“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” said: Lord Acton. This has become only too true with the present day politicians and bureaucrats in all the countries and in all parts of the world irrespective of their political creed and faith. Those who have managed to capture power and taste its fruit want to retain it at all costs. Any price is worth paying and no holds are barred. Similarly, those who are out of power also want to get hold of it at any cost. Here also any price is worth paying and any sacrifice is worth making. The great, glittering, coveted goal is power and it matters not how one gets it, so long one gets it. The next step is to ensure that power which has been won at so much cost and effort is retained forever. Again you pay any price to hold on to power. Since those who have power want to hang on to it at any cost and those without it want to get hold of it at any price and by any means, there extends a perfect breeding ground for corruption.
Money is the main source, spring, generator and guarantor of this power in our society and world. With money you can buy anything and everything except perhaps your health and mental peace. Everybody in today’s world has a price and can be bought at a cost. The payment may be in cash or kind, direct or indirect, but the fact remains that anyone can be bought. Thus corruption and money are interlinked and go hand in hand. With money you can acquire power and with power you can make money.
It is as simple as that Corruption and power have become so interconnected and close today that one is synonymous with the other.
In our country which has adopted democratic socialism and socialistic pattern of society as its goals, all the power is concentrated in the Government and the rulers. The ruling class is represented by the politicians voted to power and the bureaucrats who translate the will of the elected representatives of the people into realities. The socialistic approach and the modern state have concentrated all the powers in the hands of the rulers. The Parliamentary system of Government and the Westminster model also ensure that power is vested with the executive. Nationalisation and public sector have brought vast industrial and economic underakings into the nands of the executive Over and above these the system of licence, quota and permit adds further power and patronage to the rulers. Further, huge plan investment for development give the executive the scope for spending money, showering patronage and awarding contracts. It is not only the nationalised institutions and public sector undertakings combined with the system of controls etc. that confer great power on the executive. In addition the executive can just use the threat of nationalization to get vast sums of money. In a democracy, elections are a necessary evil. Just like inflation, the cost of fighting and winning elections is also continuously sky-rocketing. With innumerable political parties, splinter groups, dissidents and thousands of independents in the field elections are extremely costly ventures today. All political parties, therefore, want to amass funds to fight the elections. Those in power use it increasingly to collect funds for the party and also for themselves, in order to fight and win the elections. They also seek donations from various industrialists and business houses. Now, the businessmen do not part with money except as an investment for profit. Thus in return for the so-called donations, they seek and obtain various overt and covert concessions, benefits and advantages. There has to be favoritism in the issue of permits, quotas and licenses. They will be given help and facilities for expansion and starting of new ventures. Above all, they will also be given some opportunities to make more money out of their products.
The offshoot of the money-power combination is the growth of black money. Since money remains unaccounted it can be used with great advantage. Black money has now created a parallel economy and is nullifying all efforts of the Government to achieve industrial and economic progress. With black money, anyone can be bought or bribed. Essential commodities in be cornered and hoarded. Healthy competition can be driven out. Black money is put to extensive use to bribe or blackmail honest men and public servants. The havoc caused by black money in our body politic is incalculable and all efforts to contain, if not to eradicate, black money have proved futile.
Unfortunately, the presence of black money has now become a world phenomenon. It is no longer an Indian preserve or monopoly. In affluent countries, black money is used to buy politicians and officials of other countries. It enables them to make huge payoffs as commission to clinch contracts, sales or even political deals. Even if the politicians and bureaucrats in positions of power and authority are upright and honest, those related to them or otherwise connected to them resort to corrupt practices. Thus the family members of President Carter caused him grave concern. Many countries have their lobbies in the United States and other Western nations to influence political and legislative decisions. They indulge in various questionable unsavory practices to influence political leaders, legislators, and Government officials.
One of the lucrative source of black money generation in developing countries like Pakistan is through commissions or kick-backs obtained for arranging Government deals and purchases. Every Government has to accede to payment of commissions for arranging oil supplies. Huge sums are reported to have been paid to the sister of the Shah of Iran for her good offices for conclusion of contracts providing for the supply of Iranian crude. A substantial amount of such commissions is pocketed by the middlemen.
Foreign Cartels and multi-nationals also make heavy pay-offs to supply their aircraft, weapons, technology ard know-how. Even where the decisions to conclude contracts are taken at Government level, heavy pay-offs are made to influence political decisions. The agents and middlemen also pocket considerable sums as their share of commission in the pay-offs. There are also instances where they received commissions from both sides. Besides oil imports, the Government of Pakistan is spending astronomical amounts to import sugar, cement, edible oils and even foodgrains. Then there are purchases of aircraft for civil aviation and also for defense purposes. Such transactions provide ample scope for the canvassing agents, commission agents and middlemen to make huge fortunes.
The shortages of rare commodities and essential goods in the country also lead to favoritism and patronage by those in power. The latest uproar is the collection of donations by the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra for the trusts he has created. Although legally his actions have been justified and defended, morally the danger of misuse of official position still remains there. The sugar co-operatives and other institutions are stated to have given donations and they have been favored with the allotment of cement quotas. It is not clear whether the cement is for the use of the institutions concerned or it is meant for further disposal.
The only way to end corruption is for the leaders to set personal examples. Their assets and incomes should be subjected to scrutiny if not by the public at least by special agencies created for this purpose. This also includes benami deals and transactions. Secondly, the leaders should attach as much importance to the means, as to the ends. M.A. Jinnah made it a dictum that the means should be as pure and noble as the ends. He never tolerated questionable means even to achieve worthy ends. Thirdly our leaders and public men should not only remain honest and morally correct but also make sure it appears so to the public at large. Lastly, since power serves both as the base and end of corruption, measures constitutional and others-should be introduced for limiting its exercise by the same individuals for long or indefinite periods. There should be tenures and provision for rotation of all elective posts. Scope in ample measure should exist for sharing of political power in rotation.
The danger of corruption has grown extremely serious. Unless corruption is successfully combated and cut to size it is likely to threaten the very security and survival of the country.