A cruel joke | By Zaheer Bhatti

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A cruel joke


PRIME Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan served another piece of his usual rhetoric the other day stating that injudicious distribution of resources was responsible for widening of the gap between the rich and the poor, and that his Government was seized of the problem and taking measures to correct the situation, but in the same breath itself contributing to the malaise instead of taking steps to narrow the gap.

The Prime Minister and his team says that the economy had passed the difficult phase and better days were ahead; that the growth rate which was currently 3.94% was being set at 4.8%, large-scale manufacturing was growing rapidly and that his government was focusing on sustainable growth.

These to the common man are platitudes resorted to by successive governments which do not feed his tummy.

There is nothing to gloat about in declaring that the volume of international debt had soared but the government paid back Rs 19.63 billion dollars to international donors; without specifying that most of the amount paid back was against the burgeoning interest on debt, and that these payments were made out of borrowed sums rather than out of any productive domestic sources.

It is a cruel joke that in its latest weekly release of price indexes which should be in its control, the Government itself informs that prices of 25 consumable items were raised in the week following Ramazan including wheat flour, sugar, pulses, broiler chicken, fresh milk, yogurt, tomatoes, edible oil and ghee, all of which affect the lower class and has the cheek to declare that price rise was as expected and that the purchasing power of the common man had increased; a stark commentary on the state of things against the promises made by his Government.

You simply have to listen to the people expressing themselves in disgust which come from their hearts in contrast to some obviously tailored and handpicked interviews over the State media praising government functioning.

One has yet to hear about any figures of earnings from exports, tourism and trading routes allowed to the outside world including the much touted CPEC, and or return of monies siphoned off and laundered out.

All one hears every now and then are constantly contradictory figures of a few hundred billion rupees recovered by NAB thus far, which is not even a miniscule of the loot and laundered amounts.

The Prime Minister is being led to believe that the overseas Pakistanis were sending in increased sums at his call which had helped beef up Forex Reserves of the country, whereas the fact is that they are doing so out of compulsion; sensing insecurity of their earnings abroad.

If most indexes were positive including the Stock Market it beats you why the Pak rupee has again started to get a beating.

Strangely, while one has only seen passing references to now over 150 billion US dollars in economic instability and opportunity loss to Pakistan in allowing it to become the proxy battle ground for the Allied Forces against neighbouring Afghanistan, there has been no serious effort to make reimbursement claim from the United States and NATO leave alone the bases and land routes provided to the imperialists, which was the greatest betrayal in modern times of a brotherly Muslim Afghanistan Government which Pakistan was among the first three countries to accord recognition.

The Imperialists which together pumped in trillions of dollars in pursuit of their failed dream of transforming Afghanistan into a base from where it could launch its escapades into Central Asia, is reportedly yet again seeking bases in Afghanistan’s neighbourhood which notwithstanding the Afghan Taliban warning, Pakistan must categorically reject such a possibility not just under Imran Khan’s Government but as a State policy for all times; so as not to repeat the fatal mistake; the fall out of which Pakistan was still ruing.

Back to the home front; the much talked about 18th Amendment which was to empower people at the grass roots with decentralized financial authority and control over the NFC Award from the Central pool, appears to be in disarray with distrust between the Federal and Provincial Governments; leaving the deprived poorer.

If the government can indulge in kite-flying, why can’t this scribe make a suggestion for a ‘delivering NRO’! Since the 22 families identified in Dr Mehboobul Haq’s time sharing 80% of Pakistan’s resources have swollen to around 300 by 2021,each of them by a national decree, ought to be ordered to make a 100 million US dollars one-time donation and an annual contribution of Rs 100 million to Pakistan’s Baitulmaal for ten years, besides paying their annual taxes faithfully in return for closing cases against them and winding up the failed NAB; to be replaced by a Supreme Court-mandated people-friendly National Accountability Institution, to proceed against the 400 plus persons identified by the Panama Leaks and the 8000 odd provided amnesty through the [in-]famous Musharraf NRO.

On an equally serious note, only if Pakistan would attend to its scary rate of population growth which is over 2% compared to 1% in Bangladesh; also an Islamic country whose population as East Pakistan was 51% of the combined Pakistan, reflects the apathy of our planners to tackle this exploding population bomb adding so rapidly to eating mouths, which no country will be able to feed with all the resources of the world at its command.

It is also a cruel joke with the common man whom the PM keeps promising the moon, that it intends to privatize the Railways plying on public routes, as this would be yet another stab in the back of the poor and the middle class which heavily depends on this government subsidized cheaper mode of travel, besides the official public road transport which needs to be appreciably increased.

Is this how the government intends to funnel back the money into its coffers which it marvels about distributing under the so-called Ehsaas Programme!
—The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes.