Another farce

Radical reforms will be needed to steer the country out of economic crisis, writes Abdul Sattar

Another farce
Prime Minister Imran Khan and his tedious acolytes are adroit at staging a farce. The much-vaunted Tabdeeli Sarkar has lured people into believing weird things since coming to power in 2018. People are still waiting for the $200 billion dollars that were meant to be thrown at creditors and the detractors of Imran Khan. They are looking for Faisal Vawda, who claimed that under the sagacious leadership of Khan, the country would have more jobs and less people. The dream of constructing five million houses is yet to be turned into a reality while the claim of creating 20 million jobs seems to have evaporated a long time ago.

The bitter truth is: the begging bowl is not only knocking at the door of the international monetary institutions but every rich country of the world that is in a position to throw some crumbs at the impoverished masses and their rich rulers. External debts are witnessing a phenomenal surge. Inflation is skyrocketing. Unemployment is on the rise with over 20 million people losing jobs during the pandemic alone. The cost of doing business is becoming unbearable while the burden of taxes is crushing even the middle and upper middle classes besides turning the life of a common man into a hell.

Away from the bitter realities of life are the government ministers, who are ensconced in their cozy drawing rooms, are trying to give an impression that everything is hunky dory in the land of the pure. For them more than 60 million people do not live below the poverty line. They are unable to see millions of women who are malnourished. Over 44 percent of children who are at the risk of stunted growth are invisible to Aristotle and Plato of the PTI government. They are just trying to master the art of sycophancy, which is one of the ways to appease the altruistic Khan.

As if this all were not enough, the government has come up with a new bizarre idea to convert the prime minister’s house into a place of revenue generation. After a backlash the government has postponed the noble plan but it indicates that this government has nothing but empty slogans and false promises. The PTI has been unable to produce any tangible results as far as the welfare of masses is concerned. So, it’s trying to come up with schemes that could catch the attention of the people but in reality, such schemes do not have much economic or financial utility for a country that is mired in multiple crises.
The conversion of the prime minister house or a few government buildings into revenue generating places will not make much difference

By floating such ideas, the prime minister and the brigades of sycophants are trying to create an impression that the chief executive of the country is really concerned about the public money. Such concerns have been expressed at the time when the president of the country is being accused of spending public money on the purchase of pets and garden items. Federal minister for Kashmir Affairs Ali Ameen openly announced bounties for those who come up to vote for the PTI in the recently held AJK elections without explaining from where this money would come.

No man with a modicum of political consciousness would disagree with the government that public money should not be squandered and that the expenses of public representatives should be accounted for but such accountability should not be applied selectively. Only public representatives should not be singled out for being extravagant. The perks and privileges of those who consider themselves unaccountable should also be discussed and debated. The country should not have any traditions of sanctioning a colossal amount of money, letting it go unaudited. Every penny that is spent should be audited and details of expenditures should not only be shared with the parliament but media and civil society as well. Politicians complain that there are a number of departments that do not want themselves to be accounted for. Such departments assert that they have a self- regulating mechanism but they never bother to inform masses about this much-vaunted method of self-accountability.

The prime minister has always claimed to catch big fish, asserting that it is the influential people that have plundered the country in a more ruthless way than any other section of society. The incumbent chief executive has all powers besides enjoying a pliant media and a weak opposition. He has no one to be afraid of. So, he should live up to his promises by recovering billions of dollars that are believed to have been embezzled during previous tenures. Mr Khan can begin with a probe into the billions of dollars that were allegedly given to Pakistan during the time of General Musharraf. Some estimates suggest that the dictator received around over $30 billion during the war on terror. Those who claim that such a colossal money was paid to Musharraf’s regime should be summoned and asked to substantiate their claims. If they fail to back up their assertions with evidence, they should be punished so that the people could know the reality of such claims. Even a fraction of this amount, if recovered, could go a long way in stabilizing the economy and mitigating financial hardships of the Islamic Republic.

Recently a number of international bodies have imposed heavy penalties on Pakistan for failing to live up to its promises. Such penalties amounting to over five billion dollars are devastating for a faltering economy. It is not the Prime Minister House, rather the properties of those who lost Pakistan’s cases or those who put the country in a situation where it had to face massive fines should be sold out and money from such sales be deposited in the state exchequer. The hefty fee paid to favorite lawyers should also be recovered. Such fines do not run in billions but trillions of rupees. Similarly the allegations of some media outlets claiming that the government has bought the most expensive LNG should also be probed. Those who are levelling such serious allegations should be summoned and asked to substantiate their claims and if they fail to prove their point they should be brought to justice.

Pakistan is already under over $100 billion debt that is badly affecting the economy. To steer the country out of the economic crisis will require radical reforms. The conversion of the prime minister house or a few government buildings into revenue generating places would not make much difference. Instead of turning the Prime Minister house into a university, the government could set up more universities or at least the campuses of universities in several parts of the country. Announcing the conversion of the prime minister house into a revenue generation place is nothing but a public relations stunt that cannot make people believe that education in the last three years has witnessed any drastic improvement. In reality the government has revived the legacy of general Zia by introducing this new syllabus which is riddled with substance that would only appease the religious right. This would do a great harm to the education system of the country.

The announcement to turn the Prime Minister House into a university is another farce that is doing no service to the government except creating an impression that this government has nothing but empty slogans. Since this stunt is not going to impress people, the government is advised to carry out some drastic changes for the welfare of people to achieve tangible results.