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Blasphemy Law

Blasphemy laws in the South Asian Sub-continent are nothing new. While there is no concept of Blasphemy in Hinduism, those in practice during the Moghul Era were repealed by British colonial rule to allow Christian missionaries to proselytize. However in 1860 the Commission chaired by Lord Macaulay made the law again part of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as Section 295, which gave protection to worship places, scriptures and personages of all religions of India.

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Common Minimum Program

Budgets are not made in heaven, at least not for the poor. The unfortunate fact of life is that man-made budgets caters mainly for the rich, the hapless get by with lip-service and a lot of rhetoric force-fed down their throats in lieu of food and water. As someone employing, mostly khaki-collar workers, one can personally vouch that while the raising of the minimum salary to Rs 3000 pm from Rs 2500 pm is extremely welcome, it is not enough. For eking out the most meager existence in the prevailing rate of inflation (State Bank of Pakistan assessed it a double-digit 11% in comparison to the 9.3% claimed by the government), the very minimum a family unit of four requires for survival on the poverty-line is Rs 4000 pm. That is a ground reality as evidenced on hard fact, not based on the theoretical calculations of paper-shufflers confined to their air-conditioned offices who have to rely on inaccurate observations of others, they are fed what they want to hear. The minimum wage must be Rs 4000 pm, the alternative is that millions and millions of our countrymen will keep going deeper into debt (upto 1000 pm) just to stay alive.

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Collateral Damage

Pakistan stands adjacent to the ground zero of terrorism, any book by Pervez Musharraf, written well or otherwise, would be an outstanding source for much of the facts since before 9/11, a hot selling item with or without publicity. With Humayun Gauhar, having about the best English among Pakistani columnists at this time, helping Musharraf write his autobiography, the book should not suffer for want of lucidity and/or expression. The stating of facts is a different proposition, there are always many sides to a story, once in print its credibility can be called into question depending upon the facts themselves and/or the motivation of the beholder. Given that those coming out second best in the best will have no love lost for him, the autography is bound to be extremely controversial.

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Perception, image and reality

Hardly 90 days in the saddle, the Nawaz Sharif government has an image problem. Given the mandate it received in the Feb 3 elections (magnified in its extent by the drastic reduction in PPP votes) and a solid record of governance since, why is the public perception about its performance so different from reality?

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Recovery of Illegal Wealth

Making money illegally has become institutionalised. To break that cycle, a concerted effort must be made to recover illegal wealth so that the acquisition of wealth illegally attracts exemplary punishment. Wealth that is not declared is illegal, or whether it be held in one’s own name, relatives, proxies, nominees, dummies, etc or in the name of individuals/groups, business entities, etc. For any wealth declared there has to be a source of income, an income on which commensurate tax must have been paid. For wealth traced out that is not declared, there can be only one rule of law, confiscation by the State without recourse to any caveat. Illegal wealth is usually kept either in a real estate within the country, though abroad it is mostly in numbered accounts or under the cover of offshore companies in UK and elsewhere. After years of fruitlessly chasing after people in the traditional way of searching for assets of the rich who had the money to finance the use of smart tax lawyers and accountants to keep money in safe tax havens, the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has now switched over to collecting information about the lifestyle of individuals and calculating tax thereof. This change in modus operandi has made it increasingly difficult for people to enjoy their wealth without coming under the censure of the tax-man. Theoretically this could be possible in Pakistan but our Income Tax Department which has checking of tax evasion as their primary reason for existence has more individuals within the department with illegal wealth than any other commensurate group of individuals, except maybe in comparison officials of Customs and Excise and/or Immigration. Without fear of discovery retribution thereof, the show of wealth is so blatant that one tax man displays at least four “Chughtai” miniatures prominently in his house, each painting worth over Rs.2-3 lacs. Obviously we cannot expect our tax-men to blow the police whistle on themselves or on whom they consider their own (for a price, of course).

There have to be priorities in the chasing of illegal wealth. Illegal wealth must first be classified into (1) mega-wealth, ie. those who have acquired wealth far in excess of their declared income, above US$ 12.5 million (Pak Rs.500 million approximately), (2) super-wealth, between US$ 5-12.5 million (Pak Rs 200 million to Rs.500 million) and maxi-wealth, upto Rs.200 million ie. US$ 5 million. A few are in the super-mega class ie. US$ 1 billion and beyond. Illegal wealth within Pakistan will rarely be in bank accounts or either in one’s own name. It will invariably be held in real-estate, stocks and shares, in industries, etc. A far greater amount is invariably held abroad through various sleight-of-the-hand structuring, however Pakistanis (and Indians and Bangladeshis) tend to keep a substantial amount in banks and other financial institutions in numbered accounts. Many corrupt bureaucrats lost their ill-gotten life-savings when BCCI crashed. Different teams must go after priorities set, within Pakistan and abroad. In Pakistan, the FIA made an excellent headway in tracing out the wealth looted by the cooperatives, finance and investment Companies in the 80s but the poor depositors did not get even a fraction, most went into the pockets of corrupt FIA officials. The lifestyle of our Income Tax, Customs, Excise and Immigration staff can be assessed from the real estate records in the posh areas in Karachi of KDA Schemes 1 and 5, PECHS, Defence, Bath Island, etc. One will find an inordinate amount of property in the names of females and children. How can they justify the type of income that can afford such valued real-estate ?

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The last refuge

Discipline is what differentiates the Armed Forces from a mob, the strict and constant application of it ensures that the difference remains. Before an officer reaches field officer status i.e. a Major (or Squadron Leader equivalent in the Air Force and Lieutenant Commander in the Navy) he must pass the “Captain to Major Examination”, among […]

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The BCCI Saga ABEDI – Past, Present and Future

Enshrined in any democracy is an individual’s “God Given” right to personal privacy. A natural corollary of this is the discretion exercised by financial institutions, the fundamental premise of the management of funds for any entity, personal and/or corporate individual and/or collective. To that end, banking is necessarily a secretive discipline, bankers may be taciturn by force of circumstances, reserve becomes their first nature. Switzerland, Luxembourg, Cayman Islands, Jersey Islands, etc are famous havens for the depositing of excess funds, most of them can be said to be of illegal status, case in point the frustrating search for the Marcos billions. Secrecy in banking remains the greatest attribute for success, far from being any disqualification. Till the middle of this century, “private banking” was almost the sole domain of the Swiss. Even now the Nazi millions are hoarded away in safe Swiss custody, in many of the cases the owners have ceased to exist. On the other hand flamboyance is often considered an anathema by the conservative world of bankers and is treated with ambivalence bordering on apprehension. If you should add blatant aggressiveness to this you will have a volatile mix which is not conducive to the palate of the world of international banking, no matter that they themselves operate just as brashly, but from (and in) the shadows. To that end, Agha Hassan Abedi represented an anachronism, a banker in the traditional mould who kept the financial dealings of his clients confidential but who maintained an extremely high profile by moving comfortably among Kings, Presidents, Sheikhs, Princes, Senior Government functionaries, etc. While he confined himself to the oil-rich Kingdoms and States as well as the impoverished centres of the Third World he was tolerated, his move into the bastions of the developed world led to his ultimate undoing. However, one must caution here against any orchestrated litanies against the so-called Jewish lobby. Living in a world of conspiracies we have begun to believe that every action not to our liking is a conspiracy. One must indulge in self-criticism about one’s shortcomings before passing on the buck to all and sundry.

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Guess who came to lunch?

Economy as a subject is extremely interesting but hardly amusing for third world countries with burgeoning populations and large budget deficits. When the people of such nations elect their leaders, they do so in the hope that ameliorating their miserable lot will be the prime mission, that the elected representatives will buckle down to solving the abject poverty and deprivation widespread among the masses. The people have a right to expect that their economic problems have a greater priority than ill-advised raids and missed lunches. Whatever the provocation, leadership imposes great responsibility on one’s actions, each measured against an unforgiving scale of socio-economic achievement. The two great examples in the last decade or so have been the leaders of China and Russia, life-long communist ideologies having converted onto freer market practices more commonly capitalistic, paying a necessary price of swallowing the bitter pill of opening up their closed societies in order to draw in western financial aid and expertise. The raison d’etre for this volte-face has been the sorry state of their economies, compounded over the years by an inefficient, greedy and immovable bureaucracy devoted to building up their own unapproachable empires within an empire. As an abject example of the horrors of over-centralisation of planning and state control, the communist system exist as living models for not only avoiding the same route but as the major reason for the emphasis now being placed on freeing the economy, to the extent of going totally against the fundamental grain of their ideologies.

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Third World trading vehicle – Manpower potential – IV

(This is the FOURTH in a series of articles that will attempt to analyse our present system of EXPORT TRADE and recommend suitable alterations).

We have the best manpower in the world, whether it be the poorest unskilled labourers, personnel in white collar jobs or men in the military. Very often the potential of this manpower is not exploited in a determinate manner because of a failure of management. This failure is not born out of quality but out of subservience to an antiquated management style owing its roots to the worst examples of clerical mentality steeped in the nineteenth century. Visions can never be seen by men with small minds and smaller character, especially when ambitions are limited to their own individual selves and its personal glorification and aggrandisement.

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