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Archive for August, 1999

A revolving scenario

In all the fronts that matter, Pakistan is on the back foot presently. Having given India one of the severest drubbing in its history militarily, we have had a major psychological setback because of the withdrawal from the heights overlooking Kargil. In the face of world approbation no other course was possible. On the battlefield the Army has carved out a major victory, the world perception is depicted otherwise because of the worst media performances in our history by our media professionals. The economy shows no sign of upturn despite the agriculture sector, only the parallel black economy keeping the economic engine running. The manufacturing sector has shown a further decline. The “Mera Ghar” scheme to give houses to the poor may be a brilliant one, unfortunately one does not know where the money to make the scheme go will come from or to whom the houses will go to. Populist causes require hard cash transfusion, that is in very short supply. The ‘yellow cab scam’ is still fresh in the public psyche. Without any sensitivity to possible social unrest and the eroding purchasing power of the vast middle class, the IMF is insisting on imposing General Sales Taxes (GST) on essentials that will lead to inordinate price increases across the board on mainly consumer items. Ever optimist Ishaq Dar continues to see light at the end of the IMF tunnel.

Except for the Punjab Province where the PML(N) has a brute majority, enough to keep the simmering protests of former friend and former Governor Mian Azhar from turning into a full-scale Wattoo-type revolt, even in the other Provinces PML(N) is not so comfortable. The worst case scenario is in Sindh where the ouster of Lt Gen (Retd) Moinuddin Haider as Governor was a case of bad timing and bad logic, compounded by bad faith and duly complicated by the induction of former Chief Minister (CM) Ghous Ali Shah (GAS) as the de-facto CM. GAS has neither credibility nor any known ability in good governance, for him to face upto a combined PPP-MQM opposition is beyond comprehension. Already the PPP-MQM combination has the seeds of disenchantment with the Federation. Moreover, PML(N) in Sindh is split among loyalists and the supporters of the former CM Liaquat Ali Jatoi. Namesake Mustafa Jatoi, of his own party (neither National nor of the Peoples), in the meantime is busy setting off self-serving rumours that emissaries of the king-makers have given the ultimate signal but that he would not mind being more than a Caretaker PM next time he is offered the job. Moinuddin Haider has left a mark about good governance during his tenure of Governor’s rule, that good governance militated against party considerations and treated every citizen equally, that evenness is the paradox that our concept of democracy cannot satisfy. Democracy must be profitable for the ruling party. If indeed we have to turn to Governor’s rule for justice and good governance, where is the future of democracy? In both Balochistan and NWFP contrived majorities keep PML(N) men in power. For the first time in PML(N) short electoral history, it has party men as Governors in all the Provinces, having followed up Moin Haider’s sacking by that of another retired Lt Gen, Arif Bangash, as Governor NWFP.

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Political Agendas

None of the manifestoes floated by the many political parties in Pakistan contain anything that is radically different from each other. At most priorities differ as does the language spelling them out. Certainly emphasis on many issues may be wide apart, yet ideologically they remain similar. Most agendas are nationalist in nature with “caring” capitalism posing as a soft form of socialism. The two prominent political parties in Pakistan are the PML(N) and the PPP, followed by the regional MQM and ANP, yet a number of other parties have come up to join Air Marshal Asghar Khan’s Tehreek-e-Istiqlal (TI), among them Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) of Imran Khan and former President Farooq Leghari’s Millat Party. A strong minority is formed of a group of religious parties with the Jamaat-e-Islami prominent among them nationally, yet it is the factions of Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP), along with other religious parties, that are stronger in terms of voting power that translate into seats in certain regions. As we approach the new millennium, we must first define and implement the macro issues that are a must for good governance and structure them to the benefit of the country, setting in place positive micro-management.

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The Wages of Truth

As the Najam Sethis and Hussain Haqqanis of this world discovered to their discomfort, there is a price to be paid for writing the truth. Pakistan and other third world countries notwithstanding, this is intermittently true even in US of A, the bastion of freedom of expression and of speech, there being always elements who will militate against facts being presented as they are instead of being what they would like it to be. The moment you talk about accountability a personal smear operations goes into full swing. Others are now coming on the firing line, they include Khushnood of Sahafat, one of the really brave, outstanding newspapermen of Pakistan. That a “dirty tricks” campaign would be sanctioned by those who are holding high office and are supposed to be mature and responsible, is reprehensible. Unfortunately more loyal-than-the king underlings particularly those striving for stars, have often a way of convincing powers-that-be that their best interests are served by concocting smears, it can backfire to the detriment of the perpetrator. Two can play the same game and what has emanated from one source and gone unsolicited to various newspapers and magazines will not be as sensational if the muck-raking is entered to in earnest. After all this is an Islamic country and there are laws against rank un-Islamic behaviour, particularly in public. However, there are two reasons to hold one’s fire, viz (1) if others are stooping in the gutter one should not react the same way and (2) there is always the chance that a third party has got into the act to stoke the fire for their own motivation.

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IMF Prescription Time Again

If the diplomatic and media backlash from Kargil was not enough, IMF tightened the economic squeeze on Pakistan. Insisting on GST of various percentage on electricity, water and gas, IMF delayed the release of the tranche expected by Pakistan in July, the latest date for expecting IMF funds is September. The Finance Minister Mr. Ishaq Dar is quite confident about receiving the IMF funds and the market seemed to agree with him, various financial experts remained pessimistic. Even without IMF adding to the proverbial pound of flesh, we are in serious economic straits. The Finance Minister, an incurable optimist, kept a brave face as he sought to minimise the effect on the common man but he might as well be speaking into the wind, which as everyone knows, can howl but cannot read. More financial misery is in store for the man in the street.

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