Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pakistanis Get the Government They Deserve?

"The people get precisely the government they deserve"
US Federal Judge James Zagel, Dec 7, 2011

The above quote is from the judge who handed 14 year prison term to ousted Illinois Gov Rod Blagojevich yesterday after he was found guilty of attempting to sell President Obama's senate seat.

I have a feeling that this event will probably pass unnoticed in Pakistan where politics is characterized by a culture of corruption. But for those who have an interest in bringing some accountability to Pakistan's political class, it's an opportunity to understand the evolution of Chicago politics and its comparisons with Pakistan's.

While Chicago is a highly industrialized major city in the US state of Illinois, its politics in some ways remains essentially corrupt, sectarian and ethnic like Karachi's. Convicted Governor Rod Blagojevich is a product of the Chicago politics, as were many of his predecessors and fellow politicians found guilty of corruption before him.

The obvious difference is that, unlike their counterparts in Pakistan, the corrupt Chicago politicians are being caught, convicted and often sent to jail for their misdeeds.

The phrase "Vote early and vote often" captures the essence of corrupt Chicago politics. The phrase has often been used to describe the razor thin win of President John F. Kennedy, the first Irish Catholic president of the United States, in the 1960 presidential contest. It is attributed to vote fraud in Cooke County orchestrated by the then Chicago Mayor John Daley who was himself an Irish Catholic, and thought to have supported JFK because of his shared ethnic and religious affinity with the Kennedys. Needless to say that Mayor Daley was never indicted for anything. Kennedy's rival Richard Nixon decided not to challenge the result to spare the nation of the potential crisis from it.

It was not just Mayor Daley whose ethnic and sectarian identity was central to his behavior in 1960s. Other Chicagoans felt the same way, as described by newspaper columnist late Mike Royko of Chicago:

"There was...good reason to stay close to home and in your own neighborhood-town and ethnic state. Go that way, past the viaduct, and the wops will jump you, or chase you into Jew town. Go the other way, beyond the park, and the Polacks will stomp on you. Cross those streetcar tracks, and the Irish will shower you with confetti from the brickyards. And who can tell what the niggers might do?"

In "Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi", the author Steve Inskeep draws parallels between the Chicago of 1950s and 1960s and the rapidly growing cities in the developing world like Mumbai (India), Karachi (Pakistan) and Port Harcourt (Nigeria) in the following words:

"Karachi was one of many growing cities made turbulent by ethnic politics. In recent years an ethnic political party has controlled Mumbai, India, imposing a regional language on the government of an aspiring world city. In the growing oil city of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, Internet cafes and churches line the commercial streets, while ethnic militias rule the backstreets and set neighborhoods on fire. None of this will surprise people who study the history of American cities. Chicago, for example, grew explosively from the 1830s onward--it was an instant city in its time--newcomers clustered defensively in their various neighborhoods. As late as the 1950s, immigrants and their children drew battle lines along major streets or railroad tracks.."

It does help to put in historical context the growing pains that Pakistan, and its largest city Karachi, are experiencing now. But it's also important to learn lessons from the way the political leadership is being held accountable for their actions in the United States to help Illinois, and its largest city Chicago, move forward. Let's hope that Pakistan's growing urban middle class will rise to the occasion to meet the challenge of ending the culture of corruption by forcing transparency and accountability at all levels of government in the country. Pakistanis can only expect to have a good government if they truly deserve it.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pay to Play is the Norm in Washington

Anti-Corruption Day, Blagojevich and Zardari

Gangster Politicians of Karachi

Culture of Corruption in Pakistan

Pakistani Judges' Jihad Against Corruption

Incompetence and Corruption in Pakistan

Zardari Corruption Probe

NRO Amnesty Order Overturned

Karachi: The Urban Frontier


Mayraj said...

I went to grad school in Chicago. Listening to the news about local corruption, I often thought:this reminds me of Pakistan.
Chicago is and will remain corrupt.
Catching a few mosquitos from toxic swamp is no panancea.
Look also at NJ, the south. rests do not remove corruption.
What Blagojevich’s Sentence Says About Corruption and Greed
Blagojevich Sentence And Illinois Corruption: Will Things Finally Change?
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald Talks Illinois Corruption, Hiring Felons

License to Profit: Legalized Corruption in the US Congress

Riaz Haq said...

Mayraj: "Catching a few mosquitos from toxic swamp is no panancea."

I agree. However, they are catching the big ones. Blagojevich is the 4th Illinois governor in the last 4 decades to be convicted and imprisoned. It should at least have the effect of reducing corruption by making the offenders think twice....a situation better than Pakistan's.

Riaz Haq said...

Some advertisers are having fun at Balgojevich's expense, according to Washington Post:

He’s been a pitchman for pistachios and a contestant on “Celebrity Apprentice.” Now, ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has become the unwitting face of a discount airline’s fare sale.

A day after Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison on corruption charges, Spirit Airlines announced $14 one-way fares from Chicago to seven cities.

It tells customers to buy now or risk missing a “seat-selling” sale.

Blagojevich was caught on tape trying to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama.

Spirit also notes that customers “don’t have to live in the Big House” to buy fares. Blagojevich was barred after his second trial from leaving northern Illinois without a judge’s permission. He’s scheduled to report to prison Feb. 16.

Mayraj said...

The fact that it is the 4th Governor indicates it is not enough.
The Republican Governor did his corruption while he was Sec of State.
It is corrupt at every level. When corruption is systemic, one person caught here or there makes no difference. They have been known for corruption since at least the 1930s. Same goes for NJ!

Mayraj said...

"Reach as far back into Illinois history as you like and your hands will likely come out dirty. ",8599,1865681,00.html
Illinois Corruption

Riaz Haq said...

Here are parts of a report in the News on corruption at all levels in Pakistan:

KARACHI: Speakers at a symposium on Friday said that corruption has thrived in every institution of the country, while institutions established to curb this menace have failed to identify the magnitude of the burgeoning problem, a statement said.

The National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) introduced corruption to the top levels of the national politics and government, it said.

These views were expressed in a seminar organised by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on “good governance and curbing corruption”.

The event was organised to mark world Anti-corruption Day that fell on December 9 every year.

Dean Faculty of Law, Federal Urdu University, former justice Dr Muhammad Ghous said corruption invariably hampered the good governance, while institutions formed for keeping surveillance on such a practice have not yielded good results.

In his view, honest, sincere and competent officers should be elevated at the helm of affairs of institutions to do away with corruption completely.

He regretted that corruption had become a part of life of every individual in the country. Be it a bank, educational institution, research institution or any other public service organisation, all departments have become morally sick, he added.

Dr Ghous said the most corrupt people are, unfortunately, irremovable from their services mainly due to the political influence. There is no global prescription for eliminating corruption, however, encouraging public participation and strengthening of institutions by giving authority to honest officers could significantly contribute in curbing this problem, he said.

Transparency International Pakistan Adviser Adil Gillani said the UN Convention against anti-corruption was ratified by Pakistan in 2007, while just passing the 37 days of its ratification, the then president General Pervaiz Musharraf introduced NRO, hence, paving the way for corruption at every level of the government.

Good governance could significantly play a vital role in eliminating corruption, he said.

Sindh NAB Director General Major Shabbir Ahmed (Retd) said the cooperation of people is direly needed to do away with the burgeoning menace of corruption.

The department is endeavoring to cope with this problem, he said.

Ahmed said that imposition of strict rules and regulations in every organisation could play a vital role in anti-corruption mission.

Former Inspector General Police Sindh, Niaz A Siddiqui regretted the non-existence of any mechanism to protect rights of citizens.

He questioned why there is no surveillance of police officials in their offices, contrary to thousands of close-circuit cameras installed in the city monitoring citizens.

He saw absence of strict accountability mechanism behind increasing corruption in the country.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Dr. Ataur Rahman's Op Ed in The News on building Pakistan's knowledge economy:

Agriculture represents the backbone of our economy. It can serve as a launching pad for transition to a knowledge economy, as it has a huge potential for revenue generation. But that can happen only if agricultural practices are carried out on scientific lines and use of technology maximised. The four major crops of Pakistan are wheat, rice, cotton and sugarcane. They contribute about 37 percent of the total agricultural income and about nine percent to the GDP of Pakistan.
Wheat is the most important crop of Pakistan, with the largest acreage. It contributes about three percent to the GDP. The national average yield is about 2.7 tons per hectare, whereas in Egypt the yields are 6.44 tons per hectare and in European countries such as France, Germany and the United Kingdom they are above seven tons per hectare. We presently produce about Rs220 billion worth of wheat. If we can boost our yields to match those of Egypt, it can generate another Rs350 billion, allowing us to systematically pay off the national debt and make available funding for health and education.

However, the government has been reluctant to invest in research, water reservoirs and dams and extension services so that the country continues to suffer. Some progressive farmers in irrigated areas have been able to obtain yields of 6-8 tons per hectare but they are very much a minority. In rain-fed areas the yields are normally between 0.5 tons to 1.3 tons per hectare, depending on the region and amount of rainfall. In irrigated areas the yields are normally higher, in the range of 2.5 tons to 3.0 tons per hectare. Improved semi-dwarf cultivars that are available in Pakistan can afford a yield of wheat between 6-8 tons per hectare. It is possible to increase the yields substantially with better extension services, judicious use of fertilisers and pesticides, and greater access of water from storage reservoirs and dams that need to be constructed.

Cotton represents an important fibre crop of Pakistan that generates about Rs250 billion to the national economy, and contributing about two percent to the national GDP. Pakistan is the fourth-largest producer of cotton in the world, but it is ranked at 10th in the world in terms of yields. The use of plant biotechnology can help to develop better cotton varieties. Bt cotton produces a pesticide internally and safeguards the plant against chewing insects. The yields of Pakistani seed cotton and cotton fibre are both about half those of China. A doubling of cotton yields is doable and it can add another Rs250 billion to the national economy.


The failed system of democracy in Pakistan is strongly supported by Western governments. It serves Western interests as it leads to docile and submissive leaders who serve their foreign masters loyally. The stranglehold of the feudal system thrives with no priority given to education. More than parliamentarians have forged degrees and the degrees of another 250 are suspect. The Supreme Court decision of verification of their degrees is flouted and ignored by the Election Commission. The bigger the crook, the more respect he is given by the government and the biggest crooks are conferred the highest civil awards. The economy has nosedived and we are today ranked among the bottom six countries of the world in terms of our expenditure on education.

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.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Times Op on MQM Ed by Dr. Arif Alvi:

I’m Urdu speaking, my grandparents made a lot of sacrifices and migrated to Karachi, Pakistan, from India.

Karachi was a city of lights until nearly 30 years back when MQM started showing its true face. I will tell you how MQM works and I have experienced all of this myself. This is a very well-managed organisation, which works under a tight command and control mechanism. They have divided Karachi into a number of sectors; each sector is divided into units. The first tier is called the unit. There are MQM units in every nook and corner of Karachi. Every apartment complex has one unit, and nearly one in every 500 houses there is a unit. The units report to a particular sector under which they come. Each unit has a unit in-charge and other proper posts. As these guys live among us, they know each and every house and shop that comes under their supervision. The unit in-charge literally controls whatever goes within the jurisdiction of his unit. From cable persons reporting to him to the SHO of that area; everyone obeys that unit in-charge.

They snatch mobiles, get bhata from shops, get their students cheating in exams, confiscate hides on Eidul Azha and collect fitrana on Eidul Fitar, etc. The collections from units go into millions and collection from Karachi goes into billions. The units report and submit their loot to the sectors. Each unit in-charge has to sit in his sector on a frequent basis from where they get instructions. The sectors report to Nine Zero (90 is the address of the house of Altaf Hussain in Azizabad Karachi); this is the headquarters of the MQM. This is the reason why within minutes they can jam Karachi, as they just need to make one call from 90. The instructions go to sectors where they call units in-charge who have sufficient arms and ammunition. No Karachiite can stand in front of them, as they easily, and without mercy, kill. If they want to threaten someone, they write on their house wall “Jo Qaid ka ghaddaar hai woh mout ka haqdaar hai” (anyone who defies the ‘leader’ is liable to death).

Following in their footsteps, other parties, such as ANP, Aman committee of the PPP and Sunni Tehreek, now are doing the same. Sometime fighting starts over whose units will control the area. Karachi is a goldmine and everyone wants it. The people of Karachi, who are very patriotic, have to live in a constant fear. They cannot even carry a decent cell-phone in this city. They get looted at ATM machines and believe me that the people do not even decorate their houses nowadays during weddings, as they are afraid to come in the eyes of these bandits. Even now and then, there are strikes; children cry during the night due to gunfire, if a call is not for a strike, the call is for “Youm-e-Sog” (day of mourning), which in fact is another name for strike. One cannot imagine what Karachiites have to go through daily. One even gets afraid driving a car when a motorcycle passes nearby. The real disappointment is that everyone knows this, as this is so clear. ....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story of misuse of counter-terror funds by Pakistan's Ex-Home Minister Rehman Malik:

Pakistani officials used a secret counter-terrorism fund to buy wedding gifts, luxury carpets and gold jewellery for relatives of ministers and visiting dignitaries, leaked documents reveal.

The revelations cast a spotlight on high-level corruption in Pakistan as the impoverished but nuclear-armed country battles a surge in Taliban violence.

They concern the National Crisis Management Cell (NCMC) of Pakistan's interior ministry, formed in 2000 to co-ordinate between the country's intelligence agencies and federal and provincial governments on national security matters.

The NCMC received about 425 million rupees (HK$53.4 million) from Pakistani government coffers between 2009 and last year, according to files obtained by Umar Cheema, a journalist for Pakistani daily The News.

During that time the interior ministry was headed by Rehman Malik, a supporter of former president Asif Ali Zardari's Pakistan People's Party (PPP).

Many of the documents deal with payments to intelligence sources, routine maintenance of vehicles and overtime for employees. But they also include receipts for gifts for US and British embassy officials, as well as flowers and sweets for journalists.

One receipt for 70,000 rupees is itemised as: "Pair of wristwatches for marriage of nephew of minister for interior".

The documents show that on a trip to Rome for an Interpol conference in November 2012, Malik took a necklace, wooden tables and a TouchMate tablet computer as gifts.

The counter-terror fund was also used to buy three rugs as wedding gifts for the son of former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf early last year.

A set of 21-carat gold jewellery worth US$3,000 was bought for one unnamed individual, while another was the recipient of a US$1,500 set.

Among the more bizarre items paid for from the fund was the US$800 cost of four sacrificial goats, plus butchery costs for the festival of Eid-ul-Adha.

Pakistan's present government, led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has ordered an audit of the interior ministry accounts from 2010 to last year. Ministry spokesman Danyal Gilani confirmed the audit was continuing.