Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf’s tenure is full of ironies. It has done everything in its tenure that it used to criticize its opponents for. In yet another ironic development, Pakistan has dropped 16 spots in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for 2021 compared to the previous year, according to the latest report of Transparency International (TI). It now stands at 140 out of 180 countries, with the 180th country perceived as the most corrupt by its people.
It is ironic that the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan whose politics revolve around punishing “corrupt politicians” has lost public trust and is perceived as more corrupt than the past governments. It is pertinent to note that Pakistan has continued to slide down on the index since PTI came into power. The country was ranked 117th in 2018, when PML-N was in power, dropped three spots in 2019 to come at 120th and further dropped four to reach 124th in 2020.
The 2021 ranking was the single biggest jump in the corruption index for Pakistan. According to the CPI 2021, the “deteriorating rule of law” and “state capture” are the main reasons behind a significant rise in corruption in Pakistan.
In its report, TI found countries that violate civil liberties consistently score lower on the CPI. Complacency in fighting corruption exacerbates human rights abuses and undermines democracy, setting off a vicious spiral. As these rights and freedoms erode and democracy declines, authoritarianism takes its place, contributing to even higher levels of corruption.
TI has been compiling the corruption index since 1995. The index ranks countries and territories “by their perceived levels of public sector corruption as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys.” It is based on 13 expert assessments and surveys of business executives. The sources also include the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, and private risk and consulting firms.
In the past, Khan regularly cited the TI’s reports in his speeches as “evidence” of the corruption of his political opponents. However, when the current report was released this year, his ministers went into overdrive to discredit its figures and defend the government’s performance. Commenting on Pakistan’s faltering score in TI’s CPI, Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry claimed that there is no evidence to suggest either the rule of law or financial corruption have worsened over the past year.
However, public reaction to the report was swift and unrelenting. Many on social media platforms shared a collage of Imran Khan’s past speeches where he cited TI rankings to prove that his opponents were corrupt. Opposition leaders, journalists, academics and the general public were quick to endorse TI’s findings and point out contradictions in the party’s attitude towards the transparency watchdog.
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Mian Shehbaz Sharif wrote on Twitter, “Corruption rampant in ‘Naya’ Pakistan of “anti-corruption Mujahid”. According to Transparency International, PTI govt has broken all records of corruption in the last 20 years. Among Asia-pacific region, Pakistan has unfortunately been ranked as the 5th most corrupt country.”
In addition, PML-N senator Dr Afnan Ullah Khan has submitted the adjournment motion in the Senate on behalf of the opposition to discuss the TI report on corruption.