FAROOQ HAMEED KHAN From the 47th most corrupt nation in 2008 to 42nd position in 2009, Pakistan has further gone down in Transparency Internationals annual ranking to become the 34th most corrupt country in 2010. Given the present rate of descent and assuming that the present ruling dispensation will not only survive, but also thrive, Pakistan may well hit the top 10 most corrupt nations by 2013, the time when it vacates office. Recognised by the UN as a global anti-corruption organisation, the Berlin-based Transparency International (TI) prepares the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) and relative anti-corruption rankings based on surveys carried out by independent international sources, including the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the Economist Intelligence Unit of London and the Geneva-based World Economic Forum. However, the government circles who tried to misguide the nation on the credibility of TIs 2010 global corruption report, stood exposed after the TI President addressed a strongly worded letter to the President of Pakistan. By accusing TI of undermining the countrys sovereignty and democracy, the government had violated the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) to which Pakistan was a signatory. How ironic it is that while the PPP had lauded the TI report in the Musharraf era, it now criticises the latest report for exposing its own corruption. How credible is the report when related to ground realities? The countrys foreign debt has jumped from $38 billion to an astounding $58 billion within the last two years. At the same time, around Rs500 billion are being lost annually due to corruption, and poverty levels hover over 40 percent. Pakistans economy maybe on the verge of collapse, but PILDATs report broke the 'good news that public representatives tripled their assets in the last three years. So, with Pakistan in the grip of NRO beneficiaries, who struck at the nations wealth with a vengeance, corruption has soared to record heights. Having returned to power, after over a decades long break, they demonstrated without any sense of guilt that corruption, loot and plunder were their sacred right. In Pakistan today, projects are known to be conceived more on the basis of the expected kickbacks for decision makers, than on the peoples needs as was in the case of the rental power scam. Hence, no attempt is made to clear the Rs100 billion plus circular debt, which would drastically reduce the energy crisis, and leave no justification for the lucrative rental power contracts. Similarly, under the garb of fleet upgradation, cash starved PIA may soon witness a crafty multi-billion dollar deal to guarantee kickbacks and commissions for Islamabads top elite. The new style in Pakistani 'corruption ethics was best symbolised in the Bank of Punjab case, wherein a leading defence lawyer who later became a Federal Minister, is alleged to have demanded from his accused client additional money to pay for his huge shopping bill. Not only did the client lose his case, his hue and cry on this issue went unanswered. Never before in our history had the public sector been so ruthlessly devastated by the combined onslaught of corruption and nepotism under political patronage. With Rs300 billion of losses every year, the key public sector setups, including PIA, Steel Mills, Railways, National Insurance Corporation (NIC) and PSO, are on the brink of collapse, thanks to political interference, financial mismanagement, inefficiency and overstaffing. When merit is ignored and national assets are handed over by design to incompetent cronies, the results are least surprising. This time, unfortunately, even the Hajis have not been spared. The former DG Haj - reportedly the Prime Ministers blue eyed and a former NAB accused - boldly swindled them of billions of rupees in renting accommodation at Makkah. In a recent development, the FIA has been empowered to wipe out corruption in the government departments, as well as the public sector. With FIAs reputation of being highly politicised, the Interior Ministers vow to eliminate corruption from the government departments within seven days sounded more of his usual gimmickry. For last many years, FIA has reoriented its efforts more towards anti-terrorist and immigration matters, rather than anti-corruption. It is not geared towards accountability, and placing FIA officials in government offices is likely to further boost corruption in government departments. Coming to NAB, the world anti-corruption bodies fully understood the present governments vested interests to deliberately render it toothless and ineffective. Yet, in the eyes of the international community, NAB is still recognised as the countrys apex accountability setup. So, the prevailing confusion and adhocism must end to revive the accountability process with determination and sincerity. The Prime Minister needs to honour his commitment made in his maiden parliamentary speech in March 2008, to disband NAB and set up an independent Accountability Commission. In addition, Parliament must pass the much delayed new accountability law. Unless public officeholders learn to protect the nations wealth, Pakistans economy will continue to deteriorate. Why blame Transparency International? The writer is a retired brigadier Email: fhkhan54@gmail.com