As we approach election season in Pakistan, once again the issue of corruption is back in the news. Pakistan, like other developing countries, ranks high on the corruption index. For decades, every Pakistani government has cracked down on corruption – whether political or corporate – and yet it persists. Maybe the reason is more complicated than what the establishment would like to portray.
A recent army-sanctioned operation against hoarders and black marketeers has apparently helped resolve the issue. As per media reports confidence in the rupee has strengthened and now there are more sellers than buyers in the market. Social media is flush with accounts of unscrupulous elements being arrested with breathtaking stashes of foreign currencies, which have subsequently been confiscated by the state.
However, as an Editorial in Dawn noted, “It remains difficult to sift truth from fiction, however: after all, the state has not shared how this crackdown was planned and executed, who was targeted, and precisely what role the suspects arrested so far played in manipulating the exchange rate. While the sharp improvement in exchange rates cannot be denied, the citizenry also deserves to know how and why the market was rigged in the first place. One wonders that if administrative measures were all that were needed to arrest the rupee’s sorry slide, why were they not taken sooner? Why did the finance minister in the PDM government does not consider this option as he struggled and failed for months to keep the exchange rate in check?”
As the Editorial noted, “a crackdown against currency dealers can only create limited breathing space. The situation demands that an empowered government, elected by the people, take over post-haste so that responsible decisions can be taken to protect the public’s interests. Alas, this more permanent solution seems to be unacceptable to the wise souls managing Pakistan’s affairs these days.”