Corruption in Pakistan, no matter how one defines it, is large and pervasive in all its dimensions. Yet what makes it unique, even among the societies that are still in their formative periods, is the staggering fact that the real perpetrators of corruption have cleverly maneuvered to shift the blame to scapegoats. Both in the local as well as in the Western press, corrupt political leaders, inept political parties, and ruthless landlords are considered as the root cause of all the ills that Pakistan faces. The reality, however, may be that with the exception of about five years in the early seventies, these players have had no effective political power since 1954. Ever since 1954, the civil service-military alliance has run the country in one way or another. Yet, one rarely comes across a criticism of this alliance. Even when they violate the country's constitution, send the elected prime ministers to the gallows or behind bars, and openly manipulate the judges of the Supreme Court, the criticism of such actions, if any, is moderated by acceptance of their assertion that once again the country has been saved from the chaos created by the elected government.
In order to understand how corruption has come to be institutionalized in Pakistan, it is necessary to identify some of the critical political developments since the partition of British India in August 1947 into two independent Dominions, namely, India and Pakistan. The partition marked a failure of the stated objectives of British policy, which was to transfer power peacefully to a united India. India was divided; a division that was accompanied by a massacre of millions of innocent people and an unprecedented mass migration. For the Congress Party of India, and for M. K. (Mahatma) Gandhi, who had effectively led this party since 1920, partition represented a failure for more or less the same reasons. For the Muslim League and Muhammad Ali Jinnah (who led the League), partition meant at best the dubious victory of having won a truncated version of Pakistan. This new nation originally included an undivided Bengal (the Eastern wing of Pakistan, which was to become the independent nation of Bangladesh in 1971) and Punjab (the Western wing of Pakistan). The details of the territorial divisions