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Archive for October, 1991

What happens now?

Whose who make it their business to disseminate disinformation have a field day in any society where there is a perception that the normal flow of information is being restricted in any manner for whatever reasons. The present situation in Sindh is ready-made for such exploitation, the spate of rumours set off by Jam Sadiq’s medical treatment in London continues unabated. The sudden departure of Altaf Hussain of MQM, his coalition partner, for London, ostensibly for the same reasons, has further aggravated the prevalent confession about the political future in Sindh.

In one area of concern one must agree with the Establishment, a concerted mass disinformation campaign let loose on the citizen’s psyche will have long-term debilitating effect on democracy. The rumours of Jam Sadiq’s impending demise due to cancer of the pancreas or liver or both are not in good taste, paraphrasing Mark Twain these rumours seem to have been greatly exaggerated. Jam Sadiq having been laid low by hepatitis, there have to be side effects on the liver. Rumours of cancer may have been bandied about, there is no supporting medical evidence available. When conjecture is bandied about as the truth, truth loses its credibility eventually.

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There is a fuse burning!

October has not been a very good month for the IJI Government so far. The one-time strongman of NWFP and IJI stalwart, Lt Gen (Retd) Fazle Haq, was gunned down in Peshawar on October 3, two days later a series of four near-simultaneous bomb blasts rocked Karachi, killing five and injuring quite a few others. Within the week on October 10, a complete strike in Quetta complicated by a few strike-related deaths, force-multiplied in the October 12 shootout where five PKMAP men were killed when their offices were attacked, resulting in Quetta city being put under total curfew. Mr. Wyne’s Provincial Government remains on the defensive on the Coop scam issue despite a few well-attended public rallies by the Prime Minister into the hinterland of the Punjab. Jam Sadiq Ali has been stricken down with a Pancreas complication and has had to be evacuated to London. Both political and medically expedient, it has set off a spate of rumours about impending Governor’s rule in Sindh.

In the life of a nation, such things will happen, some orchestrated by external hands, some influenced by domestic compulsions. Our governments have an amazing propensity to attract problems. Very much like the PPP Government before them, the IJI has a self-destructing mechanism that seems to operate on its own time-table, most events are self-created, most wounds are self-inflicted.

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The bank professionals

We have almost agreed on the figure of the amount lost in the Punjab due to the Coop Scandal. While Salman Taseer puts the figure at Rs 17 billion, Chief Minister Wyne says the losses are close to Rs 16 billion, both have got a vested interest in inflating or deflating the amount respectively. Giving the benefit of doubt to the accused and for the sake of good order, we will take the lower figure, when Rs 16000 million or thereabouts has evaporated into thin air, what is a 1000 million between friends — or even enemies?

The fortune adrift because of the Coop scandal is hitting the headlines and the pocket-books of unwary depositors, the irrecoverable loans that the nationalised banks and DFIs have been dishing out for many years have gone out of media focus. Unfortunately for the liquidity of the financial institutions and the economy of Pakistan, the money thus lost will have much more far-reaching consequences than the Coop scam. The lack of liquidity means that credit is that much harder to obtain for the lower end of the business spectrum. Contrary to traditional thought, heavy and medium industries cannot pull the economy along by themselves, it is the vast mass of small business people in private enterprise who generate the financial turnover that makes an economy vibrant. If the economy had only been dependant upon the upper range of industry, the socialist economies would have been in fashion rather than going bankrupt.

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Compromise, not confrontation

South Asia has been a political and military battleground for over four decades, with India we have fought three wars and numerous battles to correct geo-political anomalies. If history be the judge of current events, we are well on course to a “Fourth Round”. While the conduct of the war may or may not follow Ravi Rikhye’s script, the result is most likely to be a bloody stalemate. As is usual during all conflicts, military casualties will be considerable but the recent examples of total warfare are witness to the fact that civilian dead and injured may outnumber the men in uniform. While casualties in any form are unacceptable, the economic damage inflicted will set the two countries back many decades. Millions of people live below the poverty line in South Asia, this would add injury to their existing misery. In any case, the only war we should be engaging is an all out assault to effect amelioration of the economic condition of the poverty-stricken masses.

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A Matter of Social Conscience

Profit generation is the essence of any commercial enterprise, the actual percentage varies greatly from business to business. The minimum return expected is 15%, around 25% profit is considered to be a very healthy return. A return on investment of more than 40% per annum is exorbitant, in Islam there are specific injunctions against usury and profiteering. However, that is the way of the modern world of commerce and enterprise, the making of exorbitant profit is now the done thing to survive as successful business entities.

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