Pakistani Chief Judge's Anti-Corruption Campaign
Pakistani judiciary's battle against rampant corruption has recently escalated with the jailing of a top serving police official at the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), and the ultimatum to the anti-corruption chief of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to reopen domestic and international corruption cases against the beneficiaries of the NRO amnesty, or be prepared to go to jail.
Some critics of the Supreme Court actions see the top court's recent orders against top officials as abuse of power by Mr. Iftikhar Chaudhry, the head of the unelected and independent judiciary in Pakistan. They accuse the Chaudhry court of engaging in unwarranted judicial activism designed to usurp the powers of the elected legislature and executive branches.
Unfortunately, Pakistan continues to have the dubious distinction of being among the 50 most corrupt countries on a list of 180 nations ranked by Transparency International in 2009. Under the current PPP government, Pakistan has slipped 5 places to being 42nd most corrupt from 47th last year. By contrast, India is ranked much better as the 84th most corrupt country.
While I have been critical of some of Justice Chaudhry's behavior in the past, I have now concluded that judicial activism to fight high-level corruption is necessary, at least in the near term. However, I do expect that there will be both positive and negative consequences of the judiciary-led war on corruption in Pakistan.
The most likely upside to come from the court actions is that the politicians and bureaucrats will be forced to think twice before they demand to be paid off in exchange for illegal favors. The activist top court judges will certainly help reduce the current high levels of corruption among the top leaders, and help set a better tone for their underlings in positions of power.
The negative consequences of the court actions include a gross imbalance of power and a continuing institutional confrontation between the judicial and executive branches of government. An extended struggle may prove detrimental to better governance, and possibly open the way for another military intervention in the country.
Lt us hope that good sense will prevail to ensure that long-term positives will significantly outweigh the short-term negative consequences of the powerful judges' war on deep-rooted and highly corrosive corruption in Pakistan.
Justice Chaudhry's Address to New York Bar
Incompetence and Corruption in Pakistan
Zardari Corruption Probe
NRO Amnesty Order Overturned
Transparency International Rankings 2009