Corruption-Incompetence Relations and Selective Morality of Imran Khan

Political DiscourseCorruption-Incompetence Relations and Selective Morality of Imran Khan

By Shazia Anwer Cheema

There is a saying in the Tajik language that “arrogant ruler is a curse on proud people; the arrogant and incompetent ruler is a curse on fools and while the arrogant, incompetent and corrupt ruler is the wrath of nature over the larger public”.

Pakistan had gone through this wrath of nature recently when an arrogant, incompetent, and morally corrupt ruler made a mockery of the entire state for over 42 months and is striving hard to come again in power through the remnant of the system that launched him to purge alleged financial corruption of former rulers of the country.

One of the serious issues that Pakistan is facing is the changing definitions of “Morality”

Since this ruler has a highly professional team for blurring social norms of the country through fake news, deep fake, cheap fake, and slur brigades, nothing is left clear and the smog screen created by Imran Khan has virtually engulfed the entire system. Conceptual blending drastically changed standardized meanings of everything including “morality”, corruption, right, wrong, etc. One of the serious issues that Pakistan is facing is the changing definitions of “Morality”.

Imran Khan always questions the “morality ground” of everybody except people around him but he first tactfully narrows down the connotation and denotation of morality he refers to and places morality ground that suits him. Strangely, even well-educated strata of society succumb to his tricks. He would never talk about things through their legal positions because most state institutions are on the right path legally and Khan cannot build a legal case against them but can easily question their acts on moral grounds laid by himself having nothing to do with the realities of legalities.  For example, the Army should be neutral legally under constitutional oath but Imran questions it on the moral ground and claims that the military must support him because he is on the “right path”. This right path is actually a path that can bring lost government to Imran Khan. Like a spellbinder, Imran successfully paints “Right” and “Wrong” that suit his quest for power. Having phone sex to some is “Right” for him but the release of the same phone sex to the public is “Wrong”— this is how  Khan plays with human perception.

One of the dilemmas Pakistan is facing includes the lack of analytical thinking and logical dialogues due to our educational system being confined and constrained by social nurturing. I am confident that the majority of us even do not have an idea that morality is subjective that’s the reason people like Imran Khan use this diction to serve their purposes Unfortunately nobody talks about the (financial) Corruption-Incompetence Nexus which is one of the most talked and debated issues in developed countries so we all think that corruption is the most dangerous ill and forget to think that what actually brings corruption in the administrative system?

Cartoon by Feica


One of the core propositions to discuss the corruption-incompetence issue includes, is financial corruption possible in a competent administrative system.

If yes, then how much corruption can control a competent system? Using inductive and deductive logic, the answer would be similar to as follow:

A competent administrative system is competent when it has the capacity of purging administrative and financial ills like financial and administrative corruption. So what is more dangerous? An incompetent system or financial and administrative corruption?

The answer would be of course incompetent administrative system would allow corruption to take place.

Let me share the international scenario of academicians and practitioners dealing with Governance and Administration.  The problems of arrogance (latest reference from Donald Trump rule), incompetency, and corruption (any kind including financial, moral, administrative, etc) among public figures, particularly people in power have been some major issues for researchers and for discussions in a public administrative domain.

K C Wheare in his book “Maladministration and the Remedies” states that maladministration may be defined as administrative action (or inaction) based on or influenced by improper considerations or conduct and it places a pivotal role in administrative incompetence. In simple words, he believes that improper considerations and inaction against malpractices create an echo system where incompetency rules the public administration.

Research conducted by Barry Bozeman and Jiwon Jung about “Corruption-Incompetence Nexus” indicates that there are different types of financial corruption that include public corruption (ref to the research of Gilbert Geis. Henry N. Pontell–2007), private corruption (Antonio Argandoña—2003/2005), pervasive corruption, and arbitrary corruption (Peter Rodriguez, Klaus Uhlenbruck, Lorraine Eden–2005) and they are all link somewhere with each other when one studies deep into the realm.

Boisvert, Anne-Marie Lynda, Peter Dent, and Ophelie Brunelle Quraishi (Ref: Corruption in Canada: Definitions and Enforcement) believe that governments, to a large degree, ‘set the rules of the game’ that comprise the fundamental reward structure of an economy and thereby determine the nature of commercial activity within it but incompetency in enforcing the rules affected the entire paradigm corruption-free model.

The studies of “Public Corruption” including one “Corruption and the Global Economy” –Elliott, 1997) indicate that corruption can originate from either the “demand-side” (the recipients of the bribe) or the “supply-side” (the givers of the bribe) (Heimann & Boswell, 1998). This double-edged effect of corruption on the economy and society makes it a multidisciplinary subject and phenomenon. Thus, corruption as a multidisciplinary subject is examined and analyzed by scholars from different fields and disciplines. The incompetent rulers mostly fail either to reduce the demand side (by offering an effective system to listen to the problems of the public) or fail to penalize the supply-side (government officials, bureaucrats). Here we should discuss the real issue—— what is more dangerous? effect or the cause? Analytical thinking always offers to understand the “cause and Effect theory” and we know that in the cause and effect relationship, one or more things happen as a result of something else. A cause is a catalyst, a motive, or an action that brings about a reaction—or reactions. A cause instigates an effect. An effect is a condition, occurrence, or result generated by one or more causes. In Corruption-Incompetent Governance, the cause of the incompetency and the effect is Corruption.

We have seen that “arrogant leadership” usually creates a situation where “professionalized and empowered public servants avoid working freely and that scene we saw in PTI tenure

For the understanding of a common reader, it is appropriate to develop and exaggerate the relationship between corruption and incompetence through useful simplification of the corruption-incompetence relationship typology (study of or analysis or classification based on types or categories).

The most basic sort of typology is presented below, with just four categorical types:

  • I. Not Corrupt, Competent; ———Perfect situation and no need to discuss.
  • II. Not Corrupt, Incompetent; ——-having loose or no control to mitigate either the demand side or the supply side and providing opportunities to cunning corrupt components to work effectively.
  • III. Corrupt, Competent; ——–Can break the chain of corruption whenever needed and can control both sides —demand as well as supply.
  • IV. Corrupt, Incompetent—- Double-edged sword and the worst kind of Governance.

Whenever we find a corruption-competence nexus, we mostly find that incompetence enables corruption due to a variety of factors including the inability to monitor corruption or to select quality advisors because a variety of factors needed to mitigate the relation between incompetence and corruption, including the level of political authority and impact and availability of professionalized and empowered public service.

No professional person wishes to work with an arrogant person who is also incompetent. Moreover, an incompetent and arrogant person keeps changing his/her advisors due to having no idea of what he or she is responsible for

We have seen that “arrogant leadership” usually creates a situation where “professionalized and empowered public servants avoid working freely and that scene we saw in PTI tenure when bureaucrats were so dreadful that they almost halted taking financial decisions, resulting in chocking the administrative system for first two years of PTI government. Therefore, the study of the corruption-competence nexus argues the effects of incompetence on corruption change as a function of a number of variables, including the level of authority and impact, size of political and business networks, and the official’s relationship to advisors, their number, their characteristics and, particularly, the extent to which the official listens to others’ advice.

The above-mentioned point could be a reason that PTI had to have a brigade of ever-changing advisors and over 25 advisors to the prime minister resigned and some of them even did not work for more than a month. Several ministers were also removed from their positions, over seven chief secretaries of the province of Punjab were removed, and over five Inspector Generals (IGPs) of the Police of Punjab were moved- there is a very long list to add here but in simple words, no professional person wishes to work with an arrogant person who is also the incompetent. Moreover, an incompetent and arrogant person keeps changing his/her advisors due to having no idea of what he or she is responsible for.

Transparency International report indicates that Pakistan was ranked 124th in 2020, 120th in 2019, and 117th in 2018 and there was a constant downward trend in transparency and accountability during Khan’s 42-month rule

I am against accusing someone of financial corruption unless someone is convicted under corruption charges therefore I am not qualified to comment on the legitimacy of the accusation of financial corruption Imran Khan is facing but it is a fact that he is accused of not only incompetency and moral corruption (reference to his alleged phone-sex audio leaks that Khan’ never contested and his undeclared daughter from his former girlfriend Sita White and many more such examples) but also for financial corruption.

Interestingly, Khan who had been beating drums against his opponents over their alleged involvement in corruption left his PM office through a vote of no-confidence against him in April 2022 when “Transparency International” ranked Pakistan 140th out of 180 countries in its latest Corruption Perceptions Index report. Before coming to power Imran Khan regularly cited CPI reports as “evidence”  to malign his political opponents. This report was a serious blow to Imran Khan, whose party promised to eradicate financial corruption from the country the report indicates that Pakistan was ranked 124th in 2020, 120th in 2019, and 117th in 2018 and there was a constant downward trend in transparency and accountability during Khan’s 42-months rule, exposing the claims of PTI government to purge the financial corruption.

Meanwhile, his immediate family members are allegedly involved in large-scale corruption in several cases like the Al-Qadir University scam, wheat scam, sugar scam, Toshakhana case, Foreign funding case, and Pandora Papers leaks. Strangely, Khan neither laid off his cabinet members (Moonis Elahi and Shaukat Tarin) whose names came in the Pandora Paper Leaks nor he explained his inability to ask his cabinet members to explain their position.

As I strongly believe that incompetency is a greater curse than financial corruption, therefore, I would not discuss financial corruption allegations against Imran Khan but leave a message to my readers that they should review the situation through analytical thinking instead of following someone as a cult member. Pakistan is going through a critical juncture of time and it needs everybody to help it (Pakistan) by using the mind who is pushing the state towards moral, social, and financial bankruptcy?


Note: Writer Shazia Anwer Cheema is an author, columnist, and foreign affairs expert who writes for national and international media. She is a doctoral student and researcher in semiotics and philosophy of communication at Charles University in Prague. She can be reached at her: Twitter @ShaziaAnwerCh Email:


The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk News Agency.

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