Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s directives to purge the Federal Board of Revenue and the Pakistan Customs of the corruption officials have apparently gone unheard. The media reports suggest key positions in the board and the Customs have still been occupied by the officials having embarrassingly corrupt past. Earlier, Abbasi directed the FBR chairman to focus on the officers heading field formations and strategic units of the FBR and submit a detailed report about the recent appointments. According to reports, the board has been facing the challenges of corruption and questionable behavior in its hierarchy and the prime minister’s move is to purge the department of the corrupt elements. Earlier, the previous government of prime minister Nawaz Sharif had initiated a large-scale operation against corrupt officers in the FBR. The task to purge the FBR and the customs had been entrusted on the Federal Investigation Agency. A joint report of the Federal Investigation Agency and two other agencies had identified at least 300 senior officers of various designations and recommended their suspension or termination from the services. However, the latest report met with the same fate as was the fate of the reports in the past. In the list of corrupt officers, there were blue eye boys having strong political backgrounds and their names were struck off the list at the end, making the whole operation a futile exercise.
There is no denying the fact that when politically strong officials dominate the departments, the honest officials find refuge in corners. A game of hide and seek is going on in all the government departments since independence. Unless the departments are depoliticized, corruption will stay with all its might. The nation has the narrow tax base and all the efforts made at various levels to enhance tax net have ended in fiasco. The prime minister and the FBR chief are actively holding meetings to streamline the tax affairs and rid the department of the corrupt elements. But keeping in view the ground realities, they both have limited options to move forward. The operation started with zeal and zest had to be suspended because of political reasons. It will not be a surprise for the prime minister when he is told that no action is being taken against a number of corrupt officers. There is a limited mandate of the present government and the nation will have to wait until the next government how it would deal with corruption.