Was case against CJ’s son decided before it began?

Chief Justice with his sonWas the corruption case against Arslan Chaudhry decided before it even began? A New York Times article about the case against the Chief Justice’s son includes a particularly interesting paragraph:

Mr. Mir then insinuated that the powerful army and intelligence services could be manipulating Mr. Hussain in order to get at Justice Chaudhry for his relentless pursuit of cases related to illegal detention and extrajudicial killings by the security forces. “Now you are going in the right track,” Justice Chaudhry said with a faint smile.

How does the Chief Justice know what is the right track before he has heard all the evidence? Has he already decided the outcome and now he is leading the witnesses to provide the testimony needed to give the decision already made?

The Chief Justice has now recused himself, but is it not a case of too little too late? How can anyone be expected to believe that the process has not been influenced when the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court gives away the ending in the first act?

Document From Imran Khan’s Benami Transaction

On Saturday, 26th May, investigative journalist Umar Cheema reported that “clean” Imran Khan purchased his Bani Gala estate in a ‘benami transaction’ with his ex-wife Jemima Goldsmith Khan, further contradicting the PTI Chairman’s repeated claims that he bought the property with borrowed money which he repaid after selling a London flat. After repeated accusations against the reporter, Umar Cheema released the following document from the benami transaction carried out by Imran Khan and it is published below. Please click the image for the full size document.

Imran Khan Benami Document

Corruption, and the appearance of corruption

Justice Scales CorruptionCorruption is well known to be a problem of society. Most complaints about corruption center around the illegitimate amassing of wealth by elites who use public office and public resources for their own personal gain. By reducing the amount of money available for public improvements, corruption of this sort does great harm to the country. They other type of corruption that is most often discussed is the practice of favouritism and nepotism by those in power, another way that the nation’s wealth is amassed by the powerful few and their friends. But it is not only these acts themselves that harm the national interest. The mere appearance of corruption is, in itself, enough to cause great harm and should also be avoided.

Avoiding the appearance of corruption is equally important to avoiding actual acts of corruption because even the mere appearance of corruption is enough to have a negative effect on the people’s faith in their national institutions. When people believe an institution is corrupt, every decision taken will be done under a cloud of suspicion, not matter whether it was legitimate or not.

Let us take a recent example as a demonstration.

National Accountability Bureau appealed to Supreme Court on Wednesday seeking recovery of property held by Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif that is attached to Hudabiya corruption scandal. The court rejected the appeal saying “NAB has no authority to recover the property and, therefore, we see no force in this case. Dismissed.”

The next day, the Supreme Court heard arguments related to another corruption case – one involving the President Zardari. In this case, the PM was asked to explain why he has not written a letter to Swiss authorities requesting that corruption cases be reinstated against Zardari. The PM explained that he had not ordered the letter because the president enjoys constitutional immunity while he is in office, so he has no authority to do so. Meanwhile, the Swiss themselves have said also that the cases cannot be revived, even if Pakistan asks for it. According to the Swiss chief prosecutor Daniel Zappelli, he has “no evidence” to bring Zardari to trial. So the Supreme Court also dismissed the case against Zardari for the same reason they dismissed the case against the Sharifs, right?


In the case against Zardari, even though the constitution clearly says the president has immunity, the judges began speculating that maybe they would not honour the constitution’s clear words and ordered the PM’s attorney Aitzaz Ahsan to prepare an argument convincing them. Ahsan then requested one month to prepare his case, and the court told him he had less than two weeks. Justice Khosa thought he should be given one day.

Why one case before the Supreme Court is treated so much differently than another? It is hard not to view the two cases in the context of the recent personal history of the main characters. When Asif Zardari was elected as president, he was slow to reinstate Iftikhar Chaudhry as chief justice. Nawaz Sharif came to Iftikhar’s rescue by organising a long march in support of the Chief Justice. Even though it was Zardari who actually reinstated the Chief Justice, many believe that he continues to hold a grudge against the president for not acting immediately.

Even Mansoor Ijaz, on whose word the Supreme Court has formed a judicial commission to investigate the memo case, has said that the Chief Justice “owes” Nawaz Sharif.

Is this the case? Is the Supreme Court infected with the same corruption as the institutions that they are supposed to be judging? Is there one rule of law for the Chief Justice’s friends, and another, harsher law for those who he doesn’t like? Of course we can’t know what the justices’ true motivations are. But it doesn’t matter. The fact is, it looks bad. Whether the court is acting arbitrarily or not, it has the appearance of injustice. And this appearance is harming the faith of the people in the independence of the judiciary.

So what is the solution? How do we move beyond this mess? One option is called ‘recusal’. Justices who have personal history with those involved in the cases can voluntarily step aside for those cases and allow a neutral judge to sit in their place. This regularly happens in courts all over the world, and is seen as a shining example of the honesty and integrity of the judges who voluntarily recuse themselves from cases in which, even if they have no intention of acting inappropriately, there is a possibility that their involvement could give the appearance of being unjust.

A judiciary is an institution, not an individual. When the two become mixed up, then the appearance of individual corruption can have a devastating impact on the ability of the institution to be accepted as independent. And once a court has lost the faith of the people, it is very hard to regain.

Transparency International’s Report Is Garbage

Transparency International Pakistan Report 2011Last week, Transparency International Pakistan released the National Corruption Peception Survey 2011. You have heard about the report and its results, no doubt, from one of the many news reports about its findings. Of particular interest has been its findings about corruption in the military as this is the first year military was included in the survey. What you probably haven’t heard much about, however, is that the report is garbage.

Before parroting the findings of any ‘report’, people should take a close lookat the study’s methodology. According to the methodology explanation for TIP’s latest report, Gallup Pakistan (not related to Gallup Inc. headquartered in Washington D.C. USA) surveyed 2,500 Pakistani men and women adults. The error margin for a sample of this size is ±3.5%.

According to the results, only 3% of those surveyed said they had any contact with the military. Of that subset, 11% said they “felt compelled to pay a bribe”. First of all, 3% of respondents is already within the margin of error. But let’s take it a step further: 11% of 3% of people answered in a way that suggests the military is corrupt That’s approximately 8 people only. Which tell us, essentially, nothing. It should also be noted that only 4% of those surveyed said they had any contact with either Customs or Tendering & Contracting.

Let’s also consider the questions that were asked by TIP. Actually, there were only two: First, “In the recent 12 months, did you or your family get a chance to contact any of the following institutions or not?” and second, “Did you feel compelled to pay a bribe?”

Nobody asked why they felt compelled to pay a bribe. Nobody asked if a bribe was actually demanded. Nobody asked if this hypothetical bribe were accepted. And nobody seems to have considered that those people who had contact with institutions like the military might not want to tell a complete stranger who called them the phone that they ‘felt compelled to pay a bribe’ and thought an institution like military was corrupt. With regard to the Education department, does ‘tuition’ count as a bribe? How was this explained to the survey participants?

It is also important to look at the different institutions that TIP asked about. Obviously more people are going to have more contact with Police, Electricity Supply and Taxation than with Military or Tendering & Contracting. Comparatively, these numbers are meaningless. Even if the answers did fall outside TIP’s own margin of error, which they don’t, it appears from the methodology that they asked 2,500 people if they had any contact with each of the 10 institutions – they didn’t find 2,500 people who had contact with each institution. Just because someone has contact with the military and ‘feels compelled to pay a bribe’ but didn’t ever have contact with the police, it doesn’t mean that they think the military is more corrupt than the police. That’s a false inference. And what about Education? Do people consider ‘tuition’ to be a bribe? The ambiguity of the only two questions asked make the answers meaningless.

Furthermore, you can’t rank these institutions because the samples are completely different and the answers are ambiguous. You would be comparing apples to oranges. But that doesn’t stop TIP, who terms Police as most corrupt and Education and Military as least corrupt. Maybe this sounds plausible, except that none of that is supported by the data in this report.

Also worth noting, the institution with the greatest percentage of public contact was Health Department, and even that is below 40%! According to TIP’s study, up to 61% of the population may have had no contact with any government agency at all since the past 1 year!

As far as I can tell, the only thing TIP’s report is good for is as a talking point to criticise government and security agencies. Of course, people will point out that there is a lot to criticise. But this report offers nothing in the way of useful information that could possibly help to eliminate corruption in society. Rather than generating junk studies like this, TIP should produce legitimate research so that we can learn about the problems plaguing the nation and figure out how to actually do something about them.

Lastly, I want to note one thing that always drives me crazy about these Transparency International reports. They are not studies of corruption. They are studies of perceptions of corruption. I don’t know how much co-Sponsors Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC and USAID paid TIP to tell them that people think corruption is a problem, or that people pay bribes to police, but I could have saved them a lot of money. Most frustrating, though, is that these reports are self-reinforcing. People read reports about the annual TI report saying corruption is a problem. So they believe corruption is a problem. Then next year TI calls and asks them if corruption is a problem. “Yes, of course, I read your study!” With “research” like this, is it any wonder we’re not making any progress?


Imran’s Chinese Lessons

Democracy Protest Tienamen Square

Imran Khan recently said that PTI has a lot to learn from China. The PTI chief reaffirmed this belief on his visit to Beijing this week, saying that ‘Pakistanis have a lot to learn from the Chinese, particularly on the fronts of poverty alleviation, anti-corruption measures and accountability of officials and party leaders’.

The Kaptaan learned of China’s excellent record on poverty alleviation, anti-corruption measures and accountability of officials and party leaders from Chinese officials and party leaders themselves – rather like asking MNA’s to declare their own assets, isn’t it?

In fact, China scored as one of the two worst countries in a recent anti-corruption poll by Transparency International. The BBC wanted to learn more about how China is dealing with corruption, but rather than ask Chinese officials, they took a more ‘grassroots’ approach and asked ordinary people.

Qin, in Xi’an, emails: Corruption and bribe-paying happens not only in the commercial field but in almost all parts of social life here. It’s becoming more and more prevalent and is becoming a serious problem.

If this is ignored and continues to develop here in China I think our public moral value, integrity and faith which is the corner stone of any society will be thoroughly destroyed.

As for accountability of officials and party leaders, it’s something of a mystery how Imran compares China’s single party Communist government to a democracy where someone like Imran Khan has the opportunity to challenge the powers that be without fear of reprisal. Is this more evidence of Kaptaan’s soft spot for authoritarianism, or is Immy simply missing the point?

I thought it especially strange since I had recently received in my inbox an article comparing the similarities between the way that the way Chinese officials abuse their positions to harass those who dare to stand up to the government to the way the same is done in India. Does Imran think that Pakistan should take this lesson from India also?

I understand that Imran Khan wants to look like a global statesman, but this is not the way to go about it. While the Arab countries are rising up against authoritarianism, Imran Khan is looking for tips from a country whose own system is facing the need to change. Saying that he is taking lessons on corruption and accountability from Chinese communists only further increases my questions about which side of history Imran Khan is really on.