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STOKING RELIGIOUS SENTIMENTS

The Indian War of Independence (or the 1857 Indian Mutiny as the British call it) did not start as a “War of Independence” by the Indians against their British masters. British East India’s war machine was primarily composed of Indian native troops officered by the British, pure British-manned regiments were a handful in numbers compared to the vast Indian rank and file. The many causes for the war i.e. political, social, economical, military and religious notwithstanding, all that was needed was a spark. This was provided when Indian Hindu sepoys refused to use rifle cartridges suspected to be greased with cow fat that had to be bitten off using their teeth, muslims similarly were led to believe that pig fat was being used. This was unacceptable to the religious feelings of both the Hindus and Muslims respectively.

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PREVENTING SLIDE INTO ANARCHY

Once known as the ‘City of Lights’ for its vibrant night life, a good part of Karachi lives in almost darkness, devoid of continuous power. This mega city’s momentum has led the nascent nation’s economy as the financial and commercial hub of Pakistan, Karachi accounting for a lion’s share of Pakistan’s revenue (some even claim 65% to 70%).

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LETTING A 100 DAMS BLOOM

For a country blessed with many rivers, the perennial scarcity of water in Pakistan is because of the shortage of storage capacity. While problematic presently, a full blown crisis is not so far in the distant future. While all provinces face shortages of water, Balochistan stands out as the most affected. This looming disaster can […]

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THE ACCUSED EXCUSED

Those really guilty are shedding crocodile tears at the judgement pronounced in the Ms Benazir murder case while laughing themselves all the way to their billion dollar sinecures spread all over the world. One must quote extracts from “Taking up the Sword”, (outskirts Press 2013) written book by security professional extraordinary Randall Bennett of the US Diplomatic Service, Regional Security Officer (RSO) in Karachi from 1998 to 2002 and then the Senior RSO in Islamabad from 2007 to 2008. An outstanding individual by any conceivable measure, Randall’s credibility is way above par. Readers can draw their own conclusions about who are the real guilty person/s.

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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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