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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

The growing concern of bribery in Pakistan

Dr. Farid A. Malik, an Ex-Chairman of Pakistan Science Foundation talks about the increasing problem of bribery in institutions of Pakistan and how they contributing to corrupting our systems. He shares some personal meaningful experiences regarding this issue as well.

As nothing moves without bribery in the land of the pure,  for the purpose of survival, it is important to deal with it. My father’s generation not only resisted but openly fought against this evil that destroys society from the inside like termites. In the Islamiyat class in school, we were taught that those who tender or accept bribes would be punished. I remember several episodes with my father when he would physically assault any government functionary demanding gratification from him. After the job was done on merit he would gladly offer a token of thanks as  ‘ Baksheesh ‘ ( Tip ) but never on demand.

In his later years when he could not bang the tables or raise hell in offices where such attempts were tried on him, he relied on the legal system for redressal but firmly refused to indulge in any form of bribery. As a worker of the Pakistan Movement, he was a fighter and went down fighting. I inherited about twenty court cases from him after his passing away. As a more pragmatic member of the younger generation,  though with a heavy heart, I decided to fight only the more important ones.

Read more: Vice-chairman of Samsung found guilty of bribery and embezzlement

Reminiscing some good days 

I remember the years while I was studying in Arizona, my father was very impressed by an upright Senior Civil Judge in whose court he had filed a case of eviction. He asked me to get a set of expensive Fountain Pens to be gifted to the judge after the case had been decided. As desired I got the set for him but years later I saw the box still lying on his desk. With satisfaction and pride in his eyes, he said that I did offer the gift but the judge refused to accept it,  saying that it was his duty to dispense justice for which he could not accept a gift.

He was an honorable man who commanded respect and admiration. Unfortunately, such upright individuals have now become extinct which has been a major cause of our decline. After successfully completing round one of the cases, my old man got stuck in the Lahore High Court  ( LHC ) where the case was not heard for eighteen long years as he refused to bribe the Regsiterar’s staff for fixation of hearing. After his passing away, I met his lawyer, the brilliant Mian Nasir Ahmed the father of Ex-Chief Justice Saqib Nasir.

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I was clearly appraised of the ground realities, Mian Sahib called his Munshi Haji Sahib and discussed the way forward. I agreed to foot the bill without knowing the details. Haji Sahib asked for Rs 500/= which I handed over, the case was heard within a week and decided in our favor. I am not sure whether it constituted  ‘ Bribe ‘ or  ‘ Bhatta ‘ but it was sure very effective considering the agony and hardship faced by my upright father.

Understanding the former judicial system 

Under the leadership of the Quaid, his soldiers had envisioned an upright existence where merit would prevail. In fact, the struggle for a separate homeland had started as it was feared that the Muslim minority would be marginalized once the British left. Little did they know that they would be maltreated in the new land that they had struggled for. Mian Nasir explained the ground realities to me as I had remained out of touch due to my stay abroad, Pakistan today has all shades of grey, the black and white/right or wrong mode no longer exists were his words.

He went on to explain that courts no longer dispense justice, at best they provide some leverage that should be taken advantage of for a settlement. When the case was finally heard after the death of my old man, even the judge was baffled at the delay. ” What do you want? he asked the other party,  ” More Time ” was the reply. ” How much,” he asked. ” Five years ” was the reply. Instead of dismissing their case, he offered them one year’s time to vacate the premises to which I objected. Mian Sahib kicked my leg and asked me to remain silent which I did out of respect.

Read more: Former top Chinese Communist official jailed for life for bribery

We accepted the suggestion and both parties agreed to hand over of vacant possession on the agreed date. When we were coming out of the courtroom, Mian Sahib congratulated me saying, ” Your father would have never agreed on this, you would have won the case and then your son would one day be standing in the Supreme Court, fighting against the appeal “. He was proven right when we got the possession as agreed in the court exactly after one year. A paltry amount of Rs 500/= got the job done.

Bribery and corruption as the order of the day

My father’s generation struggled all their life for an upright existence but in the end, they were made to suffer. While he slapped and punched several corrupt inspectors and meter readers and dragged the corrupt officers to the court, finally he left for his heavenly abode with his principles intact but cases unsettled. We cannot give up the crusade of that great generation that won freedom us but we must select our battles carefully as most civilian institutions are non-functional and Mafia infested where people are punished if they do not pay upfront.

The fight goes on, while I continue to avoid ‘ Bribery ‘ but now have started to debate the demand of  ‘ Bhata ‘. In some cases, I succeed in getting the job done on merit while in others I am made to suffer which then triggers a long unending duel as most departments then indulge in the cover-up of their corruption instead of exposing them. In some cases, the Information Commission and the Ombudsman can help, but almost half of the civil litigation is due to punishment for non-payment of  ‘ Bhata ‘ which has now become a normal mode to get the job done.

Read more: Pakistan’s Jamshed faces UK trial on bribery charges

People who are forced to pay  ‘ Bhatta ‘ are victims of a non-performing,  corrupt to the core system. After a long taxing struggle, I am now willing to surrender to  ‘ Bhatta ‘ but not to ‘ Bribery ‘ which is a cardinal sin that will never go unpunished. Under the circumstances, I do offer my unconditional apology to my old man who fought both as an evil that cripples society. Unfortunately as a nation, we have been crippled, hence unable to fight.

Dr. Farid A. Malik is an Ex-Chairman of Pakistan Science Foundation. The article was first published in The Nation and has been republished with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.