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Archive for July, 1990

PIA in transition

The cryptic announcement by the Ministry of Defence on July 7, 1990 that Arif Ali Khan Abbasi was being replaced as Managing Director by Air Marshal Farooq Feroze Khan, who in turn, vacated his job as Chairman for Col. (Retd) Sarwar Cheema, the Minister of State for Defence did not come as any great surprise. Given no room to manoeuvre as Managing Director PIA, Arif Abbasi had resigned, turning down an attempt to put him out to pasture as head of a subsidiary company, a favourite PIA ploy for unwanted Managing Directors. Mr. Abbasi’s demeanour the day after did not suggest any acrimony or bitterness, as a professional he matter-of-factly relied on the stark truth that one cannot run a modern airline with too many political managers (or cooks) interfering.

Arif Abbasi is an extremely competent individual. Notwithstanding his appointment by political favour, superseding some of his former superiors, he would have on his own merit become PIA’s Managing Director one day, sooner rather than later. When Air Marshal (Retd) Nur Khan ran the airline the second time, he was one of his whiz-kids, managing the Management Information Systems (MIS), then becoming his Special Assistant, thus having a total overview of the Administration and Operations of PIA. Above all, Abbasi was from within the airline (circa 1970), sheer merit showing through in his ascent, management from outside tends to act like absentee landlords (they usually come to enjoy PIA’s many perks only). Furthermore, he did inculcate “a deep sense of participation and belonging among all the cadres of employees “(the words in parenthesis are taken from the Union’s statement on his departure).

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The fear of shadows

India is facing the portents of a full-fledged revolt in the occupied territory of Kashmir while the insurrection in Khalistan has moved into a widespread separatist movement. The Muslim uprising coupled with the Sikh revolt spells danger to the core of its secular existence, the Hindu backlash is apparent in the spectacular rise in the fortunes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), not known for its tolerance of other religions. Having set Sri Lanka aflame and put Nepal in an economic quandary, India has been badly stung by failure to browbeat Pakistan. With a weak government in power, made weaker by public squabbles among its leadership about trifling matters, India has opted for the time-honoured formula for taking the public’s mind away from domestic strife, cross-border adventure.

Having come to grief at the hands of its own proteges in Sri Lanka, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Indians decided to bring home the badly mauled Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF). No doubt they were aided in this decision by Pakistan Army’s Exercise Zarb-i-Momin II coupled with Pakistan Air Force’s joint Exercise Highmark in close support to the Army. Borrowing a leaf from a suggestion given to the US during the Vietnam war, “just declare victory, remove all forces and come home”, the IPKF Commander Lt. Gen Kalkat did just that, declaring the IPKF adventure a success while taking his demoralized troops back to India, some of them headed straight for battlefield areas in Punjab and Kashmir instead of their peacetime locations in Assam.

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Houses of Commerce and Industry

Every institution in this country seems to be self-destructing at an alarming rate. During 1989, Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) enjoyed its most prestigious year since inception, by Mid-1990 FPCCI has sunk lower than it would care to admit. Essentially the same GROUP holds sway over the elected management, only a change of personalities having taken place, in actual fact a sea change of fortunes has occurred.

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Rationalising trade objectives

(This is the SECOND of a SERIES on the SUBJECT).

A cursory inspection of our trade figures does not really unearth the aberrations inherent in the patent and vested falsification of statistics, for that a detailed examination is necessary. Our trade with COMECON countries shows a negative balance of Rs 378 million (Rs 2.24 billion exports, Rs 2.04 billion imports) but this can easily be labelled as hogwash, except for the USSR hardly any on our exports go to or imports under Barter trade emanate from the COMECON countries or Sweden or Finland.

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Economy and democracy

(Dedicated to my late father who would have been 69 today, had he lived beyond 1983).

The economic shambles of the German Weimar Republic saw the emergence of Hitler’s Third Reich. In short order, by the help of various draconian economic measures, the country became an economic giant. Given the anarchy besetting Germany in the late 1920s, the industrialists who willingly cooperated with Hitler, could not see the seeds of destruction at the end of the rainbow, only a pot of gold, but that is in keeping with the normal penchant of most human beings, businessmen cannot be isolated in the blame for this.

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The Medillin Syndrome

Medillin occupies a special place in the annals of corruption, for the first time in history the lawless have tried to take over an entire country on the strength of their ability to purchase anyone. The Un-Godly (as Leslie Charteris’ Saint would say) operate mainly from a city in Colombia called Medillin. This South American city is the Cocaine Capital of the World, with refining laboratories in the distant jungles and mountains, the commerce takes place in utter freedom within the Municipal limits of Medillin, or did so till very recently. Medillin has lost Mayors, Police Chiefs, Judges and various other reformist-minded law enforcers regularly, so much so that you find little or no takers for such high office, normally craved and aspired for, extremely short life-span of the sudden and violent nature being an effective deterrent, those who do not collaborate with the Drug Cartel are ruthlessly eliminated. The electorate regularly votes the brave into office but discretion became the better part of valour, and the lawless have taken over the entire metropolis lock, stock and barrel by the liberal use of force and/or the fabulous wealth acquired by cocaine smuggling. The drug warlords have now expanded their horizons to Colombia itself. The Federal Justice Minister was the recipient of so many death threats (and assassination attempts thereof) that he resigned from office and became the Country’s Ambassador to Budapest, Hungary, hoping that East Europe would act as a great deterrent for would-be assassins. Walking one day in this supposedly safe sanctuary, a professional hitman caught up with him testifying to the long reach of the Drug Cartel. On a visit to Medillin, his successor’s armed escorts were killed, the Minister was taken prisoner, tortured and then sent the way of his predecessor. The lady who followed lasted for sometime, the whole country in an uproar, the country supported by all nations in the Hemisphere. Ultimately the death threats were too much for her, a tearful nervous wreck, she sent in her resignation once she was safely in Washington on her way to a safe hideaway. Three Justice Ministers, three down, two rather permanently. A whole bunch of Supreme Court Judges were murdered in cold blood as they were about to ratify the Extradition Treaty with the US. The “Un-Extraditables”, as the warlords of the Drug Cartel started calling themselves, launched a campaign to take over the fairly large-sized country, almost too late Colombia awoke to the great danger within. The drug warlords calculated that taking over the organs of the state including the Defence and Police Services would allow them enormous freedom of action, as it is they were using some Latin American countries, primarily Panama as a safe haven and a transit point, supposedly with the connivance of the unlamented General Noriega, now languishing in the basement cell of a Miami Courthouse, awaiting trial in the US on charges of drug trafficking, abetment thereof, money laundering etc, etc. Other Latin American countries, including puritan socialist Cuba (war hero Lt. Gen Ochoa was recently shot on drug related charges) and Nicaragua became links in the drug chain of the Colombian Drug Cartel, the warlords were really coming up in the world.

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Planning future budgets

A berrations like the Slave Dynasty where servants become rulers are now commonplace in Third World countries, becoming a real part of the politico-economic scenario. Ostensibly rulers have been politicians and military men, in actual fact civil servants have established all pervasive Clerk Dynasties, producing two Presidents (one serving), two Governor Generals, Prime Ministers and most of our Finance Ministers in Pakistan.

Our financially weak economy has never really slid in their hands into South American-type runaway inflation, but prime reasons for our lack-lustre economic performance have been (1) lack of innovation, persisting with economic models dictated by external experts and (2) blatant corruption, lack of accountability thereof. The run-of-the-mill character of the present Federal Budget confirms its preparation by a number of faceless bureaucrats as put together year after year for over four decades. The capabilities of bureaucrats cannot, however, be condemned wholesale, even the present Federal Budget has good points, easily attributable to V A Jafarey and AGN Kazi, honest and able economic administrators but frozen in the straitjacket of yesterday’s policies, innovation seen only in flashes from time to time. Given the parameters of a bleak economic scenario, a reasonable job has been done by the two old gentlemen, a livable document being produced.

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