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EDITORIAL: It is easy to draw parallels between the resignation of Shahzad Akbar, which is being seen as an admission of the government’s accountability drive having gone off track, and the shocking downgrade in Transparency International’s (TI’s) Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).

The opposition is having a field day with it, which is not surprising at all, but to imply that the accountability was a charade therefore corruption has increased does seem to stretch facts more than a little bit. Besides, corruption is so entrenched in every arm and organ of society that even the sincerest efforts to get rid of, or even control, it will take a very long time.

But that still does not mean that this problem has not become worse, instead of getting better, during Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI’s) time at the top. The fact that TI mentions that while most countries have more or less stayed where they were on the index, Pakistan’s position has continuously worsened, is very telling.

As is the realisation that this trend has gathered pace since 2018, which is when PTI came to power, so the last thing that Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary should have done was dismiss the report as “senseless”.

This, if anything, will only add fuel to the charge that the government prefers to live in denial and moves with great speed to cast doubt on the authenticity of any questions that are raised about its performance.

It’s also likely to prove very embarrassing very soon because of the many times Imran Khan himself waved earlier editions of this very report in people’s, and cameras’, faces as proof of the sitting government’s corruption when he was still in opposition.

And even if he does have something of a habit of going back on his word without the least bit of remorse, and justifying his U-turns as a mark of wise leadership, he and his favourite spokespersons will still have trouble selling a complete dismissal of TI’s credibility to the people.

It is, rather, very important that the government recognises and embraces this finding; because then only will it be able to seriously deal with it. If it just continues to say that PTI has made ordinary people’s lives the best they’ve ever been like it really expects everybody to believe it, then there’s no chance that it’ll put any time and energy into fixing the problems that are being pointed out. PTI’s had plenty of wake-up calls by now, yet it continues to dismiss them at not just the people’s but also its own peril.

Right now, it faces the political dilemma that most people can relate more readily to TI’s findings about corruption than the government’s claims about economic growth, etc. And it’s just brushing it aside like it won’t mean anything at the next election. If the ruling party’s think tank cannot see that its credibility has taken a number of very strong hits recently, then it won’t work on controlling the damage.

It is, in effect, still going straight whereas the road to possible re-election has taken a very bumpy turn. The line that everything is someone else’s fault and all others are plain wrong worked well with a lot of people for a while, but now it is truly past its sell-by date.

So far the only adjustment PTI has made is adding threats to denial. Its leaders have also decided to stomp out any dissent inside the party. When the media points out that this PTI is a far cry from the old PTI, they lash out at it too. But what will they say to their old voters who might be having second thoughts?

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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