Combating corruption: Experts call for accountability, legal framework

Pakistan on 20 November 2013
Location : Islamabad | Source : Express Tribune. Image Source: Flickr User Conner 395

From what seems to be one of Pakistan’s biggest challenges, corruption secures the top slot with 31 per cent cases reported at the Supreme Court in the last five years.

Lack of political will and flawed legal framework are the root causes of the rise in corruption, pointed out with unanimity by lawyers, academics, researchers and human rights activists at a consultation session, raising serious concerns about the existing legal practices covering the issue.

The national consultation on “Accountability laws and policies: the way forward” was organized by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), here on Tuesday.

The participants asked the government to devise a proper legal framework which could effectively tackle the issue and hold perpetrators of corrupt practices accountable.

Ranked 134th out of a total of 176 countries on the Corruption Perception Index 2012, prepared by Transparency International (TI), experts were of the view that no serious effort has been made to revamp and revisit the laws.

According to a statement issued by HRCP after the consultation session, under the existing laws, a subject of random discourse for years, corruption has continuously prevailed at all levels of governance and decision making.

Reema Omer, legal adviser at the International Commission of Jurists, during her presentation described the menace as human rights violations and said that out of all the cases reported at the SC from 2006 to 2013, most were related to corruption followed by those related to police brutality, law and order, employment and labour and environmental issues.

While the discussion twirled around the historical failures that connected with the current scenario, many of the legal experts defended their position by pointing fingers at the system while the civil society and media representatives raised questions about the accountability of the judiciary itself.

Executive Director of Insaaf Network and Senior Fellow at the Jinnah Institute Raza Rumi said long term institutional decline has led a virtual collapse of the cross-accountability systems within the public sector institutions.

“Instead of focusing on high level corruption issue, Pakistan needs to think of petty corruption that its citizens face almost every day. Initiative starting at the grassroots urgently needs to be addressed”, he opined.

A number of experiments, starting with the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947, to the more sinister Public and Representative Officers (Disqualification) Act, 1950 (PRODA), have been done since the creation of Pakistan in this regard but, it has yet to see a viable legal framework backed by a strong collective will.

“Corruption is not merely a legal issue for the state but also one that is badly affecting fundamental human rights,” said I.A. Rehman, General Secretary HRCP.

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