Berlin-based Transparency International (TI) has indicted Imran Khan’s “Naya Pakistan” as being more corrupt in 2021 than at any time in the last ten years under Asif Zardari or Nawaz Sharif. Pakistan has fallen in the Corruption Index from 117 in 2018 to 140 in 2021, a big enough drop in three years of PTI to warrant adverse comment. But Mr Khan’s minions are casting aspersions on Transparency International Pakistan, the local chapter of TI, for feeding false biased data to its parent organization.
This is outrageous. The data is culled from credible sources like The Economist Intelligence Unit, the World Bank’s CPIA, World Economic Forum, World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index, etc. These highly respected sources are used in all TI reports so that comparisons can be fairly made between countries and between any country’s progress or down sliding from year to year. It is also ironic that the PTI government’s propagandists should choose to target Transparency International Pakistan considering that it is a Trust whose elected Chairperson is none other than Pakistan’s most reputed Architect and Urban Revivalist, Yasmeen Lari, whose Vice-Chairperson is Dr Nasira Iqbal, ex-judge Lahore High Court whose son Waleed Iqbal is a Senator of the PTI, and which counts PTI’s President of Pakistan, Arif Alvi, as one of its founding members! But Imran Khan takes the cake for grabbing headlines by straight-facedly declaring that he had uprooted all corruption from Pakistan in the first 90 days of his regime in 2018 even as he scapegoated his Anti-Corruption Czar, Shehzad Akbar, this week, for failing to deliver a single conviction against a hoard of allegedly “corrupt” opposition leaders in nearly four years.
The PTI’s public narrative is built around the theme of corruption by the PPP and PMLN. But now, after seven years of investigations by the Election Commission of Pakistan that were thwarted by hook or by crook by the PTI, the ECP has publicly indicted this very same party for large-scale foreign funding fraud by Imran Khan and other office holders of this organisation. The Scrutiny Committee assisting the ECP was handpicked by the government but, despite its inclination to give a clean chit to the PTI, has been compelled to record the fraud because it was so overwhelming. Efforts to stop its report from public dissemination have also failed and soon the full extent of the corruption will be in the public domain to show Imran Khan’s real face. Indeed, it is only a matter of time before the ECP will write to the government to notify its findings in the Gazette of Pakistan and forward them to the Supreme Court to determine whether or not Imran Khan should be disqualified.
Two other reports on the corruption of the PTI merit comment. The first relates to the NAB Chairman, ex-Justice Javed Iqbal, who has resisted summons from the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee to brief it about his institution’s “performance”. The NAB is largely perceived to be a victimizing handmaiden of the PTI executive. Its Chairman is allegedly being blackmailed by the Prime Minister’s Office to do its bidding since a video of the Chairman in a compromising situation mysteriously surfaced on the platform of a TV channel whose owner is close to the PTI. Since then, the Chairman has been stopped in his tracks from going after leading stalwarts of the PTI regime. Now the Peshawar High Court has woken up to ask why NAB has shelved investigations into several projects in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, notably relating to the Malam Jabba Resort, the 1 billion tree plantation project, the Khyber Bank, etc. And the less said the better of the raging corruption in Punjab province under Imran Khan’s handpicked chief minister, Usman Buzdar, where civil service posts are routinely auctioned to the highest bidders, land grabs are everyday affairs, and billions are siphoned off from provincial and local government funds earmarked for people’s development and welfare. In truth, however, the loudest whispers are reserved for the Prime Minister’s family, friends and cronies. In fact, the list of corrupt or incompetent police officials, civil servants or advisors who are regularly transferred or sacked is growing by the day.
The myth of Imran Khan as Mr Clean is evaporating by the hour. People want to know which ATM funded the spanking new house in Zaman Park, Lahore, and the luxury apartment at #1 Constitution Avenue Islamabad. Questions are being asked about the source of overnight income in 2020-21 on which Khan has reportedly paid nearly Rs 10m in income tax. Intrepid reporters have tracked down people who donated generously to Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital but were shocked to learn that their donations were funnelled into PTI coffers. Indeed, mysteries surround the whereabouts of billions collected for flood relief more than a decade ago or speculative investments by the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust that channelled several million dollars to Imran Khan’s friends and cronies. To top it all, Imran Khan’s sprawling Bani Gala estate has been hastily “regularised” by the Capital Development Authority whilst scores of other illegal structures are still pending approval (one report notes that the CDA chairman who dared to submit a questionnaire to the Great Khan was told to pack his bags and scoot). Not to be forgotten, ex-spouse Reham Khan’s autobiography is full of accounts of generous friends who run his house and travels and cars etc., not without expectations of bigger rewards from proximity to power.
Now Imran Khan is warning the Establishment that brought him to power that he will be a more formidable force on the street than in office if he is kicked out. The good news is that this threat is now being challenged in wildly popular memes on social media that reflect a devastating new reality. The Emperor has no clothes. If and when he struts his hour on the street, people are more likely to taunt and mock him, rather than hail him.