Pakistan: Punjabi Chauvinism and Corruption Allegations

By Wasiq Ali
August 7, 2009

 The recently released report of Transparency International has been much talk about. It is once again an instrument to malign the incumbent government. The report highlighted public perception (repeat perception) that corruption had gone down in Punjab while it increased ‘manifold’ in NWFP, Balochistan and Sindh.


Quite clearly the perception creators are Punjabi chauvinists who deem the “lowly” Sindhis and Baloch more corrupt than themselves. Ironically, there is more wealth –and vulgar display of wealth in Punjab—than in Sindh and Balochistan. We must all believe, as true believers in the ideology of Pakistan, that the Porsches and BMWs of the Chaudhries of Gujrat and the Sharifs of Raiwind are all legally obtained but the Pajeros of the Baloch and Pashtun Sardars are not. And, of course, the Sindhi Asif Zardari was “horrible’ for owning horses and feeding them apples (which, by the way, all horses are fed) but the Punjabi Sharifs are non-corrupt even when they own rare Siberian Tigers.


The words of ‘transparency’ and ‘international’ are good attraction points to draw public attention in Pakistan because of vague political landscape. Nobody knows the modus operandi and the data collation procedures of TI.  Publication of these reports thus mostly serves the purpose of the opposition to taint the governments especially in third world countries. During the 1990s TI reports were used against democratic governments and eventually to justify Musharraf’s military takeover in October 1999.


Transparency International has a local chapter in every country where it literally out-sources the task of compiling reports. The task is to interview local businessmen who first safeguard their business concerns, revitalize their vital connections and try to milk these reports as much in their favour as possible.


Ethnicity apart, let us try to dig deep why such reports almost always exonerated Punjab whenever PML is in power there despite the fact that Punjab constitutes 65 percent of the population and anything labeled to Pakistan refers to the Punjab province in the first place?


All major businesses in Pakistan are vastly dominated by Punjab. There is a certain ethnic chauvinism which guides the compilation of these Transparency reports and opinion surveys. Interestingly the business elite which mostly hails from Punjab has brought the country to the brink of Balkanisation by concentrating prosperity in one province while distributing misery around the country. This elite practically controls all resources of the country, mostly resides in Northern and Central Punjab and has often been the cause of major upheavals in the checkered history of Pakistan.


Factors behind Balochistan turmoil also lead to this nexus of Punjabi businessmen and bureaucracy which has held the province hostage for all practical purposes. Democracy for the Punjab business elite is a nightmare as it deprives them of its commanding heights and it always thrives under dictatorship for being accountable to none. We all know the lack of democratic credentials of PML-N whose top head once tried to become Amir-ul-Momineen through the controversial thirteenth amendment and the Sharia Bill.


Sadly whenever Punjab is termed as usurper of rights it is primarily due to the business elite which work with tacit understanding of the civil and military bureaucracy which in turn governs Pakistan. I do not know whether I should bring to fore this point but the fact is that 62 percent of Pakistan’s bureaucracy is dominated by Punjab. So after this background information in mind, the less said about these so called Transparency reports about corruption in Pakistan the better.


Compilation of such reports is a serious business and in a country like Pakistan where such reports are used for character assassination and mud slinging the compilers must exercise more caution. As Churchill had once said about generals regarding war I think such reports are too serious a matter to be left to the motivated agendas of the Punjab centric business elite.


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