While fielding questions during a press conference On Saturday, National Accountability Bureau Chairman Adm (Retd) Fasih Bokhari revealed that there was corrupt activity worth Rs 6 billion to Rs 8 billion a day, nationwide. Though he did not say for how long this had been going on, it would work out to about Rs 2.19 trillion to Rs 2.92 trillion a year, both of which are several times the development budget of Rs 360 billion, which the federal government has proposed this year. This enormous sum represents money that should have come into the Government but did not. Being bled from the taxpayer every year, it represents money which should have remained in his pocket. It would have helped the average man fight the inflation, which shows in a harsh light another area where the government has failed to manage matters successfully.

Admiral Bokhari saying that NAB has recovered Rs 235 billion so far indicates that, even by its own estimates, it has not recovered much more than a month’s proceeds of corruption. With the government still unafraid of NAB, a very important source of corruption has been left untouched. Perhaps the most public symbol of the government’s penchant for corruption has been its refusal to write a letter that would see the cases against the President be re-opened. Admiral Bokhari saying that NAB would not be turned into a tool for political persecution merely gives licence to elected officials to do what they want. Because elections require large sums of money, something which the Supreme Court is working on, elected officials are bought, and once bought, are saleable. They become used to a lifestyle lived at the taxpayer’s expense, and which is craved when out of office. This makes them vulnerable to financial manipulation. They then are bribed by officials, who practice corruption for their private ends, as do politicians who first try to meet election expenses.

Organisations like NAB are meant to end this corruption by ensuring deterrent punishments. However, such measures as hiring 300 new investigators will only work if there is political will to allow NAB to investigate, and if need be prosecute, those at the very top of the pyramid of corruption. That will mean the public representatives, who have been elected to supervise NAB and other state organizations. Ultimately, NAB must make such investigations the norm, because the country, which is already poor, cannot afford such a corruption burden. Admiral Bokhari avoided any controversy during his tenure as Chief of Naval Staff, but his start as NAB Chairman was marked by Leader of the Opposition Ch Nisar Ali claiming he was not consulted, as required by the Constitution, over his appointment. He should make the organisation one which the whole nation admires, except the corrupt, who should fear it.