Thursday, November 28, 2013

Sectarianism and Pakistan Muslim League-N's misdirection

Why to focus on social media that it incited sectarian violence; whereas sectarian outfits and their comfortable fund-raising and publishing ventures may be causing the sectarian violence, as the following cartoon shows:

[The Express Tribune, November 22, 2013] 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Drone cricketer

On November 23, Imran Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) blocked the NATO supply route; the PTI was protesting against the Drone attacks on Taliban terrorists. What's the issue? What is Imran Khan up to?

Instead of focusing on governance in Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa province where his party is in power, Imran Khan is wasting his PTI's first ever stint in power by indulging in non-sense politics.

The following cartoon by Sabir Nazar explains well the politics of Drone cricketer:

[The Express Tribune, November 24, 2013] 

Friday, November 22, 2013

The General out of his labyrinth

One of the lawyers from government side while commenting on the Supreme Court’s judgment restoring the Chief Justice of Pakistan and quashing of the presidential reference against him in a talk-show first said: one side has to lose and the other to win. Then, in the same breath he said: it’s a win-win situation. He said: it’s a victory for justice, a victory for the rule of law, and a victory for General Musharraf also. He explained that it’s during the regime of a dictator that such a historic ruling was made. Probably, he meant that the judgment might have been influenced in favor of the government. Regardless of what would have been this lawyer’s stance had government won the case, it’s worth-pondering where the government stands now.

The reactions from the government after the verdict show that its thinking is not much different from that of the lawyer’s. It says it accepts the judgment and it won’t be going for a review petition or another reference against the Chief Justice. But it’s eager to take credit for letting the court hear the case on merit and decide it independently. Also, it seems it’s not in a mood to admit its mistakes, and beyond that to mend its ways. A strong reason for this belief is its past behavior and of previous governments’ also. Just like the general sentiment before the verdict that the court’s judgment would be providing a saving for the faces involved, especially for the government; the present public sentiment expects some “balancing act” from the government to neutralize its defeat in the apex court. But if so happens it will be most uncalled for and making the government weaker.

It’s time for the present regime to take stock of its character and performance. As is clear, it has a long list of negative points to its credit. It’s unconstitutional, it’s military-led, it’s immoral, it’s manipulated, it’s dictatorial, it’s imposing, it’s a travesty of democracy, it’s without a social base, and last but not least, whether it is at its climax or not, it seems like all other military governments it will leave the people of Pakistan ever more insecure and deprived, and their problems enhanced and aggravated incomparably.

Additionally, as such governments derive their power from a deformed constitution; this one has also been bent upon seeking more and more power. This lust for power has landed it in self-created crises, the most recent examples of which are the issues of Lal Masjid and Chief Justice’s removal. As to the Lal Masjid issue, the delaying of government action against the Lal Masjid brothers and their accomplices strengthened the stances of the conspiracy theorists. As one of the important explanations, it was suggested that government itself or some intelligence agencies were behind its staging. Another such explanation placed the Lal Masjid issue against the backdrop of judicial crisis and fight against terrorism.

Be that as it may, the crisis of Lal Masjid was, directly or indirectly, one of the biggest lapses of the government and its agencies. As governments in Pakistan have been fond of patronizing elements which could be used at various occasions for furthering their cause, Lal Masjid brothers were no different. With time, when they thought they were powerful enough they started “challenging the state or government’s authority.” Regardless of the controversy that the whole episode of Lal Masjid was a concocted drama, what was happening in and around the Lal Masjid made government’s authority suffer a dangerous setback.

It is appreciable in clear terms that in executing the ‘operation silence’ the government acted very cautiously, showed restraint and cared for the lives of a large number of innocent girls and boys. It’s a victory for the rule of law. Had it bowed down to the demands of the Lal Masjid occupiers whether due to outside political pressure or for its own expediencies and let the occupiers escape from the law, the conspiracy theorists would have been proved right.

However, the restraint and care for human life do not absolve the government from its negligence or complicity. Why and how did it let this happen in the heart of the capital? How come the Lal Masjid brothers got such fire power store and such militants hide in the Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa? Why the Lal Masjid brothers were set free on the instance of a minister while they were caught in possession of unlawful arms? Hadn’t one minister who is now a member of the federal cabinet passed a number of years in jail for the same offence? Why under the nose of government and its agencies the Lal MasJid brothers were given unbounded freedom to play with the freedom of local and foreign citizens? Why in the presence of many cases registered against them the Lal Masjid brothers were never taken to task?

Same is the case with the Chief Justice’s removal from his office. From the very start, the government behaved quite irresponsibly. It didn’t care a dime for the constitutional provisions on the issue. The more one looks into the events unfolded during March 9 to March 13, the more one is convinced of the fact that it was simply a case of outright removal of the head of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Isn’t it enough to show where stood the highest court in the eyes of the present government? It was very likely that the government had succeeded in getting the Chief Justice resigned quietly. But for Mr. Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s courage, unprecedented in the history of Pakistan, and for the lawyers’ rallying together on Mr. Chaudhry’s side that the government miserably failed in bringing the court under its sway.    

No doubt, both the crises were a creation of government’s own inaction and action. Now, it will have to cope with the unintended consequences unraveling in the form of suicide bombings, terrorist attacks on the security forces, and far weakened and demoralized government machinery. For this it is necessary for the government to accept the Supreme Court’s judgment whole-heartedly in letter and spirit, and not to jeopardize its independent working in any manner. In the context of euphoria and hopes of realizing a dreamland generated by the restoration of Chief Justice and rising level of expectations of the various strata of Pakistani society from the Judiciary, it is of utmost importance that government must follow the sentiments of the people.

It is high time for the government to realize that taking advantage of this moment the crucial issues such as political instability, terrorism, ethnic and religious strife marring the integrity of Pakistani society may be resolved amicably. It should see through this moment optimistically to a new Pakistan emerging out of the future horizon. It should not fabricate hurdles and put them in the way of this movement to let there be a smooth transition. Surely, it will beget more violence. Rather, it should let the judiciary hold free and fair elections to have the people of Pakistan a government of their choice. Like the Supreme Court’s judgment that has opened new venues for the aggrieved and deprived sections of society, smaller provinces and political parties, and as they are most likely to make use of this as a door where they could knock at for justice, free and fair elections will prove to be an impetus to this process of resolution. They will ensure that instead of a government that comes to power as a result of some deal with the military regime, their true representatives are there to solve their problems.

Lastly, another significant issue needs to be addressed here. It is most unfortunate that the US and Western powers and their statesmen dogmatically believe that it is only a military government be that of Musharraf or any other General that could contain terrorists and fight terrorism. Or, as they fear lest the terrorists take hold of Pakistan’s nuclear installations. This is quite a mistaken view and outrageous to the people of Pakistan. Constitutionally, Pakistan Army is an institution that is supposed to work under the civilian set-up. Why doesn’t it fight terrorism and terrorists under the aegis of a civilian government? Mind it this civilian government need not be one that is of US or West’s choice. This must be one that wins the elections fairly and freely, and cares for the aspirations of the people of Pakistan. That’s the way to the long-term resolution of the problem of terrorism also, and that is what the present Pakistani government must heed to make the Supreme Court’s judgment a win-win situation. 

[This article was completed on July 22, 2007. A shortened version of it appeared in the Mint (India) on August 6, 2007.]

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fire or ceasefire: understanding the Taliban

See this cartoon and try to understand the stance of pro-negotiation lobby:

[Dawn, November 20, 2013]

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Some recent tweets

See some recent tweets:

November 19:
General Musharraf treason trial: government playing the dice to see he goes abroad first or finds himself landed in the special court first

November 22:
Sectarian clashes no conspiracy; the culprits are politicians and the government which feed the bigots and use them, . . .

November 17:
Every gathering, political, religious or otherwise, must be held inside the four walls, not on roads and public places; State must act . . .

November 17:
The last two days, almost whole Pakistan was closed, social and public life was at a standstill, telecom services were suspended - Moharram!

Monday, November 18, 2013

The mentality of Pakistani politicians: a glimpse

A member of the national assembly is disqualified by the Supreme Court for holding a fake / forged degree. See the details and especially her reaction; she did not a bit feel ashamed of her misdeed:

SC disqualifies Sumaira Malik in fake degree case

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) on Monday declared Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MNA Sumaira Malik as ineligible for holding a fake degree, Geo News reported. 
The SC had reserved the ruling in a case pertaining to alleged bogus degree of PML-N leader and MNA Sumaira Malik. The court also declared 2008 notification as null and void, declaring her successful in 2008.

A three-member bench of apex court comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Jawwad S Khawaja and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed announce the verdict reserved on October 09, 2013.

It is worth mentioning here that Malik Umar Aslam Awan had filed civil appeal against high court verdict given in fake degree case against Sumaira Malik.

Sumaira Malik was an elected member of National Assembly from constituency NA-69 of Khushab district in Punjab on PML-N ticket in 2008.

During the course of hearing, Hamid Khan Advocate appeared on behalf of applicant Umar Aslam Awan while Barrister Iftikhar Gilani argued the case on behalf of Sumaira Malik.

[The News, October 28, 2013]

SC disqualifies Sumaira Malik over fake degree

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday disqualified the ruling PML-N MNA Sumaira Malik for possessing a fake degree and ruled that she would not be entitled to contest future elections. 

A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and comprising Justice Jawwad S Khawaja and Justice Gulzar Ahmed, disqualified Sumaira Malik under Article 62(1) (f) of the Constitution. 

The court ruled that the PML-N MNA was not qualified to contest the elections in terms of constitutional provisions and she was not holding the office of MNA from Constituency 69 with lawful authority, as a disqualified person had no right to represent the electorate of the country. 

“Therefore, on account of such qualification she would not be entitled to contest the election in future as well, and if she does contest elections and is declared as successful, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) shall be bound to de-notify her,” the court ruled in its judgment. 

The court noted when she submitted nomination papers she was not qualified, as according to the findings so recorded by the court, she had obtained a BA degree through impersonation and as it was normally disclosed by the candidates in the nominations papers, she had proved herself not to be a truthful person. 

The court after allowing the appeal filed by Malik Omar Aslam, the rival candidate of Sumaira Malik, declared the notification dated 01.03.2008, notifying Sumaira Malik as the returned candidate from the Constituency NA-69 (Khushab-I) in the general elections held on 18.02.2008, to be void.

“Sumaira Malik is hereby declared to be disqualified from becoming member of parliament with all its consequences and a copy of the judgment be sent to the ECP for further proceeding in accordance with law,” says the verdict. The court also ruled that appellant was also held entitled to the cost throughout. 
Sumaira Malik was elected an MNA on PML-N’s ticket from Khushab in 2008. However, Malik Omar Aslam challenged her victory in the Supreme Court, stating that she had fake academic record and that she hired a person impersonating her in degree examinations. 

The court observed that Sumaira Malik had obtained a BA degree by way of impersonation meaning thereby that at the time when she filed nomination papers she was not qualified to contest and had proved herself not sagacious, righteous, non-profligate, honest and Ameen in terms of Article 62(1) (f) of the Constitution, as has held in the case of Syed Mehmood Akhtar Naqvi’s case (PLD 2012 SC 1089). 

“It may be noted that under Article 63 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan there are certain disqualifications which are of temporary nature and a person disqualified under Article 63 can become qualified after lapse of certain period as mentioned therein, whereas, the requirements of Article 62 are of permanent nature and a person has to fulfill certain qualifications/conditions to become eligible to be elected or chosen as a member of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), otherwise he is not eligible to be a Member of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament),” the verdict observed.

[The News, October 29, 2013]

SC finds Sumaira Malik’s husband guilty of manipulation

ISLAMABAD: Sumaira Malik’s husband, a government servant and the key position he held when she did her fake graduation from the Punjab University, found mention in the Supreme Court judgment that disqualified her as an MNA and found the husband guilty of manipulation. 

“Tahir Sarfraz was in a position to have his way with university officials who were dependent on him and he could manipulate matter in the university and actually did so,” the judgment said. 

What senior bureaucrat Tahir Sarfraz did for his spouse was nothing out of the ordinary but was normal as husbands do for wives, without knowing that one day even such a routine favour would turn out to the great disadvantage of their life partners. 

The ruling said that it may be noted that at the time of submission of application form for examination of Bachelors of Arts in the Punjab University, Tahir Sarfraz, was Additional Secretary (Schools) in the Punjab Education Department and had attested her alleged admission form. 

In reply, Sumaira Malik denied the allegation as false and her stand was that she was bona fide graduate and the allegation was highly degrading and vague. However, the Election Tribunal (ET), which dismissed the petition against her, referred to the statement of Muhammad Rauf Nawaz, Deputy Controller (Examination), who appeared as prosecution witness, and also discussed the details of the record, including the statement of Rauf Nawaz and details of the document, which according to him was admittedly part of the record of the university. 

The judgment said it is important to note that the ET also observed that what is important to note is that the allegation of impersonation was leveled by the petitioner, Umar Aslam, against Sumaira Malik for the first time in the year 2002 by way of an application before the Punjab University. These charges were not proved and after due inquiry in which the both parties participated, her degree was found to be valid and the charge of impersonation was found to be baseless. The ET relied upon the university findings. 

It said that the so called enquiry and its findings are evidently fake, false and manipulated in order to cover up the impersonation. There is no notice of proceedings of enquiry for 2002 as is evident from the report of December 10, 2002. She does not seem to have appeared before any enquiry committee and the writing and signatures appears to have been procured because she does not remember the number of committee members, who was its head, what were their designations, what is thedate of appearance before the committee and who dictated her writing. 

According to the judgment, her husband at the given time held a very important position being Additional Secretary (Schools) and the Punjab University is controlled by the Provincial Education Department as per the rules of Business of the Punjab Government. Thus, Tahir Sarfraz was in a position to have his way with university officials who were dependent on him, and he could manipulate matter in the university and actually did so, the decision said. 

Sumaira Malik’s election in 2008 from Khushab was challenged the same year, but the ET handed down its decision in her favour in 2013.The apex court did not approve such long delay and said that the provisions of section 67(1A) of the Representation of Peoples Act(RPA) are mandatory in nature. This is evident as the section contains penal consequences for taking adjournments and failing to decide an election petition within four months. 

In this regard it is instructive to have recourse to the decision of apex court in the case of Maulana Nurul Haq v Ibrahim Khalili (2000 SCMR 1305), wherein it was held that it is abundantly clear that Section 67(1A) is a mandatory provision of law that entails penal consequences for non-compliance. Therefore, the ET failed to penalize Sumaira Malik for repeatedly delaying the proceedings. 

The decision quoted the law, which said where a petition is not decided within four months, further adjournment sought by any party will be granted only on payment of special cost of Rs10,000 per adjournment, and adjournment will not be granted for more than three days. If the ET itself adjourns it will record reasons for it. Where delay in the proceedings is occasioned by any act or omission of a returned candidate or any other person acting on his behalf, the ET itself, or on application of the aggrieved party, will after issuance the show cause notice to the returned candidate, within 15 days from the date of show cause notice may order that the returned candidate has ceased to perform the functions of his office either till the conclusion of the proceedings or for such period as the ET may direct. 

The ruling said that It has been noticed that not only in the instant case but in so many other identical cases pertaining to elections, timely decisions are not taken by the ETs because they are ordinarily presided by high court judges, who remain unable to conclude matters expeditiously on account of their other judicial commitments, or because of delaying tactics employed by respondents who, having been declared as returned candidates enjoy the status of member of the National or Provincial Assembly. 

“We are of the considered opinion that, as held by this Court in Muhammad Usman Achakzai v Election Tribunal Balochistan PLD 2010 SC 943), such delays in disposal of election petitions before the Tribunal in fact deprive a large number of electors of the constituency to have their due representation in the elected Houses, particularly in those matters where a whole term has been enjoyed by a winning candidate, who may later turn out to be disqualified on any count.”

Thus, the decision said, delay causes the people of constituency to be represented by a person who is not duly elected. This clearly negates the principle of democratic system of government. There is wisdom in fixing the period for decision of such cases that there should be no uncertainty for the persons, who have been elected or who have challenged the election before the ET or the court and after expeditious disposal of the same. They should consume all their energies for the welfare of the people whom they represent, instead of wasting time in pursuing such matters before the courts, it said. 

It was held that the contention of an appellant that fair hearing was not afforded to him was without merit and in fact spoke volumes of his propensity to prolong litigation at any cost. It is thus clear that a legal duty has been cast upon the ET to reach a conclusion expeditiously by following stringent/coercive measures of imposing a cost and assigning the reasons if cases are adjourned by the ET.

[The News, October 29, 2013]

Procuring a fake degree: Top court disqualifies PML-N’s Sumaira Malik

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan disqualified Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MNA Sumaira Malik for holding a fake degree. She has proven not to be a truthful person, the court judgment held on Monday, asking the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to proceed against her and not allow her to contest elections in future.

Malik had emerged victorious in the elections in constituency NA-69 Khushab in 2008.
The apex court said that Malik should be asked to reimburse all the expenditure incurred while she was in office. The decision was reserved by a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on October 9 and was announced by the court on Monday. Malik’s sister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) member Ayla Malik was also disqualified in July for the same reason.

“It is clear that in order to make herself qualified for contesting elections in the year 2002, she arranged for a Bachelor of Arts degree by way of impersonation to fulfil the requirements of Article 8-A of the Conduct of General Election Order, 2002. After having passed her Intermediate exam in the year 1981, it was not necessity for her to obtain a BA degree,” the judgment says.

The court further held that as a disqualified person she has no right to represent the electorate of the country and on account of such qualification, she would not be entitled to contest the election in future as well. Meanwhile, if she does contest elections and is declared successful, the election commission shall be bound to de-notify her win.

According to the defendant, the record does indicate that she actually took the BA examination herself. However, the complainant argues that in the absence of having her photographs on the application form, registration record, as well as the record of examination, someone else took the examination on her behalf and Sumaira Malik procured a bogus degree.

It was further argued that if there is any record with the university, it was falsely created under the direct and unlawful influence of her husband, Malik Tahir Sarfraz, who was then serving as Additional Secretary, Schools, and had attested her alleged admission form.

Earlier, a Punjab University committee had given a clean chit to Sumaira Malik, whereas, an Election Tribunal also relied on the committee’s findings. However, the case remained pending before the courts and finally landed in the Supreme Court, which resulted in her disqualification.

“A plain comparison of the signature on the ID Card bearing No 128-64-180716, handwritten samples and the signatures on the admission form clearly indicate that there is lot of difference….” the court observed in the judgment.

The court defended the delay in this case: “It has been noticed that in so many other identical cases pertaining to elections, timely decisions are not taken because, inter alia, election tribunals are ordinarily presided by learned Judges of the High Courts who remain unable to conclude matters expeditiously on account of their other judicial commitments.”

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) had received over a hundred degrees for verification belonging to legislators from the National Assembly as well as the provincial assemblies.
Official figures had revealed that around 50 MNAs and MPAs with alleged dubious or fake degrees belong to the ruling PML-N. It is followed by PTI, the party ruling in K-P, which has degrees of 24 MPAs and MNAs being challenged in the courts.

[The Express Tribune, October 29, 2013]

Rule of law or the rule of the elected representatives?

See the following news item. It's nothing new in Pakistan. Democracy in Pakistan is just a ladder to become princes and the kings!

Minister threatens cops over traffic citation

MULTAN: Provincial Minister for Auqaf Haroon Sultan Bukhari on Saturday refused to pay a Rs750 fine when he was stopped by the Motorway Police for speeding on the National Highway near Mian Channu.

According to the Motorway Police, Bukhari was on his way to Muzaffargarh when the car he was travelling on was clocked at 125km/hour.

Police said when Inspector Nasrullah Baloch stopped him and told him that he had been speeding, the minister introduced himself.

Police said the Bukhari told Nasrullah that he did not have the authority to fine a provincial minister especially in the Punjab.

Motorway Police told The Express Tribune that they had evidence that the minister had been driving at 125 km/hour on the National Highway in a 100 km/hour zone.

Police said Bukhari refused to pay the fine and drove on. They said police had to block the road by placing containers near Kacha Khu to stop him.

After the road remained blocked for 30 minutes the minister decided to pay the fine, police said.

[The Express Tribune, November 17, 2013]

Guess who's the driver?

Guess who's the driver? One who's driving (Amir Jamaat-e-Islami, Munawwar Hassan) or the one who's sitting behind (Taliban's rep)?

[The Express Tribune, November 18, 2013] 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Riyasati Ashrafiya (State Aristocracy) drowning Pakistan deeper in debt

Drowned,  sinking deeper in debt
By Huzaima Bukhari And Dr Ikramul Haq   

Pakistan, drowned deep in debt, is sinking deeper and deeper with each passing moment. The situation, if not remedied on a war footing, will eventually lead the country to an economic collapse. During the last three months, the debt burden has soared by Rs 980 billion - an unprecedented increase pushing the total domestic debt up to Rs 15 trillion. This does not include borrowing from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to avert a serious balance of payment crisis. The Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) was very critical of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) government for increasing the debt burden of the country by 100% in five years, but its own record during three months is more deplorable - adding Rs 11 billion a day is awfully gruesome!

On 30th June 2013, the federal government's total domestic debt was Rs 14 trillion which as of today stands at Rs 15 trillion. Increase of one trillion in three months is terrifying. The total debt burden-internal Rs 15 trillion and external $62 billion-is not debated in the Parliament. The members seem more obsessed about arguing whether Hakimullah Mehsud, killed in a drone attack, is a martyr or not. For them drone attacks are violation of sovereignty but begging from USA, its allies and international donors is a matter of honour! One needs to remind them Allama Iqbal's famous verse:

Taqdeer Ke Qazi Ka Ye Fatwa Hai Azal Se

Hai Jurm-e-Zaeefi Ki Saza Marg-e-Mafajat!

[T'is the immutable decree of the Judge of destinies - That weakness of a nation leads to its subjugation]

Nobody in the National Assembly or Senate is worried about erosion of our resources consumed largely by debt servicing and how to come out of 'debt prison' that is main cause of political subjugation. They are wasting words and energies on non-issues.

When the PPP government was borrowing on an average of Rs 3-4 billion a day, Senator Ishaq Dar was very critical and now he is resorting to Rs 9-10 billion a day - still he keeps on accusing his predecessor regime for all the ills! This monstrous debt burden is going to further enhance allocation for debt servicing in the next budget. In the current year it is Rs 1154 billion, 61% of target assigned to Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and double the defence budget of Rs 627 billion. The surge of Rs 325 billion in external debt and one trillion in domestic debt during July-September 2013 portrays an alarming situation. The continuous accumulation of internal debt - insatiable desire to get funds from commercial banks and State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) - besides depriving the private sector from much-needed funds for investment is giving rise to inflation that touched the level of 9.5% by the end of October 2013.

The data released by SBP for the first quarter of the current fiscal year reveals that:

--- domestic debt increased from Rs 9.52 trillion to Rs 10.16 trillion in just three months, showing an increase of Rs 635 billion or 6.7%. Within the domestic debt, the short-term debt ballooned by Rs 611 billion or 11.7%.
--- short-term debt that was Rs 5.2 trillion in June 2013 increased to Rs 5.8 trillion. The biggest jump came in the market treasury bills after the commercial banks refused to reschedule their loans.

--- debt under the market treasury bills for replenishment of cash increased from Rs 2.27 trillion to Rs 3.1 trillion, a net increase of Rs 750 billion or 33%.

--- external debt increased by Rs 325 billion or 7.3% - as against June 30 level of Rs 4.48 trillion whereby the external debt increased to Rs 4.83 trillion. Out of the total external debt, the major increase was in the long-term debt that increased from Rs 4.48 trillion to Rs 4.8 trillion, a jump of Rs 325 billion or 7.3%.

--- 7% devaluation of local currency against the US dollar resulted in massive jump in the long-term foreign debt. By end June the US dollar was equal to Rs 99.20 that devalued by Rs 6.90 to Rs 106.1 a dollar by end September 2013.

It is worth mentioning that even entering into a tough deal with IMF has not helped Pakistan to convince other international lenders to be 'generous'. The World Bank delayed sanction of one billion dollars making it conditional with energy and taxation reforms. Two development policy credits - Jobs and Growth & Power Sector Reforms - each worth $500 million are lingering on for want of approval by the Board of Directors of the World Bank. The upfront disbursement of these, in a single tranche, could help strengthen Pakistan's reserves. The government after IMF programme hoped to receive these immediately to improve the fast dwindling foreign currency reserves that plunged to $4.299 billion - insufficient to meet even one month's import bill. The massive dip in foreign currency reserves, despite IMF's payout, has left Pakistan and the IMF bewildering!

At the time of signing the IMF 6.7 billion programme, Pakistan expected to receive additional $6 billion to $8 billion from the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank and other bilateral donors over a period of three years. These institutions, after the termination of IMF programme in 2010, stopped lending to Pakistan. Now even after the renewed IMF programme, the World Bank has subjected approval of its funds to accelerating of FBR's efforts for tax compliance by the rich, revamping of Planning Commission and power sector-specific reforms. The linkage of these funds with taxation reforms has already dampened the hopes of the government as broadening of tax base received a serious setback in the first three months - FBR's lack of agility, Business Recorder, October 25, 2013.

The only way to come out of prevalent mess is to accelerate growth, generate employment, enhance tax revenues, and stop financing luxuries of elites and losses of public sector enterprises (PSEs). But the present government like PPP-coalition government is not serious about it. During its election campaign, Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) made tall claims that on assuming power it will get rid of the "cancer of external debts". However, PML-N government is knocking the doors of international lenders more vigorously than PPP.

Internal debt has already breached the limit of 60% imposed under the Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation Act 2010. The law requires the government to prepare and revise the debt management policy every year in January but nothing has been done as there is no debt reduction plan. Making things worse, the government is not inclined to impose fiscal discipline and reckless borrowing continues to pay off liabilities of the corruption-ridden inefficient PSEs. According to SBP, the funding of PSEs has inflicted economy heavily, increasing the stock of total debt & liabilities (TDL) by Rs 500-600 billion.

All the governments - civil or military alike - have failed to end debt enslavement by raising revenues even to the extent of Rs 6 trillion, though actual potential is not less than Rs 8.5 trillion [FBR's Year Book 2012-13, Business Recorder, September 27, 2013]. Unless it is done, Pakistan can never come out of the 'debt prison'. The Senate was informed on January 23, 2013 that over 3.39 million individuals had National Tax Numbers (NTNs), but only 885,999 filed their returns. The former Finance Minister, Abdul Hafeez Sheikh admitted that the number of income tax filers had drastically reduced to 1.6 million by 31 December 2012. The Senate was told that "a large number of businesses and individuals, who were regularly filing their income tax returns, are now avoiding their legal obligations by either under-declaring or incorrectly declaring their assets and incomes".

After admitting widespread tax non-compliance, no action was taken against any official of FBR. There is no will to eliminate wasteful spending on monstrous government machinery and inefficient PSEs. The way the government is behaving, our foreign debt would reach US $75 billion in 2015 and domestic debt would be Rs 20 trillion. The policies of appeasement towards tax evaders, money launderers and plunderers of national wealth and monopolisation of resources by Riasti Ashrafiya (State Aristocracy) have pushed the country towards disaster. The word 'austerity' is not available in the dictionary of the State Aristocracy-indomitable militro-judicial-civil complex and men in power. The habit of living beyond means-our national addiction-has turned the nuclear-powered Pakistanis into a nation with a beggar's bowl. When foreign lenders see the lifestyle of our ruling elite, they immediately show indignation-it is hard to believe for them that the rulers of a nation surviving on borrowed funds and on the brink of bankruptcy are capable of displaying such flamboyance.

Reluctance to collect taxes from the rich and mighty, rather giving them free benefits and perquisites at State's expense, is worsening the miseries of the poor. There is no scarcity of resources as propagated by the rulers to shift blame on others, but the real cause is outlandish living of the elites off taxpayers' money. Look at residences of judges, generals and high-ranking civil officials with army of servants and fleet of cars. Wasteful spending on State Aristocracy and unwillingness to tax the rich is playing havoc with the economy. Behind the present chaotic socio-economic and political situation in Pakistan, amongst other factors, is an ever widening gulf between the rich and the poor. With every passing day more and more people are being pushed below the poverty line, our rulers unashamedly waste billions on their comforts and personal security.

The present crisis testifies to the failure of power-hungry, money-greedy politicians and incompetent, inefficient and corrupt bureaucrats. Even the so-called technocrats always take the first flight to Washington after creating a mess and tearing apart the economic fabric of the country - where are Shaukat Aziz and Abdul Hafeez now? In this bleak scenario, Riasti Ashrafiya is not ready to surrender extraordinary perks and privileges enjoyed by them at the cost of taxpayers' money. How can rulers and bureaucrats living in fortified containments, completely oblivious of the ordinary people's plight, feel the pinch of life's hardships?

We cannot come out of debt-enslavement unless we restructure our State on the principle enshrined in Article 3 of the Constitution - from each according to his ability, to each according to his work. For this, everyone should be given work with a fair reward in return. There should be a complete change in the style of governance - the President, Governors, Prime Minister, Chief Ministers, ministers, parliamentarians, and high-ranking government officials should be given 'consolidated pay' liable to tax just like the income of an ordinary citizen. Palatial residences occupied by them should be sold or converted into income-yielding assets, and all perquisites of civil servants and public office-holders should be monetized to remove the burden off our country's broken financial back.

[This article first appeared in Business Recorder on November 8, 2013. The writers, lawyers and authors of many books, are Adjunct Faculty Members at Lahore University of Management Sciences.]

Note: Reproducing this article in my Blog does not amount to my agreeing with the authors' point of view.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A stinted mindset

We are not a normal nation and live down inside the proverbial well made of our own presumptions. Thus we are a perfect subject matter for psychologists to study. In addition, we are never ready to admit that, instead declare others abnormal. That makes us own a stinted mindset in our heads. What’s wrong with this mindset is that it never allows us to live normally, to have introspection, to see ourselves in a critical mirror, to identify our mistakes, to understand our inconsistencies, to grant others the same rights and freedoms that only we rightfully claim to possess and enjoy. It is this mindset that does not let us come out of our obsession of a charismatic nation (for whom things will happen on their own without any effort), and finally it is this mindset that never permits us to move ahead and improve ourselves.

Forget the present crisis and the moral bankruptcy which is more than self-evident; let’s have a look at some crucial evidences. It was in 1870 that Sir Syed Ahmad Khan complained: “When in the courts of Hindustan Hindus come to give evidence, the judge even though he be a Muslim, has to think about the truthfulness of his evidence, but when comes a Muslim witness and he tells his name and the judge is almost certain that he will be lying and giving a false evidence until and unless by some other manner his truthfulness establishes. Muslim merchandise sellers as compared to other nations lie a lot, and cheat. They would never reveal the original price of an item and remain intent upon charging as much price from the buyer as is possible.”

Furthermore, in 1895 Sir Syed again resents: “For people to take part in trade depends on many a factor. Most important of them is that they are totally honest, and with all their truthfulness wholly dedicated to the flourishing and expansion of this factory of trade. My friends will pardon me if I say that Muslims are rarely endowed with this quality.”

And if not Sir Syed as we do not honor him the way it is due to him, here is Sir Dr. Allama Muhammad Iqbal, our holdall sort of thinker/philosopher. In his Stray Reflections, A Note-Book, he writes and it is in the year 1914: “Of all the Muslim communities of the world they (‘Musalmans of India’) are probably the meanest in point of character.”

Additionally, one most recent evidence: Dr. Israr Ahmad of Quran Academy, Lahore, repined in 1999, “On this earth the most hypocritical nation is Pakistani.”

What greater evidence is required to convince us that we need to change this mindset if we want to go ahead and make progress in any field of life! As I have written elsewhere the first pre-requisite for this process to begin is to create an environment where the existing set of laws and rules are able to be strictly implemented without any let or hindrance, absolutely with a blind eye.

Also, it is crucially necessarily that a process of accountability be set in motion with retrospective effect and for this purpose an independent commission consisting of judges and prominent intellectual figures of impeccable integrity, with no political affiliation, and with proven commitment to the constitution of Pakistan be set up. Its mandate should not be less than investigating the constitutional and financial irregularities since the date the constitution of 1973 came into force and recommending trial in the courts for due punishment. This point in time may be August 14, 1947, but then a frame of reference will be needed for the inquiry commission to help with. Not only will that help sift the lawless and corrupt elements from the life of Pakistanis but discourage future adventurers also. That’s a long-standing demand too.

Last but not least, to break the iron-shell of this mindset, academic and intellectual freedom at any cost be ensured to each and everyone. That again brings us back to the strict enforcement of fundamental rights secured in the constitution. These rights especially freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom of assembly need to be promoted and fully protected. That will let a hundred flowers blossom and search for truth to take its due course without any fear of persecution and stopping on this or that pretext by this or that lobby claiming to be the sole possessor of Pakistan and its ideology. This may put us on a track leading to a new Pakistan with an open, tolerant and absorbing mind the essential preconditions for change and improvement in our society.

[This article was completed on March 20, 2010.]

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The wailers: a cartoon

The wailers: Why Hakimullah Mehsud, Chief of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan was killed in a drone strike! That jeopardized the peace talks with the TTP, they cry!

[The Express Tribune, November 3, 2013]