Archive for June, 1998
When “everyone” and her uncles were expecting a sanctions-oriented tough budget, the Federal Finance Minister did his usual Houdini-act again. This took the political wind out of the Opposition’s sails and they were left mostly spluttering “Kalabagh.” With unrestrained glee they have been joined by the likes of Jatois, etc i.e. those most likely to be affected by a firm implementation of land reforms. Despite the fact that as Pakistan’s financial guru Senator Sartaj Aziz was symbolically bound in chains, bundled in a sack and thrown into the deep end, he has emerged, wet and shivering perhaps, with a surprisingly liberal but (in the circumstances) enterprising Federal Budget.
Pakistan’s economy is largely based on agriculture and understandably a major section of its industry is agri-based. While entrepreneurs are increasingly looking to other areas the potential of expanding the industrial base remains largely untapped for a number of reasons but mainly because of a heavy reliance on our traditional export items. An encouraging sign recently has been the emergence of various industries other than the agri-based ones. In order for such industrial units to operate efficiently and profitably there is a desperate need to adopt certain measures otherwise the end result could well be disastrous. As it is, thanks to the avarice of highly unpatriotic and corrupt individuals who have thrived on commissions, the country is being forced to carry a high percentage of sick industries because of huge loans taken by these individuals from banks on pretext of revival of their units and then being grossly misused.
Pakistan has a good number of industrial and manufacturing units controlled by dynamic individuals with sound management skills which can be termed as true Centres of Excellence. These are rightly a source of great pride for all. Among these is a unit which is a cut above the rest, Heavy Industries, Taxila (HIT), a dynamic and progressive organisation where cooperation and cohesion between various sectors has been harnessed to maximise the results. The birth of HIT took place in 1971 when Project-711 was established in Taxila with Chinese assistance mainly to rebuild the T-59 Tank fleet of the Pakistan Army. With the passage of time it came to be known as Heavy Rebuild Factory (HRB) which was instrumental in imparting invaluable know-how and experience due to which further expansion became possible. Not only the rebuild but gradually the manufacture of all tracked vehicles of the Army commenced in this facility. In the month of September, 1992 reorganisation took place in this industrial complex and it was re-named as Heavy Industries Taxila. The main activities of HIT are (1) re-build and upgradation of Armoured Vehicles of eastern as well as of western origin (2) progressive manufacture of tanks and armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and (3) progressive manufacture of tank guns.
Mian Nawaz Sharif reached new heights on Thursday evening last, a level not easily attained by mere mortals. Now he has to prove he means what he says. In his speech to the nation, the PM touched a number of major issues but nothing was more meaningful than his decision to put all the industrial assets of the Sharif family on the block in order to pay off all and any outstanding loans. These loans were his Achilles Heel because it restrained the authorities from credibly proceeding against others. Though it is known far and wide that his family was thrust into an untenable financial situation by unending persecution at the hands of the Bhutto/Zardari combine, public perception was still uneasy about the re-scheduling of the family’s debts when he came back to power. Whatever may be the quantum or percentage of loans, the very fact that the Sharif family bit the bullet shows a positive commitment to the country, a level of sacrifice seen in Pakistan only intermittently and occasionally, mostly by the Armed Forces on the battlefield. While skeptics abound who question whether the process of loan adjustment against asset disposal will be transparent, for the record the PM seems to be clearly sincere about his intentions, rendering a personal sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty. A quick cursory survey of the populace shows that they believe him in much more numbers than his detractors who doubt that this “cleansing” process will take place.
Once India had exploded its second nuclear device on May 11, Pakistan was time-locked into a reaction, delayed only by logistics rather than logic. That enforced delay was God-sent, adding to one of 20th century’s great strategy blunders by India in giving Pakistan the raison d’etre for taking its own nuclear programme out of the closet without incurring inordinate criticism and/or persecution, at least relative to India. During the period between May 11 and May 28, India went berserk. Awash in their own euphoria, BJP leaders threatened Pakistan not only with war but with using their nuclear capability to enforce their will. As much as western powers, led by US President Bill Clinton, tried their level best to dissuade Pakistan, by May 28 they were resigned to the fact that in the circumstances Pakistan had no choice. As such world reaction, though proforma criticism of India and Pakistan was equal, has been far more detrimental to India. Suddenly Kashmir has been thrust into the world stage as one of the main concerns, the status quo of benign indifference cannot be maintained anymore. From being consigned in the cold storage, this is a crisis that the world recognises must be solved to prevent a regional nuclear holocaust. Furthermore in contrast to India, Pakistan has some very special friends who are active in giving Pakistan material support. If one adds the return of China’s unwavering support as an article of faith in maintaining Pakistan’s security, Pakistan has come out far ahead. Taking stock of the events, Pakistan has not had a commensurate 30 days in its history where everything has gone so right, these have been Pakistan’s golden moments. The prime beneficiary has been Mian Nawaz Sharif, basking in public adulation at taking what is certainly the wise decision in the country’s best interest, luckily it coincided with his own best interests.
In announcing Pakistan’s official advent into the nuclear world, the PM took into cognizance that sanctions would require considerable sacrifices from the people. As a symbolic gesture the PM announced that he was immediately leaving the ostentatious newly occupied monstrosity that goes by the name of the PM’s Secretariat and that he expected everyone to do his (or her) bit for austerity. Better said than done, Mr PM, for a people used to a life of luxury, at least in the affluent class the meaning of the word “sacrifice” is lost in implementation.
When Nathuram Godse of the RSS gunned down the Sub-continent’s apostle of peace, Mahatma Gandhi, little did he realize that about 50 years later, his 25-year-old associates would one day be ruling India, under the camouflage of a successor organization called the BJP. The fifty years of frustration took a heavy toll on the psyche of these men and made them bitter and more virulent than they normally were. Today, three frustrated 70 plus year old Brahmins with one foot in their graves hold a nuclear Sword of Damocles not only over the region but the world. What the Indians launched on May 11 and 13 was not limited to a nuclear blast but was more of a public announcement that they wanted to remove the Muslim tide that had engulfed them for over 10 centuries till the British freed them from the yoke in 1857, setting them completely free in 1947. While Hindus in general have learned to live together with Muslims — and Christians — in uneasy secular India, with discrimination an accepted fact of life by the minorities as a prime pillar of the caste-ridden Hindu religion, a small minority among the Brahmin sect is violently and virulently dedicated to persecuting Muslims, not limiting this to discrimination only. This is the same crowd that mindlessly carried out the razing of the Babri Masjid and are engaged in making a Ram Temple in its place.