We may be blind but the world is not!
April 08, 2011
Pakistan’s reputation has been tarnished as a country brooding corruption and terrorism in the last two decades. One can argue that terrorism is something which has been imposed upon our society by foreign powers fighting a proxy war in this region, however corruption is not an imported phenomena and our rulers and establishment are quite self-sufficient in producing, promoting and protecting corrupt practices and it seems almost impossible that this evil, which is now embedded deep into our society’s roots, would ever be eliminated. Far more is the cost of corruption for the state than the defense budget and debt financing expenditures and billions of rupees are funneled every year into the pockets of the mafias running the various state functions. All measures taken to curb this evil such as the establishment of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Accountability Courts have miserably failed to deliver due to political reasons.
This evil is evident in all functions of the state departments and even natural disasters like the massive earthquake of 2005 have not been able to teach any lesson to those at the helm of affairs when more than 76,000 people – most of them school children – were killed and almost double that number maimed. A significant number of the casualties were caused when the majority of government buildings – schools, colleges, hospitals, and offices collapsed due to poor construction! Even in areas where loss of private property was minimal, the government-built buildings were not able to bear the jolts and shrunk to the ground in no time. There was a lot of hue and cry those days in the media on the poor quality of material used by government contractors to construct the buildings that were destroyed in the earthquake and both the army and the government reportedly initiated inquiries against them but no report has ever been made public. No lessons have been learnt either!
On the contrary, in Japan, where the history’s biggest earthquake occurred recently followed by a massive tsunami, it was unbelieving for the world to observe that not even a single concrete built structure in Tokyo or other cities collapsed. God forbid, if an earthquake of such a magnitude would have hit our country, the loss would have been several times higher! The honesty of the Japanese nation, especially in their town planning and building controls have saved them from a much bigger catastrophe and loss of lives and property than what was actually caused by the earthquake and tsunami.
Globally, a lot of care is taken by the governments and concerned authorities while giving construction and engineering contracts. Firms that do not comply with the quality requirements and have negative reputation are not even pre-qualified to bid for a project. However, authorities in Pakistan are prone to keep their eyes closed on such companies due to reasons that obviously need not to be cited. Even huge projects of high national importance like the Benazir Bhutto International Airport being constructed at Fateh Jang, Attock are not saved from this criminal negligence.
According to news reports published recently, a company that is not only blacklisted by the World Bank but has been previously fired and blacklisted from a number of international and local projects have been short-listed by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to build passenger terminal superstructure, all associated utilities and E/M work. The said firm has previously been fired and blacklisted from the New Doha International Airport (NDIA) project in Qatar. Not to the surprise of many who are in the know, the Employees Old Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) has also recently cancelled a construction deal of EOBI multipurpose high-rise building in Lahore with the same company.
It is astonishing that the CAA officials who have shortlisted this firm have no knowledge that the country’s biggest donor agency, the World Bank, has blacklisted that firm till January 2015 from its projects on account of fraudulent and corrupt practices.
Our authorities may be blind but the international community and organizations like the World Bank do have eyes to see the affairs of corruption and nepotism in our country and that is the main reason that Pakistan’s corruption rating – which are prepared by Transparency International with the input of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank – have gone up significantly in the recent reports. Pakistan has climbed seven ranks to be the 34th most corrupt country in the world as compared to its 42nd position last year.
It is also interesting to note that such issues if reported in the press rarely solicit a response from the concerned authorities and if the Supreme Court of Pakistan takes a suo moto action against corrupt officials than the government and ruling party brands it as interference in the executive function of the state. Also, if such projects that are marred by corruption lead to a disaster like the Shershah Flyover incident, resulting in heavy loss of lives and properties, the never-ending inquiries and court hearings only provides the culprits to go scot free at the end of the day.
One can only wonder why the present government has no interest and political will to address its growing unpopularity due to massive corruption and the frequent suo moto notices taken by the Supreme Court against mega corruption cases such as NICL, Pakistan Steel, Rental Power and the Haj scandals. Also, what purpose will the government serve if it awards contracts of building mega projects like the Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Fateh Jang to firms that are blacklisted due to corruption and fraudulent behavior by none other than the World Bank itself, which has an important role in the economic stability of the country and is its vital resource of financial assistance?