Can Imran Khan really end corruption in Pakistan? | Daily News

Can Imran Khan really end corruption in Pakistan?

As Pakistan fights to curtail corruption, the government can look toward China and India for anti-corruption policies:

In the 23rd anniversary of the founding of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), one of Pakistan’s leading political parties, the party’s chairman and current Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan took to Twitter to reiterate his party’s 24-year-old struggle “to fight [the] corrupt status quo.”

Undoubtedly, Khan is known for his crusade against corruption more than anything else. Building on the anti-corruption narrative that he pushed for in his election campaign, Khan continues to work toward eliminating corrupt families from the country as he enters his ninth month in office. Nevertheless, doubt surrounds his anti-corruption drive, although it sounds like his regime has learned from China and India on anti-corruption.

President Xi Jinping of China and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India have faced similar struggles against corruption in their respective tenures. Rampant corruption exists in all three countries and anti-corruption measures have been one of the top priorities of the countries’ three leaders. Despite these similarities, the three nations have certain differences in their anti-corruption policies, with varied strengths and weaknesses — the results of which can be seen in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2018. Compared with China (ranked 87th out of 175) and India (ranked 78th), Pakistan (ranked 117th) has performed relatively poorly. Though Khan has expressed his desire to mimic China’s anti-corruption policy with its fight against “tigers” (corrupt officials), looking toward India’s demonetization policy could turn things around for Pakistan.

Keeping in view China and India’s anti-corruption policies, the discourse on corruption in Pakistan needs to be guided by two key questions. First, what has motivated Khan’s anti-corruption movement? Second, how effective has Khan’s anti-corruption drive been so far?

When Khan took office in August 2018, he inherited a government with a substantial budget deficit, formidable debts, and shrinking foreign reserves. Khan holds his corrupt predecessors responsible for the country’s economic downfall and believes that recovering the looted money will ease the burden on the economy. Similar to Modi’s claims regarding his anti-corruption movement, Khan’s stated motivation behind rooting corruption out of Pakistan is to improve the country’s economy, reduce income inequality, and eradicate poverty. This is a sort of Robin Hood style of anti-corruption efforts, similar to what has been unfolding in India under Modi’s regime. However, while most research shows that corruption stifles social and economic development, corruption is not the principal factor that accounts for Pakistan’s economic challenges. In fact, a drop in corruption may not automatically accelerate economic growth.

Khan’s persistence in recovering looted money from members of opposition parties in particular has cast doubt on his real motivation behind eliminating corruption. This is further confirmed by Khan’s targeting of political opponents through Pakistan’s anti-corruption agency, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), to recover allegedly stolen money from them. Several high-profile leaders from opposition parties have been investigated through the NAB, including former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2018, and former President Asif Ali Zardari, investigations against whom are currently underway.

Viewed in this light, China’s anti-corruption drive, led by President Xi Jinping, seems to be motivated by the same factors as Khan’s current anti-corruption movement. Xi has eliminated key members of rival factions within the CCP, including the Youth League faction led by the former President Hu Jintao. It seems that Xi has been more aggressive in dealing with corruption than in addressing economic reforms, resulting in strong support from the public but leaving the economic implications of his anti-corruption policy uncertain.

China and Pakistan’s approaches against corruption are more popular where the immediate goal is to prosecute political opponents. Their campaigns are more about managing the consequences of corruption as opposed to rooting it out altogether and ensuring positive economic outcomes. India, however, has adopted a strategic approach through its demonetization policy, albeit controversial and heavily flawed. New Delhi not only aims to root out corruption from all tiers of society but also has a wider goal of economic development and income redistribution.

- The Diplomat


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