The ground realities

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ZAHEER BHATTI

PAKISTAN Prime Minister Imran Khan’s rhetoric of eradicating corruption was dealt a telling blow byTransparency International (TI) which concluded that corruption in Pakistan increased during 2019. The TI analysis which presents the crux of over half a dozen international surveys and analysis, clearly suggeststhat far from eradicating the menace the PTI Government had failed in even arresting the trend. It also takes the wind out of Imran sails in the face of criticism from the opposition and media scrutiny, in reaction to which he was intent on not being ruffled by the criticism attributing it to vested interests of some media outlets and the opposition allegedly seeking to divert from their corrupt practices of the past. Imran Khan’s suggestion to the public to stop watching TV Channels and reading newspapers which according to him were sources of disinformation and that everything would then be fine, is unbecoming of a man supposed to be guiding the destinies of a 220 million strong nation; more so as the Transparency International certification warrants serious introspection by the Premier and his discordant team which is causing one crisis after another. Attributing every ill to the past, refusing to admit mistakes or take corrective action, and doing nothing to stem the rot is a grossly flawed attitude and methodology of the rulers which the common man is not prepared to contend with any longer. No one is asking the Government to abandon accountability but only to make course correction and not be averse to sane suggestions; no matter where they come from. Is it not a fact that he has ended up promoting status quo by gathering the same bunch of opportunists around him who have no qualms of conscience ditching past masters and getting around future set-ups; naming names being pointless if the Khan continues to be blinded about ground realities and the credentials of his ‘bhanmatikakunba’ team lacking foresight and commitment. Nurturing and facilitating a hoard ofindustrialists, businessmen, real estate tycoons and mafias, traders,Waderas, Chaudhries and landlords and doing nothing to banish or rein in on the middleman mafia responsible for hoarding, smuggling and price hikes, the common man is left to the mercy of the bureaucratic net, squeezing capital out of the already starving masses struggling for aloaf of bread, while the already stinking rich continue to have a field day. It is patheticthatthetraditionallywheat surplusNation has shortage due to cheap export to neighbouring Afghanistan and damage caused by inadequate storage. And the Government to cap it is contemplating import to meet the shortage at doublethe price before whose arrival domestic crop from Sindh would already be in the market. The story of sugar is no different as the crop is obtained below procurement price from the farmer by the majority of wheat flour and sugarcane crushing mills owners who ironically happen to be the people’s representatives elected to safeguard the interests of the toiling tiller. Instead of ameliorating the suffering of the common man which ought to be the top priority for any Government in a supposedly Islamic welfare State, the PTI has caved in to international donors which are primarily a web of imperialist forces woven around developing countries to force their compliance with unsavory demands. Imran Khan boasting of shaping Pakistan into the State of Medina of the times of the Prophet (SAW), has meekly buckled down to the IMF for whom the common man does not exist. Imran Khan justifies price hikes of utilities and extending the begging bowl due to paucity of funds, whereas resources in the times of the Prophet of Islam for catering to the common man’s needs were perhaps worse. But the Prophet and the Caliphate led by example, squatted and slept on the floors in hutments and not palatial abodes and be answerable for the smallest of liberties, and whose examples have been attempted to be replicated by a few even in contemporary times;Ayatolla Khomeini,Ahmedi Nejad,Mulla Umar and might oneinclude even Sirajulhaq, the Pakistani Ameer of Jamaat-e-Islami; to quote a few. Most IMF conditions hit the common man against which Asad Umar put up resistance; only to be booted out. It is also a pity that the Khan is held hostage by a coterie of friends among whom happens to be an agriculturally neo-rich tycoon who despite having been disqualified continues to practically run various arms of the Government and is in fact responsible for the price hikes of wheat flour and sugar. The PrimeMinister refusing course correction himself, seems hell bent on continuing with the non-performing but pliant Chief Minister in the largest Punjab Province on whose deliverance to the people rests the future of the State as well as that of the rulers. But even where the Prime Minister orders State functionaries to restore confidence of the tax-payer, myopic handling of collection is resulting in disincentive to filers. Soon after his direction, one instead saw immediate lowering of interest/dividend rates of Behbood and Pensioners Accounts in National Savings meant for Senior Citizens who are protected all over the world. Such is the FBR approach, that instead of aiming at first broadening the tax net by levying a low tax rate on fixed income group, a fixedtokentax on small retailers and contemplating a steady futuristic raise, it is forcing hatchery of Returns and asking those becoming filers voluntarily, to submit Returns also for the last five years, and scaring away other prospective filers. Despite a constant hue and cry to reduce prices of consumable commodities and energy for domestic consumption, unabated raise of Gas, electricity and petrol tariffs have rendered the majority in the country unable to meetthe bills withtheir rapidly reducing purchasing power. But the IMF would not give you breathing space to win people’s confidence nor has it ever bailed any country out of its economic woes. —The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes