Karachi Literature Festival 2023: Concerned Citizens Alliance Aims To Revive Civil Society In Karachi

Karachi Literature Festival 2023: Concerned Citizens Alliance Aims To Revive Civil Society In Karachi
Concerned Citizens Alliance Co-Founder Azhar Jamil Attended Karachi Literature Festival and urged citizens to take ownership of their problems and take pro-active measures during a question and answer session on how Geopolitics are affecting Pakistan in a panel moderated by Ejaz Haider. The Concerned Citizens Alliance subsequently shared with us the conclusions of their meeting in early February to demand what concrete steps may be taken by the government to alleviate the increasing economic burden on ordinary citizens of Pakistan.

A Round Table discussion was held by the Concerned Citizens Alliance at the PMA House, Karachi, on Saturday February 4 2023 on “The Current Economic Crises: Immediate Steps to be Taken”. The speakers / discussants comprising economists, experts, business, trade union and civil society representatives included Mr. Kazim Saeed, Dr. Samina Khalil, Mr. Bashir Jan Muhammad, Mr. Naeem Sadiq, Engr. M. A. Jabbar, Ms Afshan Suboohi, Mr. Karamat Ali, Mr. Azhar Jamil & Dr. Mirza Ali Azhar, which was followed by Q&A session with civil society and political activists present.

The meeting passed the following resolution:

“It seems that the government and ruling elite have once again placed the country in a position where it appears quite helpless and feels that it has no option but to accept the demands of the IMF team.

In view of the persistent extraordinary inflation and rise in prices of essentials, food stuffs, electricity, gas, oil & transport which has all but broken the back of the common man, middle class, fixed salary earners, a new wave of inflation threatens the country shortly.

To meet this challenge certain immediate measures and reforms need to be taken which must ensure:

  1. i) 20 percent reduction of all non-productive expenditures in all branches of the state, viz the judiciary, parliament, civil services and executive (including the armed forces), which can simply be done by reducing the number of unnecessary and dysfunctional government departments and agencies and by the elimination of waste and all types of privileges and perks in every departments, for only then is it appropriate to ask the people to observe crushing austerity that has been imposed on them.

  2. ii) All income regardless of its source, whether industrial, agricultural, commercial or service-sector related (which includes salary earners, proprietorships, partnerships, private and public limited companies) must be taxed and brought undera a simplified digital tax regime of direct income tax. (allowing for tax exemption only to those earning upto Rs. 12,00,000 per annum, so that the tax to GDP ratio is increased from 10% to 22 percent (as is the case with India) within a few years, which would take care of a lot of our problems. This tax regime must seriously be enforced (with violations to be heavily penalized) and each class and section of society must be made to pay tax in proportion to its income. Indirect taxes are already crushing the poor, working classes and fixed salary earners and must be reduced as soon as possible.

iii) Minimum wages for workers at Rs. 25,000/- per month (declared by the government) must be immediately implemented and brought upto Rs.35,000 in the next inflationary wave. EOBI must be extended to all working people whether in industry, agriculture, commerce, service sectors and even domestic servants.

  1. iv) Trade unionism and collective bargaining rights which must also be extended to the “thekadari” system, so that the workers can struggle / agitate and negotiate for their demands in a freer and more democratic environment. The principles and measures enunciated by the Quaid-e-Azam in the trade union law of 1926 in India, must become part of our labour laws.

  2. v) people throughout the country must be provided with clean drinking water within 2 years which would eliminate 70% of all diseases (when already 76% of our children are malnourished) and would make it much easier to provide basic health cover for all the people.

  3. vi) Steps be taken to complete the access to free universal education within five years as guaranteed by the constitution. At present 30 million children are not provided primary schooling and of the 25 million presently attending primary school for three years, only learn what could have been learnt in one year according to ASER reports. Furthermore, every employer with more than 10 employees must pay for and ensure the acquisition of literacy for all the workers who are illiterate in their employment. The latter can be done within one year.

vii) implementation of land reforms announced by the late Prime Minister Z.A. Bhutto in 1977, beginning with the transfer of state lands to the landless peasantry and provision of necessary inputs such as seeds, fertilizer for the peasants and small farmers, and a fair price for their products,

viii) necessary steps be undertaken with the help of exexperts

(a) for better water management and elimination of water wastage

(b) promotion of industrial and agricultural productivity and a viable strategy for import substitution and boosting exports.

  1. ix) Economic reform must be accompanied by political reform for which devolution of power to the local government is immediately required, so as to ensure empowerment of and delivery of essential services to the people. The Supreme Court has already ruled in favor of local government empowerment, and this must be implemented forthwith.

  2. x) Reduction in interest rates, allocation of low-interest bearing loans for small and medium size enterprises and start-ups is essential for re-vitalizing the economy.

  3. xi) it is important to provide access to information and transparency of all expenditures in government departments including defence, which must also be audited and made available to parliament and the public. Furthermore, the Statistics Department must be upgraded to provide accurate data, in order to bridge the “trust deficit” with the public for all the data / information provided by the government.”

The Concerned Citizens Alliance will continue to meet in future to work out details of the measures and reforms proposed above and work with other public -spirited economists, experts, and civil society groups to develop a Consensus on a National Agenda for Reforms, which is the need of the hour.