Category Archives: Success Stories

Empowering Citizen’s Against Corruption

For any society to flourish, it is imperative that its people are given the right to hold their rulers accountable. In practical and simple terms, this means there are no restrictions on the kind of questions citizens ask from their government. It has been said time and again that without the free flow of speech and information, a state cannot realistically solve its problems. The argument for the free flow of information is a rational one. Free and transparent information brings out the truth for all to know. Obstruction of information can lead to abuse of power and squashing of citizens’ rights.

While the post 2013 elections period has been promising for the right to access to information movement in Pakistan. Soon after the elections, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) and Punjab led the way by passing internationally acclaimed Right to Information (RTI) laws and setting up information commissions. However, there is a need to empower people to stand up for themselves and demand these laws for themselves. Keeping this in view, Transparency International Pakistan is doing all it can to impact the discourse and dialogue in Pakistan regarding these laws. We have been working with the relevant stakeholders especially youth, women and the general public to equip them with relevant skills and knowledge on how they could hold government accountable using the RTI laws.

TI Pakistan staff member giving a RTI training
TI Pakistan staff member giving a RTI training

Moreover, for any legislation to be effective enough, it is fundamental that people are aware and empowered enough to take advantage of it. Though, in Pakistan, in recent years, there has been much emphasis on legislation but the need to ensure greater outreach of these laws is highly under shadowed. To fill this void, TI Pakistan under its flagship program namely Citizens Voice Against Corruption (CVAC) had envisioned a training program on Right to Information to raise awareness amongst citizens of the basic rules of writing complaints and enable them to write applications to the concerned authority. To date, there have been multiple training sessions conducted across Pakistan (rural and urban areas). As a result of which, TI Pakistan has successfully empowered thousands of citizens to ask questions from their government, bringing much-needed transparency in the otherwise opaque functioning of the government in the country.

It is also encouraging to see the impact of these trainings. One such success story is a case of Mr. Sher Khan who attended TI Pakistan’s recent Right to Information (RTI) workshop in Burewala, Punjab. After the workshop, he was well informed about the RTI laws and procedures to file RTI requests. He filed three RTI requests: One to the Provincial Highway department asking them for the budget of Kachi Paki Road and two RTI requests to the Town Municipal Administration, Burewala for the Town Budget 2015-16 and budget of Tehsil Headquarter Hospital of the last three years. After the struggle of two months, Sher Khan was able to receive information from the concerned departments.

TI Pakistan staff member giving a RTI training
TI Pakistan staff member giving a RTI training

This highlights the fact that for many, particularly for the poor and disadvantaged in Pakistan, the simple act of filing an RTI is an act of empowering themselves. There are many others like Sher Khan who have benefited from TI Pakistan’s RTI workshops enabling themselves to keep a check on government policies and decisions and expose misuse of public funds. In addition, a study conducted by Yale University reveals that “Access to information appears to empower the poor to the point where they receive almost the same treatment as middle-class individuals at the hands of civil servants. This is something that payment of a bribe cannot do.”

However, all this is conditioned upon the rigorous implementation of RTI laws. Only when these laws are adopted in both spirit and letter will Pakistan be able to overcome its problems of bad governance and the menace of corruption in the country.

 

Sidra, In Pursuit of Justice

In April 2015, Mr. Kamran an influential person of Burewala forcibly entered Mr. Ashraf’s house and shot his daughter dead. At the time of her gruesome murder, Sidra was 21 years old and her crime was to refuse a marriage proposal from her murderer.

Such violence against women is rampant in Pakistan. Especially in rural areas, the judicial system is highly undermined by local traditions whereby people arbitrate such crimes through local Jirgas (elders’ committees) rather than resorting to courts. As a result, the perpetrators are rarely held accountable. Importantly also, people fail to take such cases to the actual dispensers of justice i.e. courts because they lack platform which could guide them better. Keeping in view this, in 2009, Transparency International Pakistan envisioned rendering such a platform through its Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALAC).

Sidra’s story was brought to TI Pakistan during one of its Mobile ALAC camp organized in Chak 315, Burewala. The victim’s father had gone from pillar to post to lodge the First Information Report (FIR) against the accused. Given that police in rural areas is under the influence of local influentials so to weaken the case, police changed the type of weapon used in murder in the First Information Report. This was done with an intention to sabotage primary evidence of the case. As such cases are examined through Ballistic, forensic investigations, so a difference in the gun and bullets fired would have created a benefit of doubt in favor of the accused. However, to help complainant, TI Pakistan advised the complainant to go to the trial court accompanied by TIP Pakistan’s local NGO partner – where the matter was sub-judice and filed an application for the inquiry. Throughout this period, TI Pakistan’s ALAC team had remained in constant touch with the complainant and provided assistance from legal advice to actual facilitation on the ground. As a result of these efforts, the trial court ordered forensic inquiry of the bullets and gun and found complainant to be correct.

Though the trial court has released the accused but with legal advice provided by Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALAC), the victim’s father was able to abandon his fear and encouraged to raise voice for the right of his deceased daughter. The ALAC team also advised the victim to file a criminal acquittal appeal before the High Court. Therefore, the matter is currently sub-judice in the Lahore High Court, Multan branch. Through such efforts, TI Pakistan aims to promote transparent and accountable system in Pakistan where each of its citizens is held equal in the eyes of law.

Encroachments galore in Pakistan

Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world. At current level of population growth, Pakistan is expected to add about 3 million people each year throughout the period of 2015-2030. This pressure of population on land is further exacerbated by lack of transparency and accountability when it comes to land management in Pakistan.

Land corruption is widely prevalent in Pakistan. Largely, it afflicts general public in form of corrupt officials who seek bribe for day-to-day administrative tasks such as property transfer, plot registration, kickbacks for facilitating certain development work and massive encroachment on amenity land and open space in various parts of the country. In the city of Karachi alone, it is estimated that each year, over 3000 acres of government land is plagued by encroachment. Similarly, the land sector has consistently been reported as one of the most corrupt sectors by TI Pakistan’s annual reports. To prevent and counter corruption in such matters, Transparency International Pakistan has made persistent efforts for corruption free land governance system. Through its Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre, TI Pakistan has raised voice on behalf of the citizens who are victims or witness of corruption. Our intervention has led to successful resolution of number of encroachment and land grabbing related cases.

The most latest of these is action taken by the provincial government of Punjab. Recently, the ALAC Unit of TI Pakistan had received a complaint from Ms. Marium (name has been changed), a resident of Murree, who had informed TI Pakistan that Mr. Ahsan (name has been changed) is illegally erecting a house on the land that belongs to the government of Punjab. Since May 2008, the provincial government of Punjab had imposed a ban on all kinds of construction activity in the tehsil of Murree. On a further scrutiny of the complaint, TI Pakistan learnt that Mr. Ahsan who himself is a government officer had clearly abused his public office for a private gain.

Therefore, On June 4, 2016, TI Pakistan wrote a letter to Chief Minister of Punjab, Mr. Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharrif to seek government’s attention and action against the illegal settlement on state land in tehsil Murree. After successful intervention from TI Pakistan, the responsible town administrator had halted the work on the site, demolished the construction and retrieved the possession of state land.

Though efficaciously resolved, but this particular case also highlights the wider problem of massive encroachments and different forms of corruption in the land administration system in Pakistan. It is imperative that Pakistan puts improving land governance in its agenda as corruption in this sector carries an enormous cost for the overall developmental agenda of the country and directly affects the livelihood of its people. At the same time, it must also be noted that for such an accountable and transparent system to emerge; vigilant and responsible citizens like Ms. Marium are an indispensable part.

Resources:

United Nations Statistic Division. Population by age, sex and urban/rural residence: Demographic Yearbook. United States of America: UNdata.

Fighting Corruption: Man who was deprived of his land

 

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Ahmed, an old man had spent much of his life working for Pakistan Air Force (PAF) as a Corporate Technician. During his service, he was granted 32 acres of agricultural land under the Defense Force Quota in the year 1966-1967. With a hope to build his own house, Ahmed continued to pay installments for the plot from his hard earned money until 1987. After his demise in 1993, Ahmed’s son, Mr. Khan, who bequeathed his father, had made persistent futile attempts to approach concerned revenue authorities for the issuance of challan so that he could pay the outstanding dues on the land. But to no avail.

To gain a possession of a land that legitimately belonged to him, Khan was asked for a bribe. The bribery mafia is deep rooted in Pakistan’s government departments. While many Pakistanis often succumb in the face of these hassles and contribute to reinforcing corrupt practices by giving a bribe. However, Mr. Khan was adamant not to be deterred by the demand for money and fiercely resisted it. Fortunately, in 2008, after a long hiatus his ordeal was eventually heeded. On 28 April 2008, Provincial Ombudsman (Mohtasib Ala) Sindh passed an order in his favor and directed Executive District Officer (Revenue) Sukkur to grant complainant a possession of land in 30 days. Despite this, Khan was deprived of the possession of his land.

 

Thereafter, he turned to TI Pakistan. After a thorough scrutiny and verification, TI Pakistan drafted a letter to the Chief Secretary Sindh, Secretary Revenue Sindh and Executive District Officer Revenue with a copy to Provincial Ombudsman (Sindh) requesting an action into the matter. However, for seven months the status of the allotment kept lingering. On 13 May, 2011, after seven months, TI Pakistan sent a reminder to Executive District Officer on the status of complainant; thereafter the complainant successfully received the possession of his land.

Each day, there are thousands of Pakistanis like Mr. Khan who are victims of the widespread corruption in the country. Keeping in view this, in 2009, TI Pakistan established Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre – a public forum that provides ethical and honest legal expertise to solve the corruption related issues of the common man at the grass root level. Since 2009, ALAC has received more than 10,000 complaints and through its successful intervention has exposed and helped resolve number of corruption related cases that a common man in Pakistan confronts on daily basis. It also needs to be understood that TI Pakistan is not an enforcing body; it could only pressurize government and push for anti-corruption reforms in Pakistan. For a change to happen, it is imperative that there are enough people like Mr. Khan who are willing to resist paying a bribe. We also hope that the story of Mr. Khan and our successful intervention will encourage others to inform on illicit practices and help counter and prevent corrupt practices in Pakistan.