(Yusra Sajjad, Karachi)

Corruption in Pakistan is widespread, and extends to every sector from government to judiciary, police, health services and education For decades, Pakistan has set new records in levels of corruption. According to the anti-graft watchdog Transparency International, corruption rates continue to grow, with the country sliding 16 spots to rank 140 out of 180 countries in the most recent Corruption Perceptions Index.

The prevalence of corrupt practices in government departments will also plague relief efforts during the flooding disaster in recent weeks. Local authorities have declared 80 districts to be calamity-hit across the country following extraordinary rains, with at least 1300 people killed according to the National Flood Response Coordination Centre (NFRCC) and economic losses topping US$10 billion, some three per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The United Nations launched a $161 million flash appeal to provide critical food and cash assistance.

But this turn to solicit relief from the international community cannot absolve the ruling elite of their failure to ensure the country’s development – which includes disaster preparations. Primary healthcare facilities are still lacking across Pakistan, particularly in rural areas, and what does exist is being quickly overwhelmed as tens of thousands of cases of waterborne diseases are reported.

Successive administrations in Islamabad, both democratic and military, have not developed adequate infrastructure to handle disasters in the decades since independence. It’s hard to escape a conclusion that national development was not their priority, with the focus instead on plundering and looting the public exchequer. Pakistan still heavily relies on foreign loans and borrows more to repay old loans. Presently, the county’s debt stands at 71.3 per cent of its GDP.

Instead of prosperity for all, a divide has grown within the country with an elite that benefits from the power to exempt or relax rules and regulations that are mandatory for everyday Pakistanis. Heavy security protocols distinguish the wealthy from the rest as they move between towns – some driven in luxury cars of questionable origin.

Yusra Sajjad
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