Opposition says latest report’s 16-point slide has ‘destroyed’ PTI-led government’s claims of eradicating corruption
Transparency International on Tuesday released its annual Corruption Perceptions Index 2021, with Pakistan’s ranking dropping from 124 to 140 out of 180 countries with a score of 28 out of 100—three points worse than last year’s score of 31.
Despite the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government’s claims of ensuring a corruption-free country—Prime Minister Imran Khan has repeatedly described the previous 10 years of the Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz)’s rule as a “decade of darkness”—the country had been steadily improving on the Corruption Perceptions Index till 2018, when it peaked with a CPI score of 33.
Following the PTI’s election in July 2018, the country has been on a decline, posting scores of 32 in 2019; 31 in 2020; and just 28 in 2021. “The absence of rule of law and state capture has resulted in substantial low CPI 2021 score of Pakistan compared to CPI 2020, from 31/100 to 28/100 and rank from 124/180 to 140/180, whereas there is no change in CPI 2021 scores of India and Bangladesh from CPI 2020,” read a statement issued by Justice (retd.) Nasira Iqbal, the vice-chair of Transparency International Pakistan.
Last year, the incumbent government had sought to defend its slide in the CPI rankings by claiming Transparency had utilized data from 2017-2018 before it had come to power. The earliest source of this year’s data is from February 2020, with the latest from December 2021.
Transparency’s CPI scores 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, according to experts and business owners. All states are scored from 0 to 100, with 100 being “very clean” and 0 being “highly corrupt.”
According to the 2021 report, more than two-thirds of the countries (68 percent) scored below 50, with the average score remaining at 43. The country with the highest rank for a third consecutive year, Denmark, scored 88, an improvement of 1 point. India retained its rank of 40, with a score of 85, one less than last year. However, Transparency International has warned that “some of the mechanisms that could help reign in corruption” in Delhi are weakening, especially with regards to the government targeting critical civil society organizations with security, defamation, sedition, hate speech and contempt-of-court charges, and with regulations on foreign funding.
Somalia, Syria and South Sudan bottom out the rankings, with 13, 13, and 11 points, respectively. Since 2012, the earliest point of comparison in the current CPI methodology, control of corruption has stagnated or worsened in 86 percent of countries.
According to Transparency, countries that violate civil liberties consistently score lower on the CPI. It also warns that complacency in fighting corruption worsens human rights abuses and undermines democracy, adding that as these rights erode, authoritarianism takes its place, contributing to even higher levels of corruption. “Human rights are not simply a nice-to-have in the fight against corruption. Authoritarian approaches destroy independent checks and balances and make anti-corruption efforts dependent on the whims of an elite,” said Delia Ferreira Rubio, chair of Transparency International. “Ensuring people can speak freely and work collectively to hold power to account is the only sustainable route to a corruption-free society,” she added.
Citizens, advises Transparency, must demand that their governments implement four points to ensure human rights and reduce corruption: upholding the right to hold power to account by rolling back restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and assembly; restoring and strengthening institutional checks on power with ensuring complete independence for auditors; combating transnational forms of corruption; and upholding the right to information in government spending.
Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar of the Pakistan Peoples Party said the latest CPI report had completely destroyed the incumbent government’s narrative of a “clean and corruption-free” administration. Noting that the opposition had been consistently pointing outing the rampant corruption under the current regime, he hinted that many cases of corrupt practices would only emerge once it had been removed from power. “We are now one of the most corrupt countries in terms of ranking,” he said. “This is a sad day for Pakistan,” he added.
Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif, who is also the president of the PMLN, said that Transparency International’s report had once again proven the corruption of the PTI-led government. “The report of the international organization is an indictment of the PTI government,” he said and called for the “corrupt rulers” to resign.