War on corruption reaches Chitral

Day-long anti-corruption seminar was organized by Director NAB in collaboration with the District Administration at the Centennial School Hall to, what the Director termed, “creating awareness about corruption and highlight the role of NAB in fighting the menace”. A day before the seminar date I received telephone call from ADC to convey to me the desire of the Director that I should speak on the occasion. I took it as a God-gifted opportunity where I would speak to the right audience on a subject that has been close to my heart. It was quite a satisfaction that my efforts had been somewhat recognized as was apparent from the invitation.

The next morning I took my jeep to travel to Chitral but half a mile down the road, Droshp bridge had been damaged by flooding in Murdangol and the same was not passable. Fortunately there was a passenger taxi available on the other side of the bridge which I took to reach Chitral. The road was beyond recognition. Since my last travel to Chitral, four months ago, the entire road infrastructure had been washed away by the normal river flow in summer without major flooding thus bringing to naught the loud claims of officials having restored the infrastructure at huge cost. Repair work currently underway in lethargic manner and with poor engineering skills seemed to me as another effort of wasting resources. If any proof of corruption was needed here it was and I decided to include this in my discourse during the seminar.

At the venue of the seminar I was surprised to see that almost the entire audience came from the teaching community and very few from government departments and NGOs, where the perception of corruption was the strongest chose to attend. It shows the low priority we attach to education because on this day students were not taught. Using students as cheer leaders for VIPs is considered normal. This compelled me to recast my speech focusing on the role of education to create corruption free society.

The District Nazim, who was supposed to preside over the seminar and the Deputy Commissioner who was the chief guest, reached the venue when all the speeches had been delivered only to give their sermons. According to protocol, these dignitaries had to hear all the speeches to be able to comment on them and sum up the proceedings to make sense out of the proceedings. Public expectations from the Deputy Commissioner are very high. He is perceived to be well meaning and upright and it was rightly expected that he would listen to all the speakers as it is he who would trigger action against the corrupt in Chitral. Perhaps he and the Nazim were busy with more important matters of governance but then the proceedings could have been delayed.

The way the event was handled both in terms of target audience and protocol left much to be desired. If this is the way through which corruption is going to be eliminated then we are here for a long haul and I am not sure that we have that much time as a nation. All the four speakers-Dr.Faizi, District Khatib, Press Club President and I had gone into some trouble to come prepared to the venue. Speakers highlighted the definition of corruption as given in the laws but expressed surprise that none of the nearly dozen anti-corruption agencies were prepared to act under the laws to nab the corrupt. They suggested that these agencies be amalgamated and turned into a single empowered agency manned by people known for integrity and incorruptibility. At present it was a dacoit deputed to catch a thief. I happened to surprise the audience when I said that apart from being the mother of many good things UK has now turned out to be the mother of corruption as it was harbouring the corrupt and its offshore banks provided safe haven to the ill-gotten wealth of the corrupt-a new brand of imperialism?

As the target audience mostly comprised teachers it was pointed out that hatred against corruption and corrupt elements be inculcated in the students at the early age. In Chitral the corrupt are referred to as haramzade i.e. someone fed on ill gotten wealth but in public perception it has been ingrained as someone borne out of wedlock. This misperception has been deliberately created to save the corrupt from public ridicule. Education can correct this misperception to place high premium on corruption. One speaker went to the extent of suggesting that corrupt elements should be boycotted and matrimonial relations with them should not be contracted. Dr.Faizi assailed the anti-corruption agencies for their double standards. They were lenient on the powerful and harsh on the poor. The drafting of special laws to create loophole for the powerful corrupt to escape punishment was the best example.

The seminar ended with the call for action as awareness was already there and it was already too late. However there was a need for the people to unite and make their voice be heard so that their demands evoke desired response from the right quarters and push them into action failing which corruption would continue eating the vitals of our society until it collapses altogether.

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