On September 27th, while addressing the open court held at the NAB regional office, Director General NAB Balochistan Mirza Mohammad Irfan Baig expressed that eradication of corruption is the key to country’s security, development and prosperity.
Corruption and national security are both recurring themes in the International Security conversation. Initially not correlated with each other, experts are increasingly coming to the conclusion that the two may have a somewhat symbiotic relationship; corruption increases the risk of conflict and vice versa.
However, a 2014 report titled, “Corruption: The Unrecognized Threat to International Security” by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) states that corruption does not fuel these threats alone; it always combines with other risk factors within the population to increase the probability of conflict.
The report also states that corruption should not be thought of as a failure of the government, but as a functioning system that uses selected assets in the government to take control of specific revenues. This system often interferes with good governance. Systematic corruption evokes resentment in the masses which is often the cause for unrest and insurgency.
The report also provides numbers on insurgency and/or coup attempts that are traceable, in part, to outrage at corruption in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Indonesia etc.
It explains that every country that has an insurgency suffers from a ‘kleptocratic governance’, severe corruption by the upper half of the society, including higher government officials. This aids extremist groups by encouraging citizens who feel a sense of inequality and injustice to join them and providing them support as governments become lax.
Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index for 2017 shows that countries at the lower end of it, where the perception of corruption is high, are also suffering through conflict. Yemen (175), Syria (178), Kenya (143) and Afghanistan (177) etcetera are examples. On the other hand, countries with a higher ranking, like Canada (8), Finland (3), and New Zealand (1), suffer through little or no conflict.
This isn’t to say that corruption can directly be linked to conflict and lapses in national security. As mentioned earlier no one conflict exists in isolation; there are definitely other factors that pose a threat as well.
Pakistan ranks 117 out of 180 countries on the index; though our score has steadily increased from a 27 in 2012 to a 32 in 2017. The index explains how ending corruption could help improve national security.
A 2014 report by Transparency International titled, “Corruption as a Threat to Stability and Peace” uses Afghanistan as an example. Afghanistan is the world’s biggest recipient of Official Development Assistance (ODA) in recent years; after receiving more than $6 billion per year since 2009. Despite this, the capacity and ability of the Afghan state to provide security, rule of law and, good governance remains limited. The Taliban and other insurgent groups have been able to launch attacks in almost every part of the country. Corruption is inextricably linked to the governance and security challenges here.
Pakistan has seen similar occurrences in the last two decades. Public funds meant to aid development or counter terrorism endeavours are funneled into private firms, more often than not, owned by individuals in the top tiers of government. The Zardaris and Sharifs are clear examples of kleptocratic governments in the last decade.
Cases of funds generated for development have also been recorded in Balochistan. In May 2016, former Finance Secretary Mushtaq Raisani’s office and residence were raided by NAB officials. They seized Rs. 730 million in cash and, jewellery worth nearly Rs. 40 million. Further investigations revealed that Raisani possessed several valuable illegal properties in Karachi’s Defence Housing Authority. The case was decided against him in July, 2018.
Corruption is virtually inescapable. It diminishes both the capacity and legitimacy of the state. Therefore, the Director General NAB Balochistan was right in his assertion that in order to improve the state of national security, we must first make the eradication of corruption a priority. Not only is it a threat to national security, it discourages foreign investment and causes a plethora of other problems.
Anti-corruption actions must be given equal precedence when working towards bettering our national security. It must be considered an equal shareholder of national security. The conversations about corruption and national security need to be merged.