Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

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the subscribers and readers 
the Notes From Pakistan 
Very Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Forsaken by the State

Note: The day Benazir Bhutto was murdered, December 27, 2007, it was the day when all the semblance of government evaporated in Pakistan; there was widespread anarchy and uncertainty; there was arson, loot, and destruction. Fear prevailed. As if the life and property of ordinary citizens of this country were forsaken by the State! Here is the Story:

Where there is no property there is no injustice.
John Locke

Regardless of the controversy whether we human beings are by nature good or bad, what is crucially required to keep our society intact is that we must be treated as free agents. This washes away all those excuses the science of psychology and its Freuds and no-Freuds have heaped on and which provide an eternal alibi for the criminals to prove their innocence under the guise of this or that mental state or illness, or this or that instinctual impulse which, it is pleaded, eventually forces them into acting that crime: that they were not just themselves at the time of crime (I would like, in such cases, that self of theirs to be punished at least!).

Thus, it is of immense significance, and both tradition and moral and social values, and law too, have it that everyone who commits an offence must be tried and punished accordingly. It behooves to be presumed that it is a certain person and it is he and only he who committed the crime. Otherwise, we will have only crimes, and no criminals, a state of affairs we cannot afford if we believe in justice and its dispensation as the sine qua non for the continuation of a society.

The true relevance of this requirement demonstrates well when we are faced with a concrete danger to our life and property. It must be noted here that property is not a separate entity from one’s self though physically it is; rather it is an extension of one’s self and his life. ‘Every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has a right to, but himself,’ Locke observed. He held that ‘the reason why men enter into society is the preservation of their property.’ Without property we, who are not all mystics, are just in the midst of a forced hermitage, a state of social and existential nothingness. Probably it is why we protect our property at the risk of our life; and, certainly it is why we take lives of others to grab their property. Also, it was why in the 18th century England stealing was punishable by death.

It is in this context that the focus of British classical liberals such as Locke (1632-1704) and Hume (1711-1776) on the protective function of government can be best understood. Locke maintains that ‘government has no other end, but the preservation of property.’ Hume believed that ‘the convention for the distinction of property, and for the stability of possession, is of all circumstances the most necessary to the establishment of human society, and that after the agreement for the fixing and observing of this rule, there remains little or nothing to be done towards settling a perfect harmony and concord.’

Thus, any authority that takes on the task of governing a people, for it the foremost thing is to extend protection of life and property to every individual under its jurisdiction so that he should live in peace and happiness. If it fails to deliver that, it loses the confidence and trust of its people. Converse to all this, the state in Pakistan, as a rule, has been quite unmindful of this foremost responsibility. In the heat of moments, such as the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, it just sleeps. Actually, whatever government is it, a civilian or military or any other, they have a theory to make excuse of: Let people vent their anger. They think this diverts people’s attention from the real issues and real culprits.

After the cold-blooded murder of Benazir Bhutto, the loot and arson that took place has shaken the confidence of all the citizenry. No doubt, her assassination must be condemned in unequivocal terms, and on the face of it is itself the strongest evidence of the state’s criminal negligence in protecting the lives of the people and their leaders. But of course it should not be taken as an excuse for the uncalled for lawlessness to prevail. No incident of any magnitude licenses anyone to incur damage to the life and property of his fellow citizens.

However, the fact is that as the news of her assassination spread, unruly mobs took to the streets and markets and let loose a reign of terror as if no administrative authority existed in the country. From big cities to small towns, routine life and businesses suffered a standstill for days. As many as 58 people were killed amidst the worst lawlessness. The state’s conspicuous absence from the scene further created a sense of fear and insecurity among the people. Though the initial estimates of loss and damage have started pouring in, the real damage that has shattered the society’s trust in the ability of the state to protect the citizenry is immeasurable.

Here are some horrible recounts of the loot and arson private and public property underwent:

  • The ensuing night of December 27 witnessed the horrible act of burning of a hospital in Karachi.
  • Inside a garment factory which was set on fire by the rioters in Karachi seven workers including a woman lost their lives.
  • 16 Edhi ambulances were set on fire.
  • Dozens of trucks which were torched in Korangi Industrial area included two trucks loaded with wheat.
  • About 36 factories, 3 restaurants, eights petrol pumps, 55 shops were torched in Karachi.
  • More than 900 private vehicles were torched in Sindh.
  • About 15 spinning mills in Kotri and 6 in North Karachi industrial area were destroyed or set on fire and more than a dozen factories in different industrial areas of Karachi alone were looted.
  • Both domestic and foreign trade came to a halt, and traders suffered a loss of Rs.10 billion.
  • Hundreds of cargo trailer-trucks loaded with milk, ghee, chemicals, fertilizers, pulses, wheat, machinery, fiber boards, fruits and vegetables were looted and burnt. The Karachi Goods Carriers Association estimates the accumulated losses at 193.5 millions rupees.
  • According to Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry 5 days of riots caused a corporate loss of Rs.80 billion, and the loss to GDP is to the tune of Rs.8.706 billion.
  • A total of 699 branches of various banks were looted, damaged, and burnt. The State Bank’s estimates of losses reach about Rs.1.2 billion.
  • Trains carrying passengers were stoned, attacked and burnt. In two cases, after forcing the passengers to disembark the carriages were burnt. In total, 6 trains, 78 train bogies, 26 locomotives, and 25 railway stations were set on fire. As much as 16 bridges, 18 level crossings, a number of railways cranes and motor trolleys were set ablaze. At six places, the rail track was uprooted and fish plates were removed; railways communication system also suffered damage. The loss is estimated to be more than Rs.12 billion.
  • The tax authorities estimate the Revenue losses amounting to Rs.35 billion.
This was not the first such incident when the people of Pakistan were forsaken by the state. Only a few months back in May 2007 Karachi was subjected to a most brazen show of lawlessness under the criminal silence of provincial and federal governments. The fact of the matter is that whenever there is such a public outrage, the theory: ‘let the people vent their anger’ comes into force and government’s administrative authority disappears altogether. As to the December 27 chaos, there are concerns that in some cases the looting particularly of banks was organized and was done by organized groups.

All this is outrageous. However, what is more outrageous is that government has set up a commission that will assess the extent of the damage done to private and public property. Whereas what is required is the setting up of a commission that should include representatives of all sections of society, and it should be tasked in the first instance with the determination of the fact why and how the law enforcing agencies and their bosses from top to bottom absented when the reign of terror was let loose across the country, and of course to ensure that there is law in the country those found guilty of negligence be awarded due punishments.

As to the demand of compensation being made by the manufacturers, traders, transporters, and small businessmen who suffered incalculable losses, they should realize that in fact it will backfire. Seeking compensation from government will no doubt result in levying of more taxes, and entrenching of the rentiers’ regime. Ultimately it will hurt their own businesses by reducing, already shrinking purchasing power of common man. The lawful course is to file damages suits in the courts against both law enforcing agencies and ransackers. That will set a precedent for the future also.

But as is expected the courts may not be able to provide them with justice, and in that event the government will be stripped of all the semblance of its protective function and a government for the people. Thus it will lose all moral, legal, and constitutional authority to tax the citizens. That will be the end of such regimes which have made Pakistan such a place for people to live where if there be choice they will migrate to other lands where their person and property is safe.

This article was completed in January 2008.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The road ahead is quite straight

This article was written last year in the wake of December 16 APS Tragedy to expose the Politicians' inaction. It's still relevant today on December 16, 2015.

The road ahead is quite straight

Beware of the politicians! They cannot think and act out of their politically blocked mentality! They are a victim of paradigms made of their own choice; that’s why they disdain rules, laws and the constitution, which require and bind them to act accordingly. They won’t break the paradigms, which ensure their short-term survival, and it’s seldom that they shift to newer paradigms of thinking and action in a broader perspective. Whenever that happens, that happens temporarily and perforce due to the force of the circumstances, like the one which the December 16 Peshawar massacre of the children generated, or under the pressure of the “Subjects,” “Awaam,” like the one which got Iftikhaar Muhammad Chaudhry former Chief Justice of Pakistan restored against the will of the whole “state” of Pakistan, which its politicians consider themselves to be the “Ashraaf” and “Haakim!” So the moment that pressure releases, they are the same politicians - Haakim and Ashraaf!

What are these paradigms of Paki politicians? First, see how they respond and react to such tragedies of unfathomable magnitude! Try to empathize the immense grief the Peshawar massacre caused: 132 is the number of those innocent souls death of whom has devastated hundreds of families, thousands of their relatives and friends, millions of their dreams, and shocked billions of human beings all over the globe! The unimaginable tragedy has jolted Pakistan’s “imagined enemies” also! And how the politicians, whether they are in the parliament or out of it, took it is more important, relevant and pertinent in the sense that it will show at the end of the day how the state of Pakistan is going to tackle the menace.

The first political paradigm comprises the narrative which includes:  condemnations, consolations, condolences, resolutions; and the likes. The second paradigm calls for meetings, conferences, APCs; and the likes. An APC of all the parliamentary parties we have already seen happening. Another highlight in this regard is the Pakistan Peoples Party’s demand to call for a joint session of the parliament. The third paradigm opts for constitution of commissions for inquiries, investigations; and the likes. There are various inquiries and investigations, announced and unannounced, already in the process. The fourth paradigm focuses on setting up commissions, committees for devising action plans. As a result of the above-mentioned APC, a parliamentary committee has been formed to devise a National Action Plan, which has already set up a Working Group. The political imagination never goes beyond these paradigms. Hence, it’s rarely seen that the action plans thus devised by such committees are put to work or put through. Nor are implemented any findings and recommendations of any inquiry commission or investigation committee thus formed.

Right from the beginning: Justice Munir Inquiry Report (1954), the only report the original text of which along with its official Urdu translation the then government made public, never put to any use; Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report, which inquired into the military debacle of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) never saw the light of the day nor were implemented any of its recommendations; Saleem Shahzad Inquiry Report, which inquired the mysterious murder of Saleem Shahzad, a renowned journalist, did not bear any fruit; and, Abbottabad Commission Report, which inquired into the circumstances under which Osama Bin Laden safely resided for years in Abbottabad, a military town, remains dumped in all respects. So that’s the fate of all the political paradigms!

As mentioned earlier the politicians seldom come to alter their paradigms, it amounts to saying that they won’t change them this time too, and though there is unprecedented outrage against the politicians as well as so-called powerful Generals of the army, the politicians won’t do anything worthwhile but such measures which help them water down the social and psychological heaviness that the Peshawar massacre of children has begotten. Most probably, they will drag the issue and allow time to lessen its intensity and finally bury it. Although executions of certain terrorists have started making headlines, whose dead bodies otherwise should have by now worn out in the graves, there is nothing substantial in the offing as the “measures and actions” the government is deliberating and taking now attest.

In contradistinction to it, what may be termed “cash politics” in point of fact takes no time to get launched; for instance, a number of power generation projects are in the pipeline, whereas no attention is being given to the real cause of the acute power shortage, i.e. mismanagement in the power sector. It is such opportunities that the Paki politicians are most interested in. In other words, it’s Cash Politics where the political paradigm of action may only be seen working actively. All other issues, whatever their magnitude and fatality, do not interest the Paki politicians.

In case, someone starts analyzing the present troubles, his findings will reveal that the miseries and killings the ordinary Pakistanis are undergoing today may be traced to such issues which were deliberately delayed and complicated by the politicians, and that they were never dealt with sternly and with determination. That list includes Terrorism, Extremism, Sectarianism, Non-Civilian Supremacy as the top most issues. The question staring us in the face is: Do the Pakistani constitution, rules and laws on the one hand, and the courts, police and other related institutions and agencies on the other are not competent enough to deal with these and like issues? The courts had already handed those terrorists death sentence whom the government is executing now! Also, if new legislation and new institutions were required in order to cope with these menaces, why it was not done in time promptly and efficiently! Why relaxing in political paradigms remained the way of the politicians? In conclusion, it may be said that the state of Pakistan has already got all that paraphernalia it requires to deal with these issues; do not give it turns and twists; leave your political paradigms; the road ahead is quite straight; have courage to tread it and focus on the Unity of Action, not on the Unity of the Nation, and Unity of the Politicians!

Note: This article was completed on December 20, 2014.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Crimes and the political alibi

“I am a politician; I cannot commit any crime; I am perfectly innocent!”

That is how, as we know at least in Pakistan, politicians argue. That manner of political self-defense clears the two-way traffic: criminals may become politicians; and, politicians may become criminals. Pakistanis have enough of both. And the breed is multiplying like rabbits. All the more, species belonging to other realms of social, economic, military, cultural, religious have started aping the politicians. They have learned the art of politics from them. That’s a hundred percent fool-proof method of overcoming any odds.

Also, that has rendered all the systems of accountability inefficacious. Why? Because, and it is awfully baffling that, all the systems of accountability are conceived, detailed and legislated by the criminal politicians or political criminals. Who can forget the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO)? And it is these politicians, tainted with criminality, who appoint the heads to these accountability systems, just like Chaudhry Qamar Zaman, has been appointed Chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). Just like the leader of the opposition party in the National Assembly, Khurshid Shah, has been made Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). Such systems are a product of the political-criminal complex in Pakistan.

The latest episode from this complex unfolded a few days earlier when on May 29 an anti-corruption court issued non-bailable warrants for the arrest of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and Makhdoom Amin Fahim, former commerce minister and a member of Gillani’s cabinet. Both are senior leaders of Pakistan Peoples Party. Seven others include the list of the accused in this case which allegedly involves major irregularities of Rs.7 billion in granting freight subsidies to fake trading companies by the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP). Previously both politicians were issued three notices to appear before the court. As the notices were ignored (note their arrogance!), then bailable warrants were issued. Now non-bailable warrants have been issued with hearing adjourned till June 17.

The same day the former prime minister issued a statement and said: no case in this country was completed without implicating him whether it was the case of OGRA, NICL, NRO, TDAP or Haj scam. He added: the beneficiaries of the NRO had been exonerated but he was still facing the music. His political alibi was worded thus: ‘He asked the government to avoid crossing the limits of victimization and unleash it to the extent they could also bear it tomorrow. They had no stomach to tolerate even the fraction of what was going on against him.’

No sooner this news item flashed than the political machinery of Peoples Party got switched on and statements started pouring in the newspapers and TV channels to beat the drum of political victimization. Very next day co-chairman of the PPP and former president Asif Ali Zardari ‘deplored the victimization of former prime ministers Yousaf Raza Gillani and Raja Pervez Ashraf and former federal minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim behind the façade of accountability as witch-hunting.’ He warned: ‘that bodes ill for the politics of tolerance, accommodation and reconciliation.’ 

This narrative of Political Victimization is very much typical and repeats itself on various occasions and for various personalities. Now it’s Asif Ali Zardari’s turn to mouth it: in his statement he pretended to be shocked while, according to him, the PPP was seeking to protect the democratic system through political reconciliation the government was chasing political opponents and thereby undermining the unity of political forces. His tirade is totally based on political alibi: he said that decisions in national policies whether in the rental power plants or subsidies or concessions in importing commodities were taken collectively and transparently by the cabinet in the light of objective realities and singling out the prime minister is patently wrong and smacks of political victimization. Also he found a poignant similarity between the hounding of Benazir Bhutto in late 1990s for the decisions jointly taken by the cabinet at the time and the chasing of Yousaf Raza Gillani, Raja Pervez Ashraf and Makhdoom Amin Fahim now for decisions taken by the cabinet. He advised the government to review its policies and stop witch-hunting and victimization of political opponents.

This narrative of political victimization amounts to this: all the decisions politicians make while they are in government, whether they prove to be good or bad, must be treated as unquestionable; since by dint of their electoral mandate they are innocent; and more than that by virtue of their being politicians and representing the people they cannot make any wrong decisions. In short, in their capacity of being politicians, they are infallible. And while they win elections, they place themselves beyond every norm, value, principle, and morality and law; thus, their infallibility perfects. Gillani’s and Zardari’s words quoted above are based on these presumptions. They may be termed as the Political Alibi.

Thus the political alibi claims the politicians must be considered and treated as beyond the law of the land. That means they are King, who used to be law unto himself. So they, the politicians of Pakistan, are law unto themselves. No need to try Yousaf Raza Gillani, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, or Asif Ali Zaradri for any wrong-doing; they are infallible; they are themselves law of this land.

Or otherwise, if this or any other government think of trying or tries them, their narrative by implication means to say that, they will not protect the democratic system; they will give up political reconciliation; and so on. In this sense, the political alibi conceals threats of undermining the system. Just as psychological alibis provide criminals with excuses for their crimes, such as harming others, or murders in the name of honor, etc; in the same way, politicians use the political alibis as excuses to hide their inefficiencies, incompetencies, corrupt and dishonest practices, scamming, nepotism, cronyism, and misappropriating the public exchequer.

Finally it may be reminded that the law of Pakistan provides for no such alibi to any one, be they politicians. That was why they took recourse to the NRO; otherwise, such a law would have come to their rescue. If any charge is made against any politician, he / she should present himself / herself in the court of law and prove his / her innocence. Political alibi is no way of proving ones innocence; it may prove the guilt, instead!

Note: This article was completed on June 2, 2014.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Paki philosophers and politics

The two noblest professions are teaching and politics. [Aristotle]

Back in 2002 when the 35th Annual Session of Pakistan Philosophical Congress held in the Bukhari Auditorium, Government College (now G. C. University), Lahore. Dr. Naeem Ahmad was Secretary of the PPC (Dr. Naeem had been Chairman Department of Philosophy, University of the Punjab, Lahore),  and well before the start of the proceedings I had time and time again requested him to allow me to present a Resolution in its General Body meeting. He was positive. On March 16, while the proceedings ended, late in the evening meeting of the General Body of the Congress was in progress. When all the items on the agenda, such as issues relating to the next Congress, elections of the office-bearers, stood settled, Dr. Naeem announced the closing of the Congress.

I was dumbstruck; yet in a second I decided: it’s now or never. Based on the past experience, nobody knew when the next Congress would be held. I went up on the stage, occupied the rostrum and expressed myself thus: ‘Dr. Naeem sahib promised me and I had requested him to allow me to move a Resolution here.’ Meanwhile, Dr. Ghazal Irfan intervened and assured to give me time to speak. After a while she invited me; I read out the Resolution making the following demands:

“I) Since its inception, Pakistani State has been repeatedly failing in protecting the life, liberty and property of its citizens. It has suppressed even the liberties ensured to them in the various constitutions of the country, too. 

II) Likewise, it has usurped its citizens’ right to Education of their liking. From the first grade to the intermediate level, the State has monopolized the development and implementation of curricula which it uses for whole-scale Indoctrination. 

III) With the provincial text-book boards working as its tentacles, the Curriculum Wing of the Federal Ministry of Education has been instrumental in strengthening the cause of Propaganda and Indoctrination. 

IV) For instance, according to the 1994 Curriculum Wing Document for Social Studies (5th class), children were to be taught “Hindu-Muslim differences”, “India’s evil designs on Pakistan”, “India’s wars of aggression against Pakistan”, and to learn to make speeches on Jehad and Shahadat.

V) That is like supplying the content of Education right from the State’s inventory in the form of finished goods. Same is the case with the aims and objectives of Education. Under the yoke of national and collective objectives, there is no room for the individual citizen, his rights and his freedoms. 

VI) By denying Education, the State has denied its citizens their rights to free inquiry, free thinking and free speech; and, thus, has dehumanized them. 

VII) With the help of Indoctrination, the State has tried to become intellectual progenitor of every mind. It has resorted to the science of cloning to beget intellectual and ideological Dollies.

To restore their humanity and individuality back to its citizens:

a) the State should stop telling the citizens what to think and what not to think, and what to do and what not to do;

b) the State should ensure its citizens their individual rights and freedoms, and should abstain from interfering in their private lives;

c) the State should divert its resources and energies to the fulfillment of its basic duties, i.e. protecting the life, liberty, and property of its citizens;

d) the State should focus upon establishing and maintaining the Rule of Law in the country.

In view of the above considerations, it is demanded that 

1) Indoctrination be eliminated from Education; 

2) Curriculum Wing of the Federal Ministry of Education be abolished; 

3) Provincial text-book boards be dismantled; 

4) Academic Freedom be restored to educational institutions; 

5) Electronic and Print Media be freed from State’s control; 

6) Protection of life, liberty and property along with freedom of religion, press, assembly and association be assured to every citizen.”

The moment I finished, there was uproar in the hall. I tried to make sense of it, and saw one old lady standing and arguing haughtily; she was Jocelyn Ort Saeed, an Australian poet settled in Pakistan. Her argument ran like this: ‘How come that you want the Curriculum Wing abolished! What would we teach our children, then? What are you up to?’ As she concluded, another lady stood up: ‘We are philosophers, and we have nothing to do with politics? You want us to be embroiled in politics; why?’ She was Dr. Arifa Farid from the Department of Philosophy, University of Karachi.

It was quite noiseful in the hall. I was unable to see what had I done which caused such an outrage. Then, Dr. Iqbal Amiri, another fellow from the Department of Philosophy, University of Karachi, came up and grabbed the microphone. He was counter-arguing in favor of the demands made in the Resolution. I remember the gist: ‘How could you say that Philosophers have nothing to do with politics; it’s everything is politics. What the state is doing, how come that it has got any right to do that? Philosophers need to stand up against it.’

By now, there emerged two groups: one favoring and the other opposing the Resolution. It was quite an intellectual commotion there. In the midst of that, Dr. Ashraf Adeel, who became the new President of the PPC the same evening, tried to hush up the matter. He wanted the discussion on the Resolution be put off now and take it up again when the 36th Congress was held. That was like killing it. However, the group in favor of the Resolution demanded a Vote, which was conceded by way of raising hands.

As the 35th Congress was hosted by the Department of Philosophy, G. C. Lahore, a good many number of students present there belonged to the same Department, which Mirza Athar Baig, now a well-known Urdu novelist, was the Chairman of. The Resolution was defeated by one vote; 19 votes polled in its favor; 20 against. Mirza Athar Baing voted against the Resolution. The President of the Congress, Dr. Ashraf Adeel, did not cast his vote; I reminded him, but he shrugged off. At the dinner, Mirza Athar Baig came to me and said: ‘Why didn’t you tell me about it earlier?’ I explained: ‘What was there to tell beforehand? It was all happening before you!’

The Resolution could not be carried through; but it succeeded in view of the fact that most of the demands made in it were raised first time in the history of Pakistan, especially about the abolition of the Curriculum Wing and dismantling of the provincial text-book boards. It proved to be the first step towards disseminating a spate of ideas in Pakistan bringing the fundamental rights of the citizens to the fore! Note: The facts narrated above are for the sake of putting the record straight!

Note: This article was completed on January 1, 2015.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Depoliticization and its causes

Here is the first part of this article: A depoliticized Pakistan on the rampage

The 2nd and the final part: Depoliticization and its causes

What’s a depoliticized Pakistan; how is it different from a politically apathetic Pakistan; how is it damaging both for the society and its state; who does now represent it, such questions were discussed in A depoliticized Pakistan on the rampage. In the present piece, some other questions will be dwelt on such as: why doesn’t a depoliticized India or Bangladesh exist in India or Bangladesh, for example?  Why that’s so only with Pakistan? Why is Pakistan so fecund for such elements? What are the elements that feed milk and butter to a depoliticized Pakistan?

Since long it has been my contention that the main culprit for the backward Pakistan is Politicians. In this case also, the main culprit for a depoliticized Pakistan is again Politicians. The previous article argues that it is barren politics that among other things may have caused Political Apathy to take root. That’s natural. Decades of experience made people learn: ‘Politics, Sir, is a cow that will yield such people no more milk, and so they are gone to milk the bull.” (Samuel Johnson used Truth in the place of Politics!) Though sort of a “Development Politics” entered the political arena, but it could not change the political paradigm. In the midst of present Islamabad Dharna, one must have noticed the top leadership of the Pakistan Muslim League-N harping on its development projects in vain.

It’s no denying that Political Apathy contributed to the solidification of a depoliticized citizenry. Moreover, it is consecutive martial laws which banned political activities, curbed political liberties, surgically operated political parties, built up artificial political structures, and last but not least, destroyed an independent political culture. Whoever ventured in politics made it a point that in order to succeed he needs to be part and parcel of the so-called establishment! It was the most successful short-cut to power in Pakistan. That it inspired a depoliticized Pakistan to love no-politics is evident.

Despite the voluminous charge-sheet against the imposers of martial laws, it may be argued that no martial law did ever succeed without the complicity of politicians. Let the generals impose martial law, and let no political party come to their aid, you will see the generals running back to their barracks! It is politicians who partner with the generals and give them constitutional cover. It is like reprieving a murderer from the gallows. In response to an objection that politicians are an amorphous entity and thus are vulnerable to insinuations, one may retort that politicians are well-organized in political parties with a devout following, and may prove an invincible citadel if they plan to act so; however, they always choose the path of submission and subservience. In this sense martial laws did not create such conditions which proved conducive to the growth and spread of a depoliticized citizenry, but it is the political opportunism and political cowardice on the part of political parties which helped a depoliticized citizenry most in fortifying its depoliticized vision for Pakistan.

Also, it is political parties which did not create an independent political culture in Pakistan; they always let their trees grow in the lawns of in-service or retired generals. Practically they behave in a manner as if the source of power lies in the General Head Quarters (GHQ). It’s strange and at the same time perplexing that no political party ever seems to believe in the constitution which unequivocally declares power as residing with the people of Pakistan. They do vie for the people’s mandate but never abide by its implications. Once they come to power, they do not remain in contact with the people whose mandate makes them rule the same people. That does strengthen the depoliticized Pakistan.

Another factor is the same old refrain: political parties did not deliver, political parties do not deliver. That translates into a fact that politics do not deliver; so let it be passed, let it be part of the past. Surprisingly it is characteristic of a depoliticized Pakistan that it does not delve into the past; it focuses its eyes only on the future. It is in this sense that a depoliticized Pakistan discards all that is part of a political past; it lives in the future. This especially explains the politics of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf: Imran Khan and his followers have no inkling of Pakistan’s political past and they present the PTI as the first true political party of Pakistan, trashing all others. That’s not mere arrogance of an ignoramus; it is inherent in the politics of PTI that it’s the only true political force, whereas all other parties are just corrupt entities. That’s depoliticized Pakistan in action!

One more thing requires some elaboration as it is far more confusing. That’s about the number of people who participate in the PTI Dharnas, meetings and rallies, the latest one held in Rahim Yar Khan on Nov 9. Actually, numbers must not be mixed up with principles. Hitler had much following in Germany; but at the end of the day he was a fascist, who finally set out to conquer the world. Imran Khan has a substantial following of those sections of a depoliticized Pakistan which believe in political power legitimately belonging to them, and as their privileged right like divine right of the Kings of medieval world. It is fascism pure and simple. Imran Khan also wants to conquer the whole Pakistan, but what is characteristic of him and his politics and a depoliticized Pakistan also which he represents is his non-political politics, or his anti-political politics (a contradiction in terms). He seeks power in non-political ways.

As for India, there may be a depoliticized citizenry too weak to be noticed; it may be more vibrant in Bangladesh; but for the same reasons a depoliticized citizenry seems stronger and more damaging in Pakistan. It means it is not in martial laws (Bangladesh has had its share of which) that the rationale for a depoliticized citizenry may be found; it is in the quality of politicians that the process of depoliticization grows it stuff and substance. It is politicians themselves who depoliticized Pakistan, who fed it with milk and butter; now they are condemned to face the same depoliticized Pakistan!

Note: The 2nd part of this article was completed on October 1st and was originally posted in December 2014.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Why taxes are not a political issue in Pakistan?

Note: I sent this piece of writing to all the newspapers one by one; none bothered to see it or use it, that I am justified to conclude!

Why taxes are not a political issue in Pakistan?
All the politics is about collecting and spending taxes; but unfortunately that reality does not translate into political issues in Pakistan.

What it translates into is power-politics pure and simple! See the arrogant issueless politics of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf; see the pseudo-development politics of Pakistan Muslim League (N); see the outdated Roti-Kapra-Makaan politics of Pakistan Peoples Party (P); see the identity-less politics of Awami National Party; and also see the self-centered religious politics of Jamat-e-Islami, Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (F). At the end of the day, all of their politics is about seeking power and state-benefits; or it is politicking on pseudo-issues ranging from anti-Americanism and pro-Palestine rallies to this or that religious or sectarian wrangling.

The political parties of Pakistan never ever take up any issue which directly concerns the ordinary citizens; such as the cruel state-machinery; deplorable conditions of social services; police brutalities; unavailability of prompt justice; protection of life and property, and most importantly taxes. For the last 68 years, these parties are constantly trying to protect “democracy,” which in fact is in danger by the very politics of the same political parties. And this “democracy” has delivered nothing to the people, but the crumbs.

Likewise, no political party minds the imposition of a new tax or an increase in an already existing tax; since they would be following the same practice while in the government. Probably for the same reason, no political party makes an issue of the taxes imposed, taxes increased or unjustified taxation. They may be objecting and debating it, now and then, in the national or provincial assemblies and resorting to a cosmetic walk-out or a boycott; however, they would never make it a political issue and educate their voters. Are they not the representatives of the people, who are required to take care of their interests? Or they are not the true representatives of the people!

For instance, take the case of Withholding Tax (0.3 % and 0.6 %) levied in this year’s budget. It got through the parliament smoothly; the opposition, a very active for that matter, having taken no notice of it. Only the middle-level traders, who are an organized community, and whom this tax affects directly, have come out against it. The other sections of society, which are not organized, such as pensioners, widows, ordinary savers, National Savings’ customers, it seems have no voice. It is in this context that question arises on the legitimacy of the role of the representatives sitting in the parliament. One must ask: Whose interests they are supposed to protect? And, whose interests they are protecting?

Crueler than this Withholding Tax, there is another arbitrary and unjust tax imposed years back on cash withdrawals from banks. Without any justification and starkly against the principles of taxation, it too penalizes those who use banking channels. Ironically, this tax also defies its purpose, i.e. promoting of banking channels and thus formal economy.

Isn’t is surprising and at the same time instructive that no parliamentarian and no politician or no political party took up the case of Withholding Tax on cash withdrawals and spoke against it let alone making it a political issue! Also, no court bothered to take “suo motto” notice of it. The same is happening as far as the Withholding Tax on all the banking instruments is concerned. No political party is ready to make it a political issue. They announced their support for the traders and sympathized with their cause; but that’s part of their power-politics!

As is the case, all the taxes ultimately trickle down to the end-consumers. Is it the reason no political party make them a political issue in which case they are not the true representatives of the people. But for the same reason, all the political parties must make the taxes a political issue in which case they may come to truly represent the people. Are the political parties of Pakistan are ready to play role of the true representatives of the people? Or they are there to vouch for their own special Ashraafi interests? Then the people must not vote them in power!

Friday, October 9, 2015

The 21st point: Overhaul the state

Note: This article was completed on December 31st, 2014, and was originally posted on this Blog in January 2015.

Presently there is happening quite a serious debate on the 20 points envisaged in the National Action Plan. Its thrust is on two points:

i) All these measures should have been in their place since long as a matter of routine, probably from the day first when Pakistan came to exist; and,

ii) Due to the past negligence of the governments, doubts and questions are being raised about the efficacy of these measures.

The argument the present writer aims to make is a bit different; he wants to propose a 21st point to be added to the NAP, which focuses on overhauling the state. Let’s be precise in judging: It’s the state that played havoc with the society of Pakistan, and now it needs to be back to the basics!

First and foremost: The politicians of Pakistan should stop behaving like Haakim and Ashraaf; they are empowered by the vote of people and are bound to act in accordance with the provisions of the constitution; they are the same citizens albeit with certain responsibilities and duties with which strings of accountability are attached.

The citizens of Pakistan while they participated in the Lawyers’ Movement learnt about: Constitutionalism; Rule of Law; Fundamental Rights; Independence of Judiciary: these must materialize into reality. That amounts to minimizing the role of the politicians which they exert on the society and market through various instruments of the state and government; and that will strengthen and enhance the civil society and its role in the life of the citizens.

There are two domains wherein an urgent overhaul is required: Political and Economic. In the political domain, following practical measures are needed:

i) The role of the state be redefined as a protector of the citizens life, property and their freedoms and not as an institution of welfare, and not as a proprietor of Business; 

ii) Constitutionalism should be the only way to run the affairs of the state; 

iii) Top priority be given to the protection of all the citizens’ life, property and their fundamental rights; especially the right to religious freedom be ensured to every citizens whatever his/her faith is; 

iv) Institutions and agencies responsible to dispense justice and extend protection to the citizens, such as Police, Courts, be made autonomous and accountable to the parliament or the provincial assemblies as the case may be; 

v) Civilian authority be retrieved and restored both in letter and spirit; formulation of defense and foreign policies constitutionally rests with the elected government and parliament, these should go back to them; as in accord with the constitution the Army has nothing to do with any other matters save related to its professional duties, it must confine itself to the role assigned by the constitution; also not only the Army but all the intelligence agencies be made accountable to the parliament; 

vi) Any interference in the matters of the state and its institutions whether it comes from the political or military quarters be not heeded to in the least and violators be brought to the book; 

vii) Judiciary be completely made independent financially and in matters of its appointments especially; 

viii) All the institutions of the state, such as Election Commission, National Accountability Bureau, be made autonomous absolutely impervious to any external influence; 

ix) In the matters of Army’s and Bureaucracy’s appointments, posting, transfers, promotions, Prime Minister’s, or any minister’s prerogatives be done away with, and the principle of merit and seniority strictly be followed; 

x) All the legislation regarding the citizens’ right to information be it at the federal or provincial level is a farce; in fact all the information regarding the affairs of the state and government belongs to the citizens; why should they pay and be asking for it; so it be posted on the respective websites for their examination; 

xi) The role of all the elected representatives be confined to the matters of legislation and they should enjoy no other status or powers; no funds, be it for development or for any other purpose, be given to them; 

xii) Foreign visits of state and government officials be drastically curtailed; no visit be allowed without prior budget sanction; 

xiii) It be legislated that only professional politicians could contest and become elected representatives, and no one doing or having any business interests could join politics and government.

In the domain of Pakistan’s economy, following radical reforms need to be introduced: First and foremost: The state must come back to its original protective function and focus on its regulatory and facilitatory role and be doing no business at all. 

i) All the lands gifted/allotted by the British to anyone be taken back and distributed to landless peasants and homeless citizens under a uniform policy; 

ii) All the monetary privileges and tax exemptions be abolished;

iii) All the discretionary powers, discretionary or secret funds be stopped; 

iv) All the state enterprises be privatized be they incur profit or loss; 

v) As growth is a function of citizens’ entrepreneurial efforts, and state or government creates not a single penny of wealth, this be adopted as a guiding principle while formulating any economic policies; 

vi) As in its role of a taxman, the state by heavily taxing can hamper the economic growth, so it must commit itself to the principle of lower and flat rate taxes; 

vii) As a regulator, the state should commit itself to the principle of regulation for facilitation, not for control; 

viii) All the restrictions on domestic or international trade be lifted; it’s for the producers/traders to see and decide where to export to and where to import from; 

ix) In the spirit of a slim, smart and strong state, unnecessary ministries, departments, etc. be downsized or done away with altogether; 

x) As the state machinery, i.e. departments of the state which collect tax or render various services, such as permissions, licenses, has become an enemy of the people, a complete overhaul of it is long due; with an iron hand it be made citizen-friendly; 

xi) All the accounts of the state be posted on the respective websites and even a single penny be accounted for, i.e. political and economic parasitism must come to an end.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

What’s the game, politically speaking?

Note: I completed this article on December 9, 2014, and wrote: "(Government) ought not to be afraid of martial law the prospects of which are zero presently, rather minus." Now merely 9 months later the prospects of martial law have grown formidably positive; so what's the game, politically speaking, let's try to see:

What's the game, politically speaking?

In democracy, only a majority party is allowed to rule, and it may turn out to be a tyranny; no smaller party alone can lay a claim to that privilege. That’s the advantage of democracy one can cite while arguing with its enemies. Pakistan and other countries like it are an exception. In such countries, parties of every size can unleash a rule of tyranny under the banner of populism. Thus all the gatherings and processions of every size which such parties hold are quoted as a referendum against the government. Both Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) have been quite vocal in delegitimizing the government after each Jalsaa of theirs; thus PTI’s Faisalabad “lockdown” of December 8 in their wisdom has already unseated the government.

That’s because in countries like Pakistan the states have transformed themselves into Jelly States. Years back, a Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal (1898-1987) denoted them as Soft States; he meant to say: They have rules and laws and various agencies to implement them but they do not do so, and that makes them Soft. He termed them as ridden ‘by deficiencies in legislation and, in particular, law observance and enforcement, a widespread disobedience by public officials and, often, their collusion with powerful persons and groups ... whose conduct they should regulate.’ Since then that quality of Softness of states has further deteriorated; it appears that quality has now acquired the characteristics of Jelly, a shapeless thing which fits in with any shape under any type of pressure. That’s how Pakistani state looks like now!

On the one hand a group of just a few hundred or thousand men armed with sticks can paralyze the Pakistani state; that has already happened this August in Islamabad; that happened in Faisalabad too, and is destined to happen in other cities; and on the other hand, though the present government is all determined to try a military general for allegedly committing High Treason but is facing formidable hurdles at every step; all that testifies that the Pakistani state is but helpless in establishing its writ in every domain. Here it doesn’t matter whether it has got the will to establish its writ or not, because there is no way to know but through its own efforts which it may put in establishing its writ and with the help of which it may be ascertained that it is intent upon establishing its writ.

Let’s pick out three areas to see are there any efforts being made on the part of the state to establish its writ. First is Taliban, who openly challenge the state and want to capture it through an armed struggle. The state completely failed on this count; for many years it let thousands of innocent citizens to be killed by these fanatic warriors and remained mired in its own policy of appeasing them and their supporter groups and parties. Now there is an operation going on, whose range and scope is still not clear. The second area relates to politics. A number of religious and political groups and parties openly challenge the state just like Taliban; they rather blatantly indulge in unlawful rhetoric and behavior so often that makes one wonders are they above the law of the land. Not only are parties like PAT and PTI part of this club of privileged politicians, there are a number of groups and parties which use religion to further their political aims and objectives and though their social base may not be more than a few thousand supporters but they and their leaders work like mafias using arms and fascistic ploys and whenever they want they paralyze the whole cities, and the state seems totally helpless!

As has already been mentioned the third area is where the present government, which is at the moment in command of the state of Pakistan, is trying its hardest to bring a usurper general to book; that the Pakistan Muslim League (N)’s government is doing that in the face of fatal odds is no secret now. And the do-and-die and destabilizing politics of PTI needs to be explained in that context also.
In view of the above, one lesson, which every political analyst and politician be he in the government or outside of it needs to learn, is that political actions are not judged by the intentions of their actors, i.e. political parties and leaders, but by their impact and consequences. That’s the first and in a sense last tool of any political analysis; because in its absence no political action may be understood in terms of its impact. As for the intentions of anybody, one can never be sure of; and of course, when a murder occurs, it’s a murder only, though the circumstances are taken into account which prompted that murder; however, the fact of that murder is never disputed, which is a consequence of the circumstances. For instance there may develop a consensus what impact the PAT and PTI politics during this August-October and PTI’s present politics is having on various things including the state and its writ, but never on their intentions.

Unfortunately, from those who are at the helm of affairs of the state and the politicians to those who form the circles of opinion and political following no one is serious in taking into consideration how the present politics of PTI is weakening not only the writ of the state but state itself. Hence, it is this third area of politics where the present government which manifests the state of Pakistan at the moment must establish its writ. It ought not to be afraid of martial law the prospects of which are zero presently, rather minus. It ought to bring the state of Pakistan into the shape which the provisions of its constitution endow it with. It ought not to allow the society of Pakistan slide into a chaos which may result in a civil war. It’s time the state of Pakistan must act to establish its writ in the political domain where it is required to be established first!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

State Aristocracy (ریاستی اشرافیہ) being promoted in Pakistan

Patron Islamabad Chamber of Small Traders Shahid Rasheed Button says State Aristocracy is being promoted in Pakistan.

Here is the story published in Pakistan Observer of September 21, 2015.

Bank tax dubbed as irrational

Monday, September 21, 2015 - Islamabad—Patron Islamabad Chamber of Small Traders Shahid Rasheed Button Sunday said withholding tax (WHT) on bank transactions will never be acceptable to majority of the businessmen which are dubbing it as illogical and fiscal terrorism.

WHT is inconsistent with the ground realities therefore it must be reviewed and made acceptable as it is not being practiced anywhere in the world in the current rough form, he said.

Traders would be left with no option but to accept bank tax if it is slightly modified and influential tax evaders as well as major defaulters are taken to task before squeezing commoners and middle-class businessmen, said Shahid Rasheed But.

He said that tax compliance in Pakistan will remain one of the lowest in the world unless the ratio of direct taxes in increased from the current 25 percent while reliance on withholding agents is reduced.

Flawed taxation has benefitted nobility and continue to punish poor which has pushed million below the poverty line fanning social problems and militancy.

He said that SRO culture which is against the clause 77 of the constitution is blocking development while absence of any major political party which can raise voice against tax thefts, merciless wastage of national resources, promotion of state aristocracy and social justice which is unfortunate.

Pakistan will never prosper unless just justification of wealth is ensured through a justified tax system and elite start paying their share in the national development.

Here is the link to the news story:

Sunday, September 20, 2015

What the political parties are doing in hospitals!

Pakistan is a criminally horrible state. Read the whole story, published in The Express Tribune on September 15, 2015:

Minister directs hospitals to remove political parties' offices

KARACHI: Sindh health minister Jam Mehtab Dahar has directed the managements of all public hospitals in the city to remove the offices of political parties from their premises, ordering them not to take any pressure while taking action against them.

The major public hospitals, including Civil Hospital, Karachi (CHK), Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, National Institute of Child Health and National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases, until now, housed the offices of various political parties that enjoyed influence in the area where the facility was located.

“These should be hospitals, not offices of political parties,” he directed the officials. The minister has also asked them to immediately remove political slogans, banners, pamphlets and other such materials from these institutions.

Most of the time, the paramedical staff affiliated with these political parties harass doctors and is involved in different administrative matters. “They threaten the doctors when a complaint is registered against them. The administration, on the other hand, doesn’t take any action because of their political support,” said a doctor at CHK, who wished not be named.

Appreciating the health minister’s orders, the doctor said that it will also be beneficial for patients. “They charge money from needy patients and also occupy some rooms in the hospitals,” he added. “It is the prime responsibility of public hospitals to provide better facilities of treatment to patients, who should feel comfortable when they visit the facilities,” said Dahar in the meeting.

The doctors, especially female staff of the hospitals, say that political involvement in hospitals creates a strange environment, disturbing the professional environment for them.

“The paramedics affiliated with political parties do not perform their duties regularly,” said a female staff of the JPMC, adding that graffiti on hospital walls creates an ugly atmosphere for staff and patients. The minister’s direction comes four days after a letter was circulated by the CHK medical superintendent, Saeed Quraishy, ordering political parties to vacate the premises as directed by the law enforcement agencies, with further intimation to the 61 Wing, Abdullah Shah Ghazi Rangers.

Link to the news item:

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Pak polity – racing backwards

So to say, in about 70 years, the political gains Pakistan’s polity has been able to make are dismal! Pessimistically, it’s NOTHING! Optimistically, it’s merely the Constitution that itself came to be agreed upon about 25 years after the country’s emergence on the map of the world. That casts a heavy doubt on the credence of Pakistan’s polity. Politically speaking, things stand in the same mould now they stood on the first day. The final verdict on the quality of the Pak polity may thus be worded: The citizens still live at their own risk in a country which is consuming itself by its own pseudo-nationalist, religious, militarist rhetoric!

No wrangling, the fact is that no politician and no political party find the constitution and its provisions tolerable to their will and temperament; they trample them whenever they see any of it obstructing what they want to do or to achieve. Not only that, they make use of it against its spirit; amend it at their will; or suspend it whenever they do not need it; ignore it when it doesn’t serve their purpose; and validate any amendments stuffed into by the military dictators. To the Paki politicians, the constitution is like a toy!

The latest example in this regard is the ruling party’s attempt to weaken and tame the higher courts whose newly obtained sort of independence proves to be a thorn in their heart. One parliamentary committee is already busy formulating such proposals which may help cut the judicial panel down to size. No doubt, all the parliamentary parties will be on the same page to bring the judges back into their pockets. Hopefully, if the civil society organizations especially lawyers fail to stop this onslaught of politicians against the judiciary, once again there will emerge judges of compliant character inside the High Courts and Supreme Court. There is one more hurdle to it; it’s the Supreme Court itself, which may send back the amendment (thus passed) to the parliament for review, if it does not find sufficient grounds to annul the same.

Hence, one very important gain obtained by the citizens of Pakistan, i.e. sort of independent judiciary, which is in fact an essential part of the constitutional scheme for the country to run, is going to be lost to the politicians’ lust for absolute power. That speaks volumes about the state of the polity in Pakistan! That leaves no hope alive that the Paki politicians and political parties will ever learn one or two things. How unfortunate! After about 7 decades they are still intent upon running a country of more than 180 million citizens like a principality! Everything, be they moral or social values, or rules and laws, is like something they must break and trash in their Ashraafist vein. That’s their way!

In 2013, for the first time one civilian government completed its constitutional tenure, general elections were held and a new government sworn in. No doubt, it should be a matter of routine in a democracy, not something both notable and noticeable; however, given the Pakistan’s political history where no civilian government was allowed to rule for its full tenure, it’s a Herculean achievement. In the midst, another event of unprecedented magnitude and significance took place: a usurper general was brought to the court for the highest crime allegedly committed by him, i.e. of suspending the constitution of the country; the case is sub judice. Both of these happenings may be overlooked or underestimated in the heat of the moment; which otherwise must be reckoned as the steps forward, no matter how small, as far as political evolution of Pakistan is concerned.

It is in the above-discussed context that both Inquilabi and Azadi Dharnas which took the capital sort of hostage this August need to be seen and explained. Whatever both of these parties, i.e. Pakistan Awami Tehreek of Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf of Imran Khan, and their allies, in or out of the state, aim to achieve and for that to achieve whatever they do and are doing need to be weighed against the gain of political evolution for Pakistan. Will that especially what the PTI is aiming at help Pakistan’s polity to evolve or not? Or, will it push it backwards? That’s the crucial question which must be answered by all having any concern for Pakistan!

Although the PAT concluded its Inquilabi Dharna at the end of last month, it is still not out of the game; and no doubt it has declared its parting of ways from the PTI and Imran Khan, it may join the 30 November call of the PTI to stage another Dharna in Islamabad, and be back in the game. That’s the same politics like of which both have been playing in the month of August this year when they were planning their marches to move together and when they landed in the capital and played their tricks in unison, till the PAT left the capital late in October. Under the circumstances, it may be conjectured that they may join hands again. That means the race to the corridors of powers is intact, and that there is no doubt about it this struggle is non-political.

How this struggle for power fares vis-à-vis the political evolution of Pakistan is the real problem to be dealt with! In addition, regardless of the apprehensions of majority of political analysts about the sponsored nature of the PAT and PTI’s offensive struggle, it may be suggested that what is more important is not who is behind them but what impact they are having and may be having in future on the political evolution of Pakistan. As to this, the writer’s considered opinion goes like this: The way PAT and PTI are conducting their fight is certainly impacting the polity of Pakistan extremely negatively: first, it’s distracting and confounding the constitutionalities; and second, it’s presenting no competitive challenges to other political parties including the ruling ones in a positive sense to move forward, it’s detracting them instead. That’s pushing the Pak polity race backwards!

Note: This article was completed on November 19, and was originally posted on November 27, 2014.

Monday, September 7, 2015

PML-N’s Bhatta or withholding tax

It seems the present dispensation of PML-N believes in no principles of taxation. It’s just there to extort whatever amount of taxes the Federal Board of Revenue may extort from the citizens in the form of bribes and in the name of taxes: of course, for itself as well as for the government.

However, the principles of taxation, the PML-N may be supposed to believe in, manifest themselves in the measures it announces in the budget and then obtains their approval from the parliament. That much is least controversial; what is controversial is the way the new taxes are conceived and implemented. As a rule, it’s the income or the consumption which is universally taxed. Also, the just taxation is not spending-driven, which certainly is the case as far as the PML-N government’s economic policies are concerned.

No doubt, there are countless examples available wherein arbitrary taxation was made recourse to; such as the medieval hearth tax, sort of a property tax. But, in the past they were no representative governments; that’s why they could afford arbitrary taxation policies. The question is whether PML-N, a democratically elected government, can afford such arbitrary taxation like the present withholding tax of 0.3 % on all the banking instruments, which will automatically increase to 0.6 % after September 30! Or it’s making a farce of the principle of “No taxation without the representation!”

It needs to be noted here that how come that only the traders have the courage  to espouse the cause of protesting against this arbitrary tax; doesn’t this withholding tax affect other low- and middle-income strata of society! For instance, the salaried persons, or pensioners, widowers, ordinary savers, whose earnings do not make a taxable income. All such citizens are being victimized only because on any day when they deposit or withdraw or transfer an amount of more than Rs.50, 000, they lose 0.3 % of their precious money! These citizens are not part of the protests against this Bhatta tax. They must be! Also, according to various reports the imposition of withholding tax has caused a massive reduction in the bank-deposits.

How blindly the banks operate in Pakistan the Finance Minister, Ishaque Dar has already admitted; he told that banks illegally and unjustly deducted the 0.3 % tax on all the banking instruments regardless of the fact that which ones belonged to the Filers and which to the Non-Filers. Apart from this mismanagement, the 0.3 % withholding tax is arbitrary, unjustified and has no grounds in the principles of taxation. It’s a Bhatta, at best; like the earlier one on the cash withdrawals.

Instead of putting the burden of failure on the shoulders of the FBR which according to a report of the Tax Reforms Commission is collecting only 5 % of the total income tax, the 95 % coming through withholding agents or voluntary payments. Thus the government has actually penalized those who use the banking channels.

Let any tax-expert tell what the nature of this withholding tax is! Is it on income, or is it on consumption? Or the PML-N has found another unique source of easy tax-collection, i.e. bank transactions? Better the PML-N government withdraws this Bhatta and focuses its energies on reforming the administration of tax-collection in the FBR. It is in the long-term interest of the state of Pakistan also.

It’s for the FBR to collect taxes including other taxes from the citizens who earn a taxable income. It’s not through the banks that a government collects such taxes which it fails in collecting via its tax-collector, i.e. FBR. PML-N, do not fail your government! Collect the taxes legally and principally!

Note: An edited version of this article was published in Dawn of August 10, 2015.
Here is the link: