Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Judges Jihad Against Corruption in Pakistan

Led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, the judges of Pakistan Supreme Court have overturned former President Musharraf's amnesty order for 8000 top politicians, including current President Asif Ali Zardari, and declared jihad against corruption at the highest levels of government.



Pakistani judiciary's battle against rampant corruption has recently escalated with the jailing of a top serving police official at the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), and the ultimatum to the anti-corruption chief of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to reopen domestic and international corruption cases against the beneficiaries of the NRO amnesty, or be prepared to go to jail.

Some critics of the Supreme Court actions see the top court's recent orders against top officials as abuse of power by Mr. Iftikhar Chaudhry, the head of the unelected and independent judiciary in Pakistan. They accuse the Chaudhry court of engaging in unwarranted judicial activism designed to usurp the powers of the elected legislature and executive branches.

Unfortunately, Pakistan continues to have the dubious distinction of being among the 50 most corrupt countries on a list of 180 nations ranked by Transparency International in 2009. Under the current PPP government, Pakistan has slipped 5 places to being 42nd most corrupt from 47th last year. By contrast, India is ranked much better as the 84th most corrupt country.

While I have been critical of some of Justice Chaudhry's behavior in the past, I have now concluded that judicial activism to fight high-level corruption is necessary, at least in the near term. However, I do expect that there will be both positive and negative consequences of the judiciary-led war on corruption in Pakistan.

The most likely upside to come from the court actions is that the politicians and bureaucrats will be forced to think twice before they demand to be paid off in exchange for illegal favors. The activist top court judges will certainly help reduce the current high levels of corruption among the top leaders, and help set a better tone for their underlings in positions of power.

The negative consequences of the court actions include a gross imbalance of power and a continuing institutional confrontation between the judicial and executive branches of government. An extended struggle may prove detrimental to better governance, and possibly open the way for another military intervention in the country.

Lt us hope that good sense will prevail to ensure that long-term positives will significantly outweigh the short-term negative consequences of the powerful judges' war on deep-rooted and highly corrosive corruption in Pakistan.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Justice Chaudhry's Address to New York Bar

Incompetence and Corruption in Pakistan

Zardari Corruption Probe

NRO Amnesty Order Overturned

Transparency International Rankings 2009

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Iftikhar Chaudhary is horrendously politicized and compromised. Little hatchet-man in robes for Nawaz Sharif.

I have now concluded that judicial activism to fight high-level corruption is necessary, at least in the near term.

Bad shortcut. This guy makes a mockery of the concept of justice. Just another wannabe power center. He's trying to act like Amitabh Bachchan in Sarkar.

Riaz Haq said...

anon: "Bad shortcut. This guy makes a mockery of the concept of justice. Just another wannabe power center. He's trying to act like Amitabh Bachchan in Sarkar."

I think corruption in Pakistan is a huge problem that is undermining the entire nation. In my view, corruption is a close second to incompetence in terms of its devastating impact on Pakistani politics, security, economy, sports, etc etc.

Today, Pakistan is like "Tombstone", a town in a western flick that needs a tough sheriff to clean it up. If that sheriff happens to be a judge, so be it.

Mayraj said...

How many of these cases are against PML-N. These people profitted from power also.

Riaz Haq said...

Mayraj: "How many of these cases are against PML-N. These people profitted from power also."

The cases against all corrupt politician and officials should be pursued, regardless of party affiliation.

But I think the 8000 NRO beneficiaries are a good first target to start the process. Justice Chaudhry has to move carefully, deliberately and fairly to begin the process of accountability long overdue in Pakistan. If he takes on all of the corrupt politicians and officials at once, his chances of success would dramatically diminish.

Mayraj said...

These cases can go on forever. That can also diminsh the effect.
If you will notice in US, only FBI and federal govt goes after corruption, state attorney generals look away as a norm. That is why here, the pond remains fetid.

Riaz Haq said...

Mayraj: "These cases can go on forever. That can also diminsh the effect.
If you will notice in US, only FBI and federal govt goes after corruption, state attorney generals look away as a norm. That is why here, the pond remains fetid."

I agree. The wheels of justice grind slowly. But, in spite of its lethargic pace, the US pond is not nearly as fetid as Pakistan's. Nor is India's, which ranks as 84th worst offender versus Pakistan as the 42nd most corrupt on TI surveys. Any improvement in transparency in Pakistan should help make it a better nation, bringing more benefit to the people.

Mayraj said...

I do not know about India's being so much better.
India has massive tax evasion. It rivals Pakistan. That is a sign of corruption.
Tranparency ratings are not reliable. US corruption is underreported. Transparency does nt count legal corrupiton-aka campaign finance. Pay to play is common in municpal finance, even US Govt officials have admitted it.
"In short, don't conservatives realize that China is making hay in the developing world through a combination of throwing its wealth around and arguing that American democracy is little more than a veneer for plutocracy?"
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/30/AR2010033002771.html
A flawed American political model aids China
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/28/AR2010032802879.html?sub=AR
Some in Indonesia praise, seek to replicate China's fight against United States

Riaz Haq said...

Mayraj: "I do not know about India's being so much better.
India has massive tax evasion. It rivals Pakistan. That is a sign of corruption.
Tranparency ratings are not reliable. US corruption is underreported. ...."

Americans, and particularly Indians, are certainly not angels, but I do think Pakistan has a much bigger corruption problem at the highest levels than either US or India.

The leaders set the tone, and Barack Obama and Manmohan Singh are angels compared with Zardari who was actually convicted in a money laundering case by Swiss Court. The conviction was under appeal when the NRO interrupted the process.

Anonymous said...

Americans, and particularly Indians, are certainly not angels, but I do think Pakistan has a much bigger corruption problem at the highest levels than either US or India.

It's a feudal structure masquerading as "democracy". Things will change when real land reform happens.

Corruption is an effect, not a cause. Treat the symptoms and you'll get more of the same. The cure is sweeping land reform. The chances of getting that through are as good as an ice cube's in hell. The feudals and the army are _both_ complicit.

Remember that the first thing the Taliban did was to drive the feudals out of their homes and divvy up their property. There's obviously a reason for that.

Sher said...

A very timely article.


Why are there any negative consequences of punishing corrupt leaders? If all of the Pakistani current leaders are found to be corrupt and jailed, the new ones should take their place. These new ones are hopefully not from the rich families and therefore not so corrupt.

What are NAB's powers? Do they act like the Attorney Generals work in US? Are there separate NABs for provinces?

Riaz Haq said...

Sher:

I think it's a big positive if the CJ's extraordinary moves can curb corruption to a more manageable level.

Also, the latest agreement on constitutional amendments stripping many of Zardari's dictatorial powers is a good thing.

The long-term downside of an overly powerful unelected CJ is that the system of checks and balances falls apart, threatening the very foundations of democracy.

NAB is a federal function.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan's Attorney General Anwar Mansoor has resigned in a row with the country's law ministry, according to the BBC:

He said the government was not co-operating in the process of reopening corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari and other officials.

The Supreme Court recently ruled that an amnesty afforded to hundreds of politicians and officials was illegal.

It said proceedings that were stopped when the amnesty came into force more than two years ago must be re-started.

Immunity

Anwar Mansoor had been voicing his frustrations with the government for days.

He said the law ministry had refused to provide documents and information he needed to get a money-laundering case against President Zardari reopened.

It was always a concern that with so many of those under investigation holding positions of power, trying them all would be a difficult process.

Mr Zardari, who is accused of having taken millions of dollars in kickbacks during the time his late wife, Benazir Bhutto, was prime minister, still has presidential immunity from prosecution.

But the Supreme Court insists corruption investigations into his financial affairs must continue.

It is undoubtedly putting pressure on an already strained relationship between Pakistan's president and its judiciary.

The resignation of the attorney general puts that relationship under the spotlight even more.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's BBC commentary by Soutik Biswas on India's "rights revolution":

Ensuring the basics in life remains the biggest challenge for India, six decades after independence.

Take food. Some 43% of Indian children younger than five are underweight - far above the global average of 25% or sub-Saharan Africa's 28%. India is a lowly 65th among 84 countries in the Global Hunger Index. Half of the world's hungry people live in India.

So the proposed right to food, entitling a poor family to 25kg of rice or wheat at three rupees (seven cents) a kilogram is good news. The bad news is that identifying the deserving poor is a challenge - there are four different government estimates of the very poor or below poverty line (BPL) people floating around. States may inflate numbers of beneficiaries to corner more federal benefits. Then there is the notoriously leaky public distribution system, from where food is often siphoned off by a triad of low-level bureaucrats, shop owners and middlemen.

Nobody can deny that the right to education - every child aged 6-14 can demand free schooling - is critical: an estimated eight million children in that age group do not attend school in India. India's 61% literacy rate lags behind Kenya's 85%. But critics point to a lack of teachers - India would need more than a million teachers just to implement the right - and say there are simply not enough schools to cope with the increased demand.

Rights don't work miracles. But activists say they are an urgent social intervention to empower the poor in a highly iniquitous society, where it is difficult for the poor to access officials to air their grievances and secure their entitlements. "In a hierarchical society, rights-based movements are a way of moving towards equality," says leading political scientist Mahesh Rangarajan. Also, they put pressure on the state to deliver - the right to information, despite glitches, is making government more accountable.

Studies show that sensitive political and bureaucratic leadership combined with grassroots awareness and an engaged local media can translate rights into reality and improve the lives of the poor. Activists point out that money is not a problem - the economy is doing well, revenues are buoyant, federal health and education outlays have been increased. The government has pledged more than $5bn to send 10 million poor children to school.

The cynicism over rights mainly comes from India's burgeoning educated upper middle class. It is mostly not engaged with public institutions at all - its members rarely serve in the lower ranks of the armed forces, teach in state schools or work for the government. Yes, there are valid concerns about whether the state has the capacity to deliver on rights. Yes, the Indian state continues to focus on maintaining law and order and collecting revenue. Delivering services is not its strength. Rights could actually help it move towards a functioning welfare state. I would like to hear stories from you - and people you may know - who are reaping the benefits of the rights revolution.

Riaz Haq said...

In the last two years since the resignation of President Musharraf, the corruption perception has worsened in Pakistan, according to the latest Transparency International Corruption report 2010. Though the 2009 Corruption Survey Report was an eye-opener, but this year it was shocking Khyber Pakhtoon Khawa Province (former N.W.F.P) beat all the provinces and has the highest rate of corruption in Pakistan. Here Here are some of the highlights of this report.

* The report titled the National Corruption Perception Survey 2010 showed a high rise in corruption from 195 billion rupees in the year 2009 to 223 billion rupees in the year 2010.
* Bureaucracy and Police had maintained their ranking as the two of the most corrupt departments in public sector in 2010.
* Land administration departments were placed third in corrupt practices.
* Corruption in the judiciary, local government and education sectors has also increased as compared to the last year.
* Syed Adil Gilani chairman of TIP said that about 70 % of people believed that the previous military regime of General Pervez Musharraf was less corrupt then the present Pakistan People's Party (PPP) led coalition government.
* In terms of bribery, land administration was the most corrupt sector, where average bribe paid in each incident was 46, 414 rupees.
* KPK (NWFP) is highlighted to be the most corrupt of all the provinces.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a New York Times quoting Riyaz Hussain Naqvi, a retired government official who worked in tax collection for 38 years, as saying, “This is a system of the elite, by the elite and for the elite. It is a skewed system in which the poor man subsidizes the rich man.”

The problem starts at the top. The average worth of Pakistani members of Parliament is $900,000, with its richest member topping $37 million, according to a December study by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency in Islamabad.

While Pakistan’s income from taxes last year was the lowest in the country’s history, according to Zafar ul-Majeed, a senior official in the Federal Board of Revenue, the assets of current members of Parliament nearly doubled from those of members of the previous Parliament, the institute study found.

The country’s top opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, reported that he paid no personal income tax for three years ending in 2007 in public documents he filed with Pakistan’s election commission. A spokesman for Mr. Sharif, an industrialist who is widely believed to be a millionaire, said he had been in exile and had turned over positions in his companies to relatives.

A month of requests for similar documents for Pakistan’s president and prime minister went unanswered by the commission; representatives for the men said they did not have the figures.

“Taxes are the Achilles’ heel of Pakistani politicians,” said Jahangir Tareen, a businessman and member of Parliament who is trying to put taxes on the public agenda. He paid $225,534 in income tax in 2009, a figure he made public in Parliament last month. “If you don’t have income, fine, but then don’t go and get into a Land Cruiser.”

The rules say that anyone who earns more than $3,488 a year must pay income tax, but few do. Akbar Zaidi, a Karachi-based political economist with the Carnegie Endowment, estimates that as many as 10 million Pakistanis should be paying income tax, far more than the 2.5 million who are registered.

Out of more than 170 million Pakistanis, fewer than 2 percent pay income tax, making Pakistan’s revenue from taxes among the lowest in the world, a notch below Sierra Leone’s as a ratio of tax to gross domestic product.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a commentary by Jawed Naqvi of Dawn on corruption in Indian democracy:

The rot in the legislature was again on display recently when opposition MPs offloaded bundles of currency notes in the Lok Sabha, alleging that the money had come from Dr Singh’s party to enable him to win a vote on his nuclear tie-ups with the United States. His Left Front allies tried to block the vote and so they were eased out in the second UPA government.If the lure of lucre could corrupt ordinary MPs we can only imagine the devastating consequences it would have for the executive. There was a time when Indian ministers were cited as examples of probity. With committed activist-politicians like Feroze Gandhi keeping vigil, scams were unearthed promptly and punishments meted out instantly. Nehru’s cabinet minister Rao Shiv Bahadur Singh was jailed as early as in 1949 for accepting a mere 25,000 rupees for forging a mining document.

In 1958, Finance Minister T. T. Krishnamachari resigned for helping place state-owned insurance funds with a private banker. The businessman, Haridas Mundra, was jailed. Other tycoons were punished with regularity those days. In 1959, Ramakrishna Dalmia, head of Bharat Insurance Company, was jailed for two years for misappropriating 22 million rupees from the company. Businessman Dharam Teja siphoned 220 million rupees for a spurious shipping company. He was arrested in Europe and jailed for six years. The father of the current chief minister of Orissa was forced to resign for favouring his own company in awarding a government contract. That was the system which today is denounced variously as populist, socialist and inefficient.

Today the honest Dr Singh can’t get rid of a telecommunications minister who is widely accused of large-scale corruption, because if he did his government would fall. From Harshad Mehta to Satyam, the journey of Indian financial sandals has dotted the reforms agenda. The defence deals scandal of the Vajpayee government is not entirely unconnected to the lure of lucre. A former socialist, the then defence minister had to resign though all too briefly. He signalled a new brazenness in blunting public outcry by shooting the messenger. Tehelka.com was shut down for exposing the defence deals and its journalists hounded by various agencies.

However, the free-market genie was to get even with the prying eyes of the media. It simply co-opted the main players. Thus we recently saw the income tax department naming two of India’s most popular TV anchors — a man and a woman — for involvement as lobbyists for a tainted minister. That rules governing conflict of interest were bent to allow newly set up as well as older media houses to perform their sleight of hand is by now axiomatic. One day the hub of India’s free-market architecture — the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) — realised that its business was getting mired by spurious reporting.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Times of India report on real state scandal involving Indian politicians, bureaucrats and generals:

NEW DELHI: The Mumbai-headquartered Western Naval Command (WNC) has raised serious security concerns and sought action by the navy, army and government against a highrise apartment complex in Mumbai's Colaba area, in which senior military leaders, politicians and bureaucrats own apartments. Among those allotted houses in the 31-storeyed Adarsh Housing Society are two former army chiefs, several other generals and admirals, and political leaders and senior bureaucrats.

A recent letter to the navy chief from Vice-Admiral Sanjeev Bhasin, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, WNC, and other documents with TOI reveal a conspiracy to appropriate, in the name of war widows and military veterans, a prime plot that was in the army's custody for years. In the process, the army even lied to the ministry of defence (MoD), which then misled Parliament, when a starred question regarding the ownership of the land came up in 2003.

Almost every army officer involved in misleading Parliament now owns a house in the complex. In his letter, Admiral Bhasin says that the housing society is now refusing to part with the list of its members and the Maharashtra government too does not have the details.

The building, immediately adjacent to a planned helipad and other military installations, has violated the CRZ ( coastal regulation zone) limit of a maximum height of 30 metres, and has now gone up to 100 metres, says Bhasin inhis letter dated July 5 of this year. The Western Naval Command chief has suggested that the army be asked to institute a formal inquiry to find out duplicity, if any, by serving/retired officers in reappropriation of the ecological park managed and occupied by HQ MG&G (headquarters, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa) Area since 1996. He also wants the MoD to take up the issue with the Maharashtra government and ensure that further construction is stopped and occupancy permission is not given.

The controversy fundamentally hinges around whether the plot of land belonged to the army or not and in this matter, several senior army officials were more than cooperative in declaring that it did not. Crucial documents that prove the army's possession of the land and the Maharashtra government's past commitment to give the plot to the army have gone missing from the records of the concerned army offices in Mumbai and Pune. TOI now has many of those documents. When we sent a detailed questionnaire based on these undisclosed facts to the army headquarters a few weeks ago, the only reply was, "We are looking into all aspects brought out by you."



Read more: Top generals, babus & netas in land-grab - The Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Top-generals-babus-netas-in-land-grab/articleshow/6805880.cms#ixzz13Np5thJI

Riaz Haq said...

Indian Supreme Court appears to be following Pakistani Supreme Court's lead in fighting corruption.

Here's a BBC report:

India's Supreme Court has said that the practice of illegal funnelling of wealth overseas by Indians is a "pure and simple theft of national money".

The court also asked what the government was doing to retrieve the illegal money in foreign banks.

US-based group Global Financial Integrity has said that India has lost more than $460bn in such illegal flight of capital since Independence.

It said the illicit outflows increased after economic reforms began in 1991.

The report also said that almost three-quarters of the illegal money that comprises India's underground economy ends up outside the country.

India's underground economy has been estimated to account for 50% of the country's GDP - $640bn at the end of 2008.

Wednesday's remarks by the Supreme Court came when it was hearing a petition filed by a former federal Law Minister Ram Jethmalani and others on the alleged inaction of the government in bringing back illegal money parked overseas by rich Indians and companies.

In response, India's Solicitor-General Gopal Subramaniam submitted a sealed cover containing 16 names of individuals and companies who had accounts with a Liechtenstein-based bank.

"This is all the information you have or you have something more! We are talking about the huge money. It is a plunder of the nation," remarked Justice B Sudershan Reddy.

'Mind-boggling crime'

"It is a pure and simple theft of national money. We are talking about [a] mind-boggling crime.

Mr Subramaniam said the government was taking measures to bring back the illegal money, but said there were difficulties in sharing the information because of confidentiality treaties between countries.

"All we want is that you give all the information about the money deposited in the foreign banks by Indians. You cannot confine the petition to one bank," Justice SS Nijjar said.

The court has fixed 27 January as the next date of hearing.

Global Financial Integrity said the illegal flight of capital through tax evasion, crime and corruption had widened inequality in India.

High net-worth individuals and private companies were found to be primary drivers of illegal capital flows.

Riaz Haq said...

The Afghan transit trade (ATT) through Pakistan has long been exploited as a way to smuggle goods into Pakistan without paying import duties. Now the Supremen Court is looking into the dusappearance in Pakistan of containers addressed to Afghanistan, accordin to The News:

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) chairman Salman Siddique submitted in the Supreme Court on Thursday a list of 58 officials who held positions from January 01, 2007 to December24, 2010, when the national exchequer suffered a whooping loss of Rs37 billion because of pilferage of containers which entered the Pakistani territory under Afghan Transit Trade (ATT).

The list submitted with the Registrar office through CBR’s counsel Raja Muhammad Irshad in compliance with the Supreme Court orders includes the names of former chairpersons of CBR/FBR, members of Customs, Customs Collectors Karachi Port and Port of Qasim, Collectors of Quetta and Peshawar, secretaries commerce and finance, Director General Customs Intelligence and Investigation and the relevant officers of NLC who held the charge during that period.

The report contains the names of four former Major Generals of the National Logistics Cell (NLC) and three former chiefs of FBR. According to FBR counsel Raja Muhammad Irshad, the list contains the names of former Finance Secretary, former FBR chiefs Abdullah Yousuf, Ahmed Waqar, Sohail Ahmed and member Customs Muneer Qureshi. He said the names of six former secretaries, three former FBR chairman, three former heads of NLC and 44 officials of Customs are mentioned in the 58 members list.

Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) Dr Shoaib Suddle has already submitted a comprehensive report over the matter in the Supreme Court testifying that a huge number of containers containing have been pilfered inside the country without crossing the border causing enormous loss to the national exchequer to the tune of Rs19-37 billion.

He pointed out that the loss caused at the hands of Customs Department during the past almost four years is only a tip of the iceberg.

The report said strict action is required against all the concerned officials of the Customs and other departments, who held charge during that period. The court thereupon directed the FBR chairman to furnish a list of these officials. The court has directed all these people to file their reply on the report of FTO through FBR by January 27.

Riaz Haq said...

Indian Chief Justice Kapadia warns jusges not to exceed powers granted by the Indian constitution, reports NewsOne:

New Delhi, April 16 (IANS) The judiciary should not try to act as a super legislature, Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia said Saturday. He also asked the political leadership to resist from giving protection to corrupt judges.

Cautioning against internal interference from high-ranking judges which, if resisted, could lead to lower-ranking judges being transferred or being denied promotions, he said ‘similarly political protection should not be given to corrupt judges’.

The chief justice said judges should resist the temptation of post-retirement assignments. ‘A judge must not accept patronage through which he acquires office, preferential treatment or pre-retirement assignments. These can give rise to corruption.’

He advised judges to impose upon themselves certain ‘restrictions’ and remain ‘a little aloof and isolated’ from people in order to erase the suspicion that they were susceptible to undue influence in the discharge of duties.

He told judges to eschew contact with lawyers, individuals or political parties, their leaders or ministers unless it was on purely social occasions. A judge’s obligation must start and end with his analysis of law, not just personal beliefs or preferences.

He asked the courts to desist from the tendency of substituting decisions of legislative bodies with their own socio-economic beliefs.

‘We must refuse to sit as super legislatures to weigh the wisdom of the legislation,’ Chief Justice Kapadia said, delivering the fifth M.C. Setalvad Memorial Lecture on the ‘Canons of Judicial Ethics’ here.

‘In many PILs (public interest litigations), the courts freely decree rule of conduct for the government and public authorities which are akin to legislation. Such exercises have little judicial function in them,’ the chief justice said.

Disagreeing with the rationale that the judiciary was encroaching upon the legislative domain because the executive (government) had failed to discharge its responsibilities, Justice Kapadia said that ‘the courts should be circumspect in understanding the thin line between law and governance’.

The chief justice said a balance had to be struck between judicial independence and the accountability of judges. He said the challenge before the judiciary was how to respond to unreasonable criticism of courts.

The chief justice said that there was a need for striking a right balance between the judicial accountability and principle of judicial independence.

He said the challenge was ‘how does one achieve the right balance between autonomy in decision making and independence from external forces on the one hand and accountability to the community on the other hand?’

The habit of thinking impersonally, without regard for the worldly advantages or disadvantages of an opinion or an action was ethical thinking, he said.

‘This is the prerequisite of judicial thinking. The man who is only interested in himself is not admissible (to ethical thinking),’ said the chief justice.

The chief justice in his lecture dealt with a wide range of subjects relating to Canons of Judicial Ethics that included subject like Judicial ethics: From just words to deeds, Structuring of judgments, Accountability and judicial independence in the context of judicial activism and Value-based judicial accountability and independence.

The lecture was organised by the Bar Association of India in the memory of Setalvad, who was the first attorney general of India.

Delhi High Court Chief Justice Dipak Misra earlier said that the canons of judicial ethics should include both the judges and the advocates. He said that there should be strict adherence to integrity both in public and private life.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC report on corruption in India that parallels the experience of many ordinary Pakistanis in their daily lives:

Imagine if you had to pay a bribe to see your newborn baby, get your water supply connected or obtain your driving licence. It's an everyday fact of life in India - but campaigners are now fighting back, using people power and the internet.

"Uncover the market price of corruption," proclaims the banner on the homepage of ipaidabribe.com.

It invites people to share their experiences of bribery, what a bribe was for, where it took place and how much was involved.

Launched in August, the site gives Indians a chance to vent their frustrations anonymously and shine a spotlight on the impact of corruption on everyday life.

"I did the driving test correctly but still the official said I was driving too slow, I realised his intention so gave him 200 Rupees and got the thing done," is a typical example of a posting.

The website was the brainwave of Ramesh and Swati Ramanathan, founders of a not-for-profit organisation in Bangalore called Janaagraha which literally means "people power".

"Bribery is routinely expected in interactions with government officials", Swati Ramanathan told me, "to register your house, to get your driving licence, domestic water connection, even a death certificate."

Having lived in the US and the UK for several years, they were dismayed on their return to see how widespread corruption had become and decided to do something about it.

"We are all also responsible because we end up paying the darn bribes because otherwise you can never get anything done in India.

"We said, 'It's not enough to moralise, we need to find out what exactly is this corruption? What's the size of it?'"
'High reward'

The website has evolved into a consumer comparison site where people can also get information and advice in different languages on how to avoid paying bribes.

One woman told me how she got round paying a bribe to register her mother's house.

"I went with all the paperwork and at first they looked through it and said, 'Oh, I think one of the documents is not up to date.'

"What I had been told at the website is that this is one of the excuses they make to take a bribe, and what we need to do is tell them, 'OK, give it to me in writing with your stamp and seal, and I will make sure I get these documents the next time so that I can get it registered.'"

"The moment I said that, they backed off and said, 'No, no, it's OK, we will pass it through.'"

So far, nearly 10,000 bribe experiences have been reported across 347 cities and 19 government departments.

As the numbers mount, Swati Ramanathan hopes the website will become a powerful tool for shaming government departments into tackling corruption.

"There is so little risk to being corrupt in our country and so high a reward," she explained.

"The moment you change the equation and you make it riskier, the reward becomes less. You make it riskier by making it public."...


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-13616123

Riaz Haq said...

Can civil society fight corruption? asks Soutik Biswas of BBC:

Are sections of India's civil society subverting democracy to pressure the government to push through tough anti-corruption laws?

The beleaguered Congress-party led government appears to think so. The senior-most minister Pranab Mukherjee has fired an uncharacteristic broadside at activist Anna Hazare's anti-graft agitation for resorting to hunger strikes, making unreasonable demands like video graphing meetings of a joint panel to discuss an ombudsman law and imposing deadlines on the parliament.

Mr Hazare is a well meaning Gandhian, who has a record of fighting corruption in his home state of Maharashtra. But he also has a predilection for making clumsy statements - he endorses capital punishment for the corrupt, for example. But few Indians deny that Mr Hazare has touched a chord, mostly among the country's fretful, politician-loathing middle classes, by pressuring the government to take a tough stand against corruption. Graft has become a way of Indian life, kept alive by the rulers and ruled alike.

Mr Mukherjee's barb is clearly not aimed at Mr Hazare alone. Last fortnight, Baba Ramdev, a thriving yoga guru with political ambitions, also began a hunger strike in Delhi demanding that the illicit money stashed away in foreign banks by rich Indians be brought back home. After futile negotiations with the guru, the government cracked down on his fast in the middle of the night, baton charged sleeping supporters and evicted him from Delhi. The police action earned the opprobrium of many Indians, and further battered the government's fast-eroding credibility.

Now the government appears to be trying to bottle the genie of Mr Hazare and Baba Ramdev's "movements", both of which it legitimised in the first place through recognition and negotiation. It seems to be also unable to handle the vicissitudes of these agitations, with its leaders blowing hot and cold against the government. Such a civil society movement, Pranab Mukherjee said, amounts to a "sinister move of destroying the fine balance between the three organs of government enshrined in our constitution".

"If someone dictates terms from outside to the government, does it not weaken or subvert democracy? It is a big question... We are all civil society, no one is uncivil."

Clearly, Mr Mukherjee's definition of civil society in the haste of a press conference is literal. The World Bank defines civil society to "refer to a wide array of non-governmental and not-for-profit organisations that have a presence in public life, expressing the interests and values of their members or others, based on ethical, cultural, political, scientific, religious or philanthropic considerations".
---
India has seen deeper, meaningful civil society movements which have been blithely ignored by most of middle class in the past. Only when a protest comes to Delhi in the full glare of 24/7 news television does it get attention. And more so, when it rallies against corruption - which actually hurts the poor more than the rich and the middle class.

By all means, many believe, an enlarged and more representative civil society - ideally a larger, wider group of people from all over the country, not just a bunch of well meaning lawyers and activists from Delhi - should be putting pressure on a stubborn government to act against corruption. Also, as development expert Rajesh Tandon reminds us, civil society is not intrinsically virtuous. And good graft-free governance does not come from reforming the state alone - it demands the reformation of society and its people. There are no short cuts to a more virtuous India.

Riaz Haq said...

Have the Chamars no right, asks Indian Supreme Court, according to India's Financial Express:

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has severely criticised “some lawyers, journalists and men in public life” for accusing it of judicial over-reach for entertaining public interest litigation filed by “genuine social groups, NGOs and social workers” espousing the cause of the poor and downtrodden.

In a startling observation, the bench said that “so far the courts have been used only for the purpose of vindicating the rights of the wealthy and the affluent.”

“It is only these privileged classes which have been able to approach the courts for protecting their vested interests. It is only the moneyed who have so far had the golden key to unlock the doors of justice,” the court said in a July 12 judgment.

The court said it is praised when it gives judgments in favour of the rich but condemned with a “theoretical debate raising the bogey of judicial activism” when it gives relief to the poor on a PIL.

A Bench of Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly, in a 45-page judgment, said the highest court will be failing in its constitutional duty if it does not accept genuine PILs and “those who are decrying public interest litigation do not seem to realise that courts are not meant only for the rich and the well-to-do, for the landlord and the gentry, for the business magnate and the industrial tycoon but they exist also for the poor and the down-trodden, the have-nots and the handicapped and the half-hungry millions of our countrymen”.

The judgment, written by Justice Singhvi, came on a PIL filed by an NGO, National Campaign for Dignity and Rights of Sewerage and Allied Workers, highlighting the frequent deaths of sewage workers trapped in manholes.

The apex court gave the government a two-month deadline to ensure that these workers are given protective gear and better working conditions.

The court said the judgment is meant to “erase the impression and misgivings of some people” that by entertaining PILs of social action groups/activists/workers and NGOs fighting for those who silently suffer due to actions and/or omissions of the state apparatus and/or agencies/instrumentalities of the state or even private individuals, the superior courts exceed the unwritten boundaries of their jurisdictions.

“There is a misconception in the minds of some lawyers, journalists and men in public life that public interest litigation is unnecessarily cluttering up the files of the court and adding to the already staggering arrears of cases which are pending for long years and it should not therefore be encouraged by the court. This is, to our mind, a totally perverse view smacking of elitist and status quoist approach,” the court said.

“If the sugar barons and the alcohol kings have the fundamental right to carry on their business and to fatten their purses by exploiting the consuming public, have the Chamars belonging to the lowest strata of society no fundamental right to earn an honest living through their sweat and toil?” the court said.

“The former can approach the courts with a formidable army of distinguished lawyers paid in four or five figures per day and if their right to exploit is upheld against the government under the label of fundamental right, the courts are praised for their boldness and courage and their independence and fearlessness are applauded and acclaimed. But if the fundamental right of the poor and helpless victims of injustice is sought to be enforced by public interest litigation, the so-called champions of human rights frown upon it as waste of time of the highest court in the land, which, according to them, should not engage itself in such small and trifling matters,” it said....


http://www.financialexpress.com/news/have-the-chamars-no-right-asks-sc/817780/0

Riaz Haq said...

Transparency International, in its 2011 world corruption report, has shown Islamabad sliding down from last year’s 34th to 42nd in ranking amongst the most corrupt nations in the world, according to The News:

However, this improvement is not due to the fact that the government or the rulers are less corrupt than they were before but because of some good results shown by institutions like the judiciary, Public Accounts Committee (PAC), federal tax ombudsman and the defence departments.

Although last year’s 34th position of Pakistan was out of a total of 178 countries assessed by Transparency International as against 2011’s 42nd rank out of 183 countries, still the country did not deteriorate further as has been the case during the previous three years of the present regime.

To be released here on Thursday, the Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index evaluated Pakistan getting 2.5 score out of 10, and ranked as 42nd most corrupt country out of 183 countries.

In 2010, TI report Pakistan’s score was 2.3, and it ranked 34th most corrupt country out 178 countries. In 2011, the rank of Pakistan has improved because of increase in the number of countries assessed this year.

Pakistan gained new heights in corruption during the last three years under the present rulers. Pakistan ranked as the 47th most corrupt country in 2008, but in 2009 the country became more corrupt and ranked 42nd in 2009.

In 2010, it was 34th most corrupt nation in the world. However, it is interesting to note that the Transparency International acknowledged that the arrest in the further decline of Pakistan in terms of corruption is not due to the present government’s efforts to curb the menace but owing to commendable role of the judiciary, the Public Accounts Committee, the defence establishment and the federal tax ombudsman.

It underscored that PAC, which has done remarkable work under Leader of the Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, recovered Rs115 billion from 2008 to 2011. The TIP also applauded judiciary’s zero-tolerance for corruption, the Ministry of Defence efforts to apply long-standing Public Procurement Rules 2004 in the armed forces departments; and the working of the federal tax ombudsman as one of the cleanest institutions in the government.

The TIP, however, said that this progress has been overshadowed by the ongoing corruption cases like the NICL, RPPs and 2010 Haj scandal in which the Supreme Court has affected recoveries of billions of rupees.

The TI report says that corruption continues to plague too many countries around the world. According to the Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index, some governments failing to protect citizens from corruption be it abuse of public resources, bribery or secretive decision-making.

Transparency International warned that protests around the world, often fuelled by corruption and economic instability, clearly show citizens feel their leaders and public institutions are neither transparent nor accountable enough.

The 2011 index scores 183 countries and territories from 0 (highly corrupt) to 10 (very clean) based on perceived levels of public sector corruption. It uses data from 17 surveys that look at factors such as enforcement of anti-corruption laws, access to information and conflicts of interest. Two-thirds of ranked countries score less than five. New Zealand ranks first, followed by Finland and Denmark. Somalia and North Korea (included in the index for the first time) are last. Pakistan with 2.4 score ranked 42nd most corrupt country.

http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=10666&Cat=13

http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2011/results/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune report on TI findings in Pakistan:

The latest perception report from Transparency International Pakistan (TIP) shows a limited number of respondents see centres of corruption in Pakistan in the following descending order, of being perceived as the most corrupt to the least: 1) land administration; 2) police; 3) income tax; 4) judiciary; 5) tendering & contracting; 6) customs, plus state corporations and the last is the army. Once again TIP has expressed its shock at the mounting lack of honesty in public affairs and has listed some of the reasons why the graph of evil is creeping upwards every year.

It is not surprising that land administration is the first among the perceived culprits. It is vastly the domain of the provinces where the politician has yet to begin to take responsibility for sorting-out maintenance and collection. Land record is still in primitive shape and the low bureaucracy that handles the sector is not upgraded and made competitive. Most of the trouble takes place away from the big cities because the writ of the state languishes in smaller districts and abdicates to three power centres: the feudal landlord (often a politician), the police and the judiciary. It will take a long time to sort-out this mess and it will not happen at the same speed in all the provinces. The police has endemic ills that most states in the Third World have failed to tackle. The recruitment of policemen has been pegged to good education only recently, but the provinces — whose domain this is — have been remiss in making the kind of allocations needed to upgrade the institution’s performance. The ratio of policemen to population is abysmal, training standards — though imitative of the army — are nowhere near being practically useful and low status has kept the average policeman tied to slavish behaviour towards the seniors and a brutish one towards the common man.

But the police may not be intrinsically as bad as the circumstances of its functioning make it. State policies favouring non-state actors involved in terrorism on the side have hamstrung the police. Unwillingness to prosecute has instilled in the department a habit of not trying too hard to convict, say, terrorists from a shady jihadi organisation simply because it is being clandestinely supported by the state. Because of this ambience of state-backed criminality, many policemen themselves indulge in crime and get away with it. Many senior policemen live beyond their means and own properties they could not have bought with honest money. As for the tax administration, if one were to look at the statistics, things may be getting better — and that is why it is no longer number one in corruption. Pakistan’s revenue collection is one of the lowest in the world (with the tax-collection machinery believed to be riddled with corruption and inefficiency) and that impacts directly the capacity of the state to spend on development. The reigning theory is to erect a system in which the income tax officer comes into least contact with the taxpayer.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/314181/pakistans-perceived-corruption/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Op Ed by Prof Anatol Lieven published in the Guardian:

If Pakistan's chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, manages to press his charges of corruption against the president, Asif Ali Zardari, he will bring down the existing Pakistani government. If he extends his anti-corruption campaign to the political elites as a whole, he will bring down the entire existing political system – and replace it, his critics say, with a dictatorship made up of an unelected (and equally corrupt) judiciary.
----------
The truth is that Pakistani politics revolves in large part around politicians' extraction of resources from the state by means of corruption, and their distribution to those politicians' followers through patronage. Radically changing this would mean gutting the existing Pakistani political system like a fish. Nor is it at all certain how popular the process would really be with most Pakistanis.

For while the greater part of this process of extraction and redistribution is illegal according to Pakistani law, how much of it is immoral in Pakistani culture is a much more complicated question. Every Pakistani politician accuses his rivals of corruption but, equally, the perception that he himself is "generous" and "honourable" to his own supporters is likely to be central to his own local prestige. If a public monument is ever erected to the Ideal Pakistani Politician, the motto "He dunks but he splashes", originally coined by Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago, should be inscribed on its pedestal.

And this is not just a matter of cynical politics. It also obeys a fundamental moral imperative of local culture to be loyal to one's followers and, above all, one's kinfolk. The politician who is really despised is the kleptocrat who both steals immoderately and does not share the proceeds. As a result, a good deal of the proceeds of corruption does get distributed through parts of society, thereby helping to maintain what until recently has been the surprising underlying stability of the Pakistani political system.

The military is widely seen as relatively immune to corruption, and when it comes to its own internal workings, this is largely true – though it usually ceases to be true when generals go into politics. However, it is vitally important to note that this is in large part because for many decades the military as a whole has acted as a kind of giant patronage network, extracting a huge share of Pakistan's state resources via the defence budget and other concessions, and spending them on itself. Because – to its credit – it has distributed the resulting benefits in an orderly if hierarchical way among its generals, officers, non-commissioned officers and even to a degree privates, it has managed to keep a lid on corruption within the military itself. However, a belief is growing among ordinary soldiers, not just that the generals' perks are immoderate but that in some cases their families are using their connections to make huge corrupt fortunes outside the military.

As for Zardari, it seems highly doubtful that he can hang on much longer. The chief justice is pursuing him with bulldog determination and the letter of the law is on his side. The military has been infuriated by what it believes are his attempts to ally with Washington against it. It does not want another military government, but it does want a civilian regime that is much more responsive to its wishes. And the opposition want him out before, not after, senate elections that might just enable him to cling to the presidency even if as expected his Pakistan People's party is defeated in general elections due by early 2013. Whether getting rid of Zardari will fundamentally change Pakistani politics, however, is a very different matter.


http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jan/19/pakistan-culture-honourable-corruption?newsfeed=true

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Global Post story on NATO using smugglers to supply its troops in Afghanistan through Pakistan:

With few other options available to it since Pakistan closed its border crossings almost two months ago, NATO has at times resorted to paying local smugglers to get much-needed supplies to its troops fighting in Afghanistan, Pakistani officials say.

The Pakistani and Afghan smugglers, who must pay bribes to militants to travel safely through some areas, navigate treacherous routes over the 1,800-mile mountainous divide that separates the two countries to bring containers of oil, food and other essential items — all at a price — to soldiers on the other side.

“Borders mean nothing to us. We have been crossing in and out for centuries,” Sahib Khan, a smuggler who said NATO had hired him, told GlobalPost.

The hiring of illegal smugglers came after a failed attempt by NATO to pay private companies, which truck goods across the border under the Pakistan-Afghanistan Free Trade Agreement (PATA). These private companies, Pakistani officials said, were secretly swapping out their normal cargo for NATO supplies until Pakistani security forces caught wind of the scam.

A senior officer for the Frontier Corps, an elite military unit that is responsible for security along the border, told GlobalPost that a total ban on the movement of containers under PATA, which was signed in 2010 to promote bilateral trade, eventually foiled the strategy.

“We had concrete evidence that some of the containers being imported by private companies, under PATA, were being used to smuggle supplies for NATO troops under cover of commercial imports,” the official said.
----------
Smuggling between Pakistan and Afghanistan has long been a profitable and vibrant business. Various trade agreements have been signed between the two neighbors in a bid to contain the practice, but high import and export taxes coupled with little government oversight, thwarted those attempts.

Mostly items like flour, edible oil, lentils, dried vegetables, contraband cigarettes, and animals for meat are smuggled into Afghanistan, while spare auto parts, electronics and unregistered vehicles are smuggled the other direction.

Smuggling is so widespread that it has become the backbone of the economy in towns and villages along the border, where locally it is treated simply as normal trade. The mountainous terrain provides an edge over security to smugglers who regularly trickle across the border without any trouble.

Sahib said that most of the food and oil supplies he has carried across the border for NATO originate from the southern port city of Karachi, and are moved through Peshawar and Quetta, and finally through Pakistan’s tribal areas, which are largely under the authority of various militant groups.

For those militants, the smugglers have been an important source of income. Smugglers are required to pay “rahdari,” or “passage,” an unofficial tax that allows them safe passage.

“Once we are onto the route, it’s the responsibility of those who receive rahdari to ensure we are able to safely enter into Afghanistan,” Sahib said.

Any smuggling that is done on behalf of NATO can in no way make up for the closed borders, however. Smugglers say they carry between 20 and 25 small containers a day while, when the border crossings were open, NATO shipped an average of 250 large containers a day — making the reopening of the borders essential to the war effort.


http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/pakistan/120123/pakistan-border-nato-us-troops-afghanistan

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Associated Press report on Pakistan's assertive judiciary challenging the military and civilian leadership:

....Some believe the court’s actions are part of a necessary, if messy, rebalancing in a country that has long been dominated by the army or seen chaotic periods of rule by corrupt politicians. Others view the court as just another unaccountable institution undermining the elected government.
-------------
The army has been the principal point of contact for the U.S. in the decade since it resuscitated ties with Pakistan to help with the Afghan war. While the army remains the strongest Pakistani institution, recent events indicate it has ceded some of that power to the Supreme Court and the country’s civilian leaders.
----------------
The Supreme Court’s activism was on full display Monday.

The court charged Pakistan’s prime minister with contempt for refusing to reopen an old corruption case against the president. Later, it ordered two military intelligence agencies to explain why they held seven suspected militants in allegedly harsh conditions for 18 months without charges.

Some government supporters have accused the court of acting on the army’s behalf to topple the country’s civilian leaders, especially in a case probing whether the government sent a memo to Washington last year asking for help in stopping a supposed military coup.

But no evidence has surfaced to support that allegation, and the court’s moves against the military seem to conflict with the theory. The judges have also taken up a case pending for 15 years in which the army’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, is accused of funneling money to political parties to influence national elections.
------------
The court’s actions against the army are a significant turnaround. For much of Pakistan’s nearly 65-year history, the court has been pliant to the army’s demands and validated three coups carried out by the generals.
-------------
The Pakistani media have largely applauded the court’s activism against the army, which has also had its power checked by a more active media and the demands of a bloody war against a domestic Taliban insurgency.
-----------
“I think the Supreme Court is going too far,” said Pakistani political analyst Hasan-Askari Rizvi. “In the past, it was the army that would remove the civilian government, and now it’s the Supreme Court, another unelected institution trying to overwhelm elected leadership.”

Supreme Court justices are appointed by the president based on recommendations from a judicial commission working in conjunction with parliament. The judges can serve until the age of 65 and can be removed only by a judicial council.

The cases have distracted the government from dealing with pressing issues facing the country, including an ailing economy and its battle against the Pakistani Taliban.

Moeed Yusuf, an expert on Pakistan at the United States Institute of Peace, said the jockeying for power between the army, Supreme Court and civilian government was expected given the shifting political landscape and could be beneficial to the country in the long run.

“No country has managed to bypass several phases of such recalibration before they have arrived at a consensual, democratic and accountable system where institutions finally are able to synergize rather than compete endlessly,” Yusuf wrote in a column in Dawn.
-----------
“No single group will totally dominate the system,” said Rizvi. “That will slow down decision making further in Pakistan because nobody can take full responsibility for making a decision.”


http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia-pacific/pakistans-assertive-supreme-court-signals-power-shift-in-vital-us-ally/2012/02/14/gIQAIZHODR_story.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a WSJ report on judicial activism in Pakistan under CJ Chaudhry:

..A new report by the International Commission of Jurists, a Geneva-based nongovernment organization of judges and lawyers, suggests his legacy might be more complicated.

The report, released this month and based on a field trip to Pakistan last fall, paints a picture of a judiciary under Mr. Chaudhry that is exercising unusually wide-ranging powers.
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Pakistan’s judiciary has, during Mr. Chaudhry’s tenure as chief justice, stepped into areas normally reserved for a nation’s government, raising concerns over the balance of power, the report said.

It noted that judges in Pakistan are increasingly initiating court proceedings on issues – as opposed to hearing cases brought by plaintiffs.

The courts often launch these so-called “suo moto” cases in instances where the government has failed to take action. The report said in some cases this helps to protect the rule of law.

It cited an example last year when paramilitary forces were caught on video shooting dead a teenager who was pleading for his life. The Supreme Court ordered senior paramilitary officers removed from their posts within three days and told a state prosecutor to launch an investigation.

But in other cases Mr. Chaudhry appears to arbitrarily initiate “suo moto” proceedings based on articles in Pakistani newspapers, the report said. “This introduces a certain element of chance to the practice which is hardly compatible with the rule of law.”

A notable example of this, not contained in the ICJ report, involves Atiqa Odho, a Pakistani television actor who was allegedly detained last year at Karachi airport with liquor in her luggage but later released without charges. (Alcohol is illegal in Pakistan.)

Mr. Chaudhry, on reading media reports, ordered authorities to register a case against Ms. Odho, which they did. A court is yet to rule in the case. Attempts to reach Mr. Chaudhry were not successful.

In another well-known example, the Supreme Court tried to rule on the price of sugar – a matter usually left to government or market forces.

Mr. Chaudhry has fought in recent years to weaken the role of Parliament in appointing judges, the report noted. Under Pakistan’s constitution, a judicial commission, including the chief justice, nominates judges. But a parliamentary committee has the right to reject or confirm the nominations.

Last year, the Supreme Court overturned the committee’s decision to reject the appointment of a number of high court judges whom the judicial commission had recommended.

The report found the “authority of the Parliamentary Committee was reduced drastically,” by that judgment.

The authors nodded to concerns about the failure of governance in Pakistan. But it also pointed out the pitfalls of a judiciary trying to fill the role of an administration.

“Parliament and Government are weak, which leads to the Supreme Court filling the gap by intervening in matters germane to the administration,” the report said. “This occurs to the extent that the Supreme Court even…intervenes to strengthen its own and particularly the power of the Chief Justice as far as the appointment of judges is concerned. A concern in respect of the balance of powers thereby arises.”

The report did not get into an ongoing struggle between the judiciary and the government of President Asif Ali Zardari.....


http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2012/04/20/report-dings-pakistans-lawyers-and-chief-justice/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Bloomberg report on Pakistan's new wire-tappig law:

Pakistan’s National Assembly approved a bill allowing use of electronic evidence from wire- tapping and communication intercepts against terror suspects after a large number of acquittals by anti-terrorism courts for lack of proof.

“It is an accepted fact that terrorists are not getting convicted and are not brought to justice because of lack of relevant rules and laws,” Law Minister Farooq H. Naek said while presenting the bill in the National Assembly, or the lower house, in Islamabad today.

The U.S. “Country Reports on Terrorism 2011,” released in July, put the acquittal rate for terrorist cases to as high as 85 percent in Pakistan, which is seen as a hub of global terrorism. Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was found and killed in a Pakistani town by U.S. Navy SEALs in May 2011.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan is an ally of the U.S. and has lost more than 40,000 people to bombings by the Taliban since joining the U.S. in the war on terror after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The bill, which was unanimously passed by the National Assembly, now goes to the Senate, Pakistan’s upper house.


http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-20/pakistan-backs-wire-tap-evidence-to-bolster-anti-terrorism-law.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune story on the adverse economic impact of activist judges in Pakistan:

Former State Bank of Pakistan governor Dr Ishrat Hussain claims that the country’s economy has suffered as a result of interventions by the Supreme Court in recent years.
While addressing the International Judicial Conference’s working group on Saturday, he said the country’s risk profile has been elevated as the investors fear of being embroiled in endless litigation.
“Even if the investors overcome procedural hurdles, they are now faced with an additional concern of being dragged into the court over legal lacunas, which adds to uncertainty and unpredictability of investing in Pakistan,” the former central bank chief said.
Dr Hussain said that despite fulfilling the requirements, the fear that the country’s courts may take suo motu notice of the transaction, and subsequently issue a stay order, deters businesses from investing in Pakistan.
“A large number of frivolous petitions are filed every year that have dire economic consequences. While the cost of such filings is insignificant the economy suffers enormously,” he added.
Highlighting SC’s judgments in cases such as, Reko Diq, LNG project and privatisation of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM), the former SBP chief said the decisions have had a negative impact on the country’s economic development.

About the LNG case, Dr Hussain said the government received several bids but they could not proceed further due to the court’s intervention, adding that there is a need for expeditious disposal of suo motu cases related to economic issues.
Similarly, commenting on SC’s judgment in the PSM case, he said the country has not carried out a single transaction of privatisation since the decision.
The former central bank chief said the court judgments have instilled fear among the civil servants and political leaders for putting out any public assets for sale to avoid judicial intervention.
Lastly, taking a swipe at the judicial activism, Dr Hussain said the court’s interference in the appointments, promotions and terminations was hampering the operations of civil services.
Treading a cautious line, the former state bank governor said, “Let me submit with all the humility and without sounding arrogant or offending anyone’s sensibilities, that economic decision are highly complex and its repercussions are interlinked both in time as well as space.”
He recommended that laws related to Land Revenue Act needed to be updated, in accordance with modern demands of agro business, industry, commerce, infrastructure, etc.
The former SBP chief also stated that the disposal by the banking courts was 23,694 against a total of 68,973 outstanding cases which was lower than the disposal rate by all special courts and Administrative Tribunals.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/697952/international-judicial-conference-economy-suffered-due-to-judicial-intervention-says-ishrat/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times story about Indian Swiss accounts which may also be relevant to Pakistan:

NEW DELHI — Generations of Indians have grown up imagining a bank with high ceilings and chandeliers in Switzerland, where shadowy Indians go to leave a lot of illicit cash in the care of practical white men. In popular lore, the “Swiss bank account” is an essential part of Indian villainy, even though illicit money is a common household possession.

So, last week, when a news agency quoted a Swiss official as saying that Switzerland was willing to share with the Indian authorities information about Indians of dubious nature who hold bank accounts in that country, the Indian government appeared to give the news considerable importance. Considering the infamy of the Swiss bank account in the Indian imagination, data released last week by Switzerland’s central bank, the Swiss National Bank, contained a surprise.

Indians, not all of them shady, held about $2.3 billion in Swiss banks last year. That’s 40 percent more than in 2012, but just a third of what they had parked in 2006. Indian accounts represented just 0.15 percent of the total holdings by foreigners in Swiss banks in 2013.

When Indians talk about their country’s illicit money, which is chiefly tax-evaded funds and income by illegal means, there is, of course, righteous contempt. But there is also a swagger over the sheer size of this shadow economy, because, after all, it is Indian. So a mere $2.3 billion was not what most Indians would have expected their rich and corrupt to have stashed in their Swiss nests.

It is possible that Indian money has fled to safer havens over the years, or has returned to India disguised as respectable investments.

Nobody knows just how big India’s illicit economy is, but in recent years Indians have come to accept that it is very big. From the range of numbers that claim to measure the shadow economy, Indians tend to believe in the highest.

A popular notion is that $1.4 trillion of illicit Indian money has flown out of the country over the decades and is held in various parts of the world. The apparent source of this figure is an analysis in 2009 by the academic R. Vaidyanathan. He had extrapolated it from a report released by Global Financial Integrity, a think tank in Washington; $1.4 trillion swiftly became a widely accepted estimate of Indian illicit money held abroad.

---

Mr. Kar’s report hit India at a time when the middle class was convinced that it was disgusted by corruption. The $500 billion figure was picked up by politicians, reformers and officials, who quoted each other to support their claim.

A study published in 2006 by Friedrich Schneider on the world’s shadow economies dealt briefly with the “tax morality” of Germans. According to the study, two-thirds of the Germans surveyed regarded tax evasion as a “trivial offence,” while only one-third judged stealing a newspaper this way. Indian tax morality is similar, but it makes a distinction between expatriate illicit money, which is viewed as a serious crime perpetrated by the very corrupt, and money held within India, which is perceived as a practical measure.

Black money, as illicit money is called in India, is a significant part of Indian life. Most Indians of means, including many who protested on the streets against political corruption, deal in illicit money when they buy or sell real estate, or when they need foreign exchange to import goods. Huge amounts of cash travel across India during election seasons to bribe voters. Rich ladies prowl Delhi’s malls with bricks of cash in their bags, or with attendants who carry the bricks for them. And, there is a network of quaint people much in demand for their ability to magically transmute rupees collected anywhere in India into dollars that can be made to appear almost anywhere else in the world.


http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/26/world/asia/indias-underground-economy.html?_r=0