9 April 2014: The above screen shot is from BBC News about a UK Minister resigning from her job because she claimed over expenses.
A mere £5,800 which she now has to return to the Treasury. Which on today’s exchange rate are less than $10,000 and less than 1 million PKR.
She’s not the first one to be disgraced. There have been earlier instances too.
You may ask: What’s the big deal about such a small amount?
I have spent 10 years with the British. Three years in Britain for an unfinished PhD and later full-time work in London. And seven years in British Council Pakistan, where I was a Country Director for Management Development.
During those years, I saw some BC employees getting fired for a mere 500 PKR wrong claim.
Case in point: An officer claimed that he had loaded a scratch card for 500 PKR ($5) on his personal mobile for official calls for which he was permitted. He claimed the expense, without buying the scratch card. A call to cellular company confirmed that his last scratch card was last month, not this month. In a minute, he was shown the door.
The countries which are law- and rule-abiding cannot let people – even their brightest and highest – to breach the rules and over-claim. It brings the whole social structure down.
16 April 2014: Let’s look at another screen shot from the same BBC News in Urdu, above.
It is about a patwari, a land record keeper from KPK.
In exchange for his release from police custody, he has promised to repay 23 million PKR to National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
The above amount on today’s exchange rate is $232,000 and £136,700.
Since Pakistan got independence from the British in 1947, nearly every patwari in Pakistan, dead or alive, had amassed staggering wealth, if not the same proportions.
And they jokingly say: Even the world’s most feared man, Osama bin Laden, had to bribe a patwari to get his land records for his Abbottabad hideout.
However, this post is not about patwaris. This is about those people who collected wrong and over claims through these patwaris and their equivalents in other government departments.
Messed-up Pakistan Series: No 1 crime is Fraudulent Claims
Claims – add fraudulent to it – have been the Pakistan’s first and foremost ailment, a criminality which plagued this country.
When people migrated from Indian part of the subcontinent to what was now Pakistani part, and started making claims for lost businesses, properties and jobs, what emerged was an industry of lies, deceit, bribing, favour exchanges, blackmail and use of force.
Truth, honesty and ethical dealings took an early, very early exit.
Even the best among us and our forefathers fell for it – knowingly or unknowingly. Those who were sharper, they saw an opportunity in it. The claim industry proved to be scalable.
They became the dealers and a new mafia emerged. Everybody – common man, the nambardar, the saeen, the khan saab, civil bureaucracy, military men and their cronies took advantage from this.
Resultantly, Pakistan didn’t remain a liveable place for the honest. Either God took them or sent them away – to other continents.
The honest minority which decided to stay here became a complaining, moaning and whining community, indulging in self-pity. You could see them chatting in groups outside mosques after prayers. No one around them was trustable any more.
Soon, claims industry became institutional. It co-opted land grabbers, police protection and bhatta (protection money) mafia.
Did anybody, any institution care? Did the judiciary or law-enforcement brought system-wide cleansing? No.
Claims then became the norm for seeking government jobs, permits, tenders, supply orders, anything and everything.
And brought us here into 2014.
Today, we are world’s ninth least peaceful and 10th most-fragile country.
Good news: Although we are only half of us (our other half was lost as Bangladesh), we are still alive. So there’s some hope.
There’s a counter claim too: Fighting corruption won’t end poverty; a capable state will
To leaders of Pakistani society: Can we do something about fraudulent claims in #Pakistan2050?
This is Part 1 of How we messed up: A series by Wali.
The Series looks only at events and patterns that impacted Pakistan in the past. No present assessment. No solutions suggested. That’s elsewhere on this blog.
Will appreciate your comments. Stay tuned for Part 2.
Wali Zahid is founder of two reform movements – Tehreek-e-Adl aimed at social and political reform in Pakistan, and #HumanizeMedical, aimed at global medical education reform (HumanizeMedical.org). A social media strategist, he can be reached at Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google Plus.
Just one small ethical lapse can snowball into big trouble, according to a study released June 25. The same kind of slippery slope that Bernie Madoff said led to his $18 billion Ponzi scheme can make workers and companies vulnerable to scandal — unless managers snuff out ethical transgressions that may seem minor, write four business school professors in the study.
Tailpiece 2: Former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam passed away yesterday. BBC Urdu published his obituary. One para, related to expenses here. Compare this with our leaders – political, civil, military, religious 🙁
Do not miss our Understanding Pakistan Series