Corruption is rampant in Pakistan and has infiltrated every aspect of public life in the country. This pandemic has become the norm which has come to be accepted by Pakistani citizens as ‘business as usual’. Unfortunately, the people who are struggling to make ends meet are the losers of the system as they are denied their fundamental rights granted to them by the State. In order to defeat corrupt practices, the citizens of the country need to take a stand against this malpractice and voice their displeasure at the expense of the corrupt.
Take the story of Ali Akbar, a poor farmer from Punjab, who decided to fight a corrupt act in 2013 brought about by an introduction of a scheme by the Government of Punjab to give financial aid to deprived farmers. Being uneducated and poor, Ali Akbar was eligible for the scheme. Under this scheme, the eligible farmers were granted a distribution token which they had to collect from a camp set up near a College in the district of Dera Ghazi Khan. The funds were to be given only to the farmers who had received a token. However, Ali soon realized that the process was not going to be smooth. The ‘Patwari’, a local public officer, was in charge of distributing the final token for the funds to the eligible candidates in a transparent manner; instead, he demanded a bribe of Rs.2000 from Ali if he wished to receive the token. Ali soon came to the realization that the ‘Patwari’ was asking for a bribe from every eligible candidate for the scheme who came to receive their funds that day.
Ali recalled that he had heard about an organization which took corruption related complaints so he rang up the Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALAC) helpline at Transparency International Pakistan. The ALAC Team advised him not to pay any illegal gratification to the ‘Patwari’ in order to collect his token. Ali provided the staff member with the contact details of the ‘Patwari’. The ALAC team rang the ‘Patwari’ to inform him of complaints received from eligible farmers alleging his soliciting bribes from eligible candidates. However, the short conversation ended without an admission of guilt by the ‘Patwari’.
A few days later, on the advice of the ALAC team, Ali re-visited the camp to receive his token, with no intention of being bullied into paying a bribe to the ‘Patwari’. ALAC also advised Ali to report any harassment he might witness at the camp; however, there was no further hindrance in obtaining the token. Ali excitedly informed ALAC that he was able to receive his token without the demand of a bribe by the ‘Patwari’.
Just like Ali Asghar, thousands of Pakistanis are victims of widespread corruption on a daily basis. ALAC was established in 2009 to provide the common man with the tools to stand up to corruption at the grass root level by offering ethical and legal advice. ALAC has received thousands of complaints since its inception and has been able to successfully intervene to help those whose lives are being made difficult by venal public officials. The bravado of Ali Asghar goes to show how citizens can end corruption by the simple act of refusing to give in to illicit demands. We hope the story of Ali Asghar will encourage others to contact the ALAC helpline for expert legal advice for the corruption they may encounter.