CPI-2023 and Elections

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Qamar Bashir
Press Secretary to the President(Rtd)
Former Press Minister at Embassy of Pakistan to France
Former MD, SRBC

Pakistan’s improvement in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2023, with its score increasing from 27 to 29 and its ranking rising from 140 to 133, marks a significant achievement since 2021. This advancement reflects a positive change in the nation’s fight against corruption, potentially boosting its attractiveness for foreign investments and economic growth. This progress, the best since 2021, signifies an improved public perception of corruption reduction in the country, offering hope for future governance and development efforts. (For reference with a score of 1, Denmark is at position 1)

Marium Aurangzeb, the PML(N) spokesperson and former Information Minister, swiftly criticized the jailed ex-Prime Minister and PTI founder for failing to combat corruption, a major pledge of his administration. Concurrently, she lauded Shahbaz Sharif for Pakistan’s CPI score improvement during his term since April 2022, highlighting a significant governance milestone. This strategic narrative amplifies PML(N)’s governance credentials ahead of elections, contrasting their achievements with PTI’s shortcomings.

Historically, PML(N) have shown relatively lower corruption perceptions. Notably, during Nawaz Sharif’s tenure in 1999, Pakistan ranked significantly higher at 87th. This ranking suffered in 2008, dropping to 133rd, but saw improvement in 2013 to 127th. The 2021 ranking fell again to 140th, yet, in a notable recovery, 2023 witnessed a climb to 133rd with a score of 29, marking a commendable progress in Pakistan’s anti-corruption efforts.

Following Bloomberg’s positive economic review, Transparency International’s CPI 2023 further boosts PML(N)’s pre-election momentum, showcasing their governance and anti-corruption strides. These accolades form a compelling narrative for PML(N), reinforcing their image as a transparent and effective party committed to reform, aiming to sway voters with a record of tangible achievements.

Pakistan’s CPI 2023 score of 29, while an improvement, underscores the need for introspection rather than celebration. This rating places it below even some non-democratic regimes, highlighting the gap between Pakistan and nations with robust democracies and strong legal frameworks, which consistently outperform in anti-corruption efforts. This situation calls for a strategic reassessment and enhanced reforms to elevate Pakistan’s standing and governance.

Pakistan’s CPI score of 29 and ranking at 133rd, contrasted with India’s higher score of 39 and 93rd rank, underscores a significant concern. This gap highlights the urgent need for Pakistan to enhance its governance and anti-corruption measures to improve its standing and perception internationally, especially in comparison to its regional counterparts like India, which is recognized as a flawed democracy yet scores better.

According to the report, the countries with strong rule of law, well-functioning democratic institutions, and effective governance, transparency, and accountability mechanisms sit on the top of the table like Denmark (score 90), Finland (87), New Zealand (85), and Norway (84). Conversely, the countries, characterized by conflict, restricted freedoms, weak democratic institutions, inadequate justice systems, broader governance and societal challenges and inequality and injustice sit at the bottom of the table such as Somalia (score 11), Venezuela, Syria, and South Sudan (each scoring 13).

Given Pakistan’s economic challenges and the urgent need to revitalize its financial stability and investor confidence, a robust anti-corruption drive is imperative. Eradicating corruption is not just about enhancing governance; it’s crucial for leveling the economic playing field, fostering fair trade, attracting investments, and revitalizing tourism. It’s a foundational step toward ensuring equitable access to services and bolstering public welfare, essential for Pakistan’s rapid progress and global standing. For sustainable development and better international relations, this fight against corruption must be prioritized.

Pakistan can engage with top-performing countries on the CPI index through diplomatic channels and international cooperation forums. By initiating dialogues, exchanging best practices, and seeking technical assistance or joint anti-corruption initiatives, Pakistan can learn from their successful strategies to improve governance, transparency, and accountability within its own systems. Collaborating on reform projects and participating in anti-corruption training programs can also be effective.

Pakistan can also draw inspiration from Armenia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan, which have significantly improved their CPI rankings through robust anti-corruption measures and reforms, particularly Armenia’s post-2018 Velvet Revolution efforts. Adopting such proven strategies could be key for Pakistan to strengthen its corruption control mechanisms. For more insights, refer to Transparency International’s report.

Enhancing access to justice is fundamental in the fight against corruption, as it underpins accountability and deters impunity. By streamlining legal processes, broadening the definition of corruption victims, and empowering civil society to champion corruption cases, Pakistan can build a more inclusive and effective justice system. This holistic approach, learning from global best practices, can pave the way for substantial anti-corruption progress.
While Pakistan’s recent anti-corruption progress is encouraging, tackling grand corruption demands bolder measures. We must utilize international cooperation, leveraging the strengths of foreign justice systems with robust rule of law. This can involve collaborative investigations, asset recovery, and high-profile prosecutions that send a powerful message of accountability.
Domestically, enhancing transparency is key. Publicly accessible data on legal proceedings, clear procedures, and an independent media foster public trust and deter manipulation. These combined efforts, local and international, will pave the way for a more robust, effective anti-corruption framework in Pakistan, ultimately building a fairer future for its citizens.
A truly effective anti-corruption framework requires empowering its guardians – the justice system. This means shielding judges and prosecutors with security and dedicated reporting channels, fostering integrity through mandatory asset declarations and competitive salaries, and harnessing the power of community-based justice.
Integrating informal systems through mediation and dispute resolution mechanisms can leverage local knowledge, improve access to justice, and build trust. By empowering both formal and informal systems, we create a more robust and impactful shield against corruption, ultimately safeguarding the future of Pakistan.

Pakistan’s improvement in the CPI-2023 underscores the potential for positive change with committed governance. This progress, while modest, marks a crucial step towards enhancing the nation’s image and fostering an environment conducive to business, investment, and overall societal well-being. It’s a reminder that, although the journey to eradicate corruption is arduous, it’s attainable with persistent efforts, learning from global best practices, and reinforcing the rule of law and transparency. This momentum must be maintained and amplified to unlock Pakistan’s full potential on the global stage.