a score of 2.5 out of 10), gaining 9 places from 143 in 2010.

The law provides for criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) organized under the 1999 National Accountability Ordinance, serves as the highest-level anti-corruption organization, with a mandate to eliminate corruption through awareness, prevention, and enforcement. Initially focusing its efforts on well-known politicians and government officials guilty of gross abuses of power and stealing public funds, the NAB refocused its strategy in 2002 after citizens and human rights groups accused the agency of being a political tool for the detention of former officials and party leaders, as well as serving as a means to deviate from the normal justice system. During most of the year, the NAB was ineffective, largely because it did not have a chairman or prosecutor general, and was poorly funded. The former NAB chairman resigned in June 2010; the GoP appointed a new NAB Chairman in October 2011. Pakistan’s new anti-corruption leader spent the remaining part of 2011 working to fill long vacant positions and seeking appropriate funding levels needed to adequately perform NAB’s mandate.

The Competition Commission of Pakistan, formed in 2007, is an independent, quasi-regulatory, quasi-judicial body that worked to ensure competition between companies to enhance economic efficiency and protect consumers from anticompetitive behavior. The organization sought to prohibit corrupt activities, such as collusive practices, abuse of market dominance, deceptive marketing, and illegitimate mergers and acquisitions. Despite dynamic leadership, active community engagement, and lower-level court decisions against businesses engaged in anticompetitive activities, the Competition Commission is hindered by insufficient government funding and slow progress of its cases in the judicial court of appeals. Corruption was pervasive in politics and government, and various politicians and public office holders faced allegations of corruption, including bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, graft, and embezzlement.

A 2007 National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), promulgated under former president Pervez Musharraf, provided an amnesty mechanism for public officials who were accused of corruption, embezzlement, money laundering, murder, and terrorism between January 1, 1986, and October 12, 1999. In December 2009, the Supreme Court declared the NRO null and void, and reopened all 8,000 cases against those who had received amnesty, including the president, ministers, and parliamentarians. However, in January 2010, the Zardari government filed a petition challenging the Supreme Court's 2009 decision, and requesting its review. The issue remained unresolved at the end of 2011. Corruption within the lower levels of the police is common. The July 2010 survey by Transparency International noted that the major cause of corruption was lack of accountability, followed by lack of merit and low salaries. Some police charged fees to register genuine complaints and accepted money for registering false complaints. Bribes to avoid charges were commonplace. Critics charged that appointments of station house officers (SHOs) were politicized.

Widespread allegations of corruption plagued the government’s rental power plant projects (RPP), which were a priority in 2008-2009 to address the country’s acute energy shortage. Citizens and parliamentarians accused government officials of providing financial kickbacks and awarding extravagantly priced rental power plants to their close acquaintances. In December 2010 and January 2011, the Supreme Court found two power companies guilty of receiving more than 970 million rupees ($11.2 million) in advance payments to provide electricity but failing to commence commercial operations by the agreed date. The court ordered both companies to return the funds advanced, and the government abandoned the RPP power project as a policy priority.

Anecdotal reports persisted about corruption in the district and sessions courts, including reports of small-scale facilitation payments requested by court staff. Lower-court judges lacked the requisite independence and sometimes were pressured by superior court judges as to how to decide a case. Lower courts remained corrupt, inefficient, and subject to pressure from prominent wealthy, religious, and political figures. Government involvement in judicial appointments increased the government's control over the court system.

The 2002 Freedom of Information Ordinance allows any citizen access to public records held by a public body of the federal government, including ministries, departments, boards, councils, courts, and tribunals. It does not apply to government-owned corporations or provincial governments. The bodies must respond to requests for access within 21 days. Certain records are restricted from public access, including classified documents, those that would be harmful to a law enforcement case or an individual, or those that would cause grave and significant damage to the economy or the interests of the nation. NGOs criticized the ordinance for having too many exempt categories and for not encouraging proactive disclosure.

Pakistan is not a signatory to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery, but it is a signatory to the Asian Development Bank/OECD Anti Corruption Initiative. Pakistan has also ratified the UN Convention against corruption.

A six-member Joint Investigation Team was formulated to probe the offshore assets of ruling Sharif family. The Supreme Court of Pakistan announced the verdict of landmark Panama case on 20 April 2017, in which it ordered the formation of a Joint Investigation Team to probe the offshore assets of Sharif family. Representatives from Intra Services Intelligence, Military Intelligence, State Bank of Pakistan, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and National Accountability Bureau were part of the team headed by Wajid Zia of Federal Investigation Agency.

PM Nawaz Sharif said that soon after Panama Leaks, he had offered himself for accountability. He stressed, “The people of Pakistan need to understand that whatever is happening today has nothing to do with any corruption or embezzlement of the national exchequer, but it is the personal and private business of our family, that is being dragged”. All conspiracies against him and his family would be foiled, he said.

On 15 June 2017, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif recorded his statement before the JIT. Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz, the sons of the Prime Minister had also appeared before the JIT in connection with the investigation. Spokesman for Prime Minister Musadik Malik said that appearance of Prime Minister before Joint Investigation Team vindicates that he believed in rule of law and supremacy of constitution. He said Prime Minister has presented himself for accountability despite the fact that his name was not included in Panama Papers.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said that his family had served the purpose of rule of law in the country by appearing before the JIT formed by the Supreme Court to probe into the Panama Case. He was talking to the media in Islamabad on 17 June 2017 after recording his statement before the JIT. He said unlike the military dictators, the elected representatives respect the law and the constitution.

He said that he had recorded his statement before the JIT with utmost respect. He said the elected prime minister wrote a new chapter in the country's history by appearing before the JIT. He said it was an historic day when for the first time an elected provincial chief minister presented himself before the investigation team. Shahbaz Sharif said it is not the first time that his family has been subjected to accountability but in eras of PPP and military dictatorship, it was subjected to accountability. The Punjab Chief Minister said there are no corruption cases against his family and the case before the JIT belongs to their personal business.

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Page last modified: 28-09-2018 11:35:13 ZULU