• Saleem Qamar Butt

What Do People Want?




Accountability breeds response-ability ~ Stephen R. Covey

In my article “Pakistan politico-economic crises; perils of losing hope”, published on July 4, 2019, I had tried to point out the brewing political crises in the country and briefly hinted at public dismay with the slow pace of accountability of elite, which was the main political promise by PTI before and after the elections in 2018. The public’s impatience is also aggravated due to either erroneous sequencing of handling the challenges at hand by the government or a deliberate attempt by the embedded corrupt Trojan horses within the bureaucracy, who are continuously throwing wrench in the running machinery of governance in order to agitate the common men by shifting the burden of sharing main economic burden by lower rungs of the society rather than adopting a top down approach. While tax payment is a responsibility that no one should skip, there is a need to adopt a deliberate approach instead of a quick fix. It is pertinent to mention here that somewhat similar haste was shown in year 2000 when Army was called in support FBR/CBR for “Survey and documentation of Economy”. The mission was successfully accomplished by the Army; however, what happened to the precious data collected and millions of new tax payers registered with potentially estimated billions of Rupees added to the government kitty remains a mystery and most probably ultimately went down the drain of corruption and tax evaders remained hunky-dory. I am hopeful that a soft and mat be hard copy of the nationwide collected data may be traceable in Army Headquarters if CBR/FBR had lost it. It is my vivid memory that after initial reluctance, all traders, industrialists, big and small businessmen in Punjab happily filled given tax registration forms, and agreed to pay due taxes to the Government instead of greasing the palms of corrupt mafias in tax department. The incumbent government may like to consult military authorities to make use of that data as a starting base line and proceed further gradually rather than creating undue panic. The rotten fish lies within the government tax collection machinery to say the least, which needs to be removed first. There is a need to balance out direct and indirect taxes and burden must not shift to the public/ consumers instead of big bellies because a rule isn't unfair if it applies to everyone. As for traders’ strike of 13th July, suffice to say that ‘Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are’ ~ Benjamin Franklin

Although investigation agencies are doing a great job in tracing out cases and proofs of corruption, yet the process will be more credible when applied across the board and quick and transparent justice is done treating accused of all status like ordinary people rather than as VVIP in plush jail rooms, with home cooked lavish meals and with overgenerous trips to hospitals or to parliament on feeble production order plea , which needs to be abolished either trough parliamentary process or by a presidential order. This is the least public desires if incumbent government is incapable of applying Chinese or Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman’s formula to recover plundered money as well as punish the looters. So far the public perception is that our Laws catch flies but let hornets go free; as we have a problem when the same people who make the law get to decide whether or not they themselves have broken the law. Besides, our judicial system needs complete overhaul to be at par with judiciary of respectable countries and to fulfill expectations of justice seekers and needy.

The first and foremost priority for any elected government remains to take care of security and well being of its people especially the poor and low middle class people. In the last ten months, due to a host of reasons i.e. high cost of living due to inflation, uncontrolled price hike, unemployment due to real estate and construction business closing down, exports becoming uncompetitive due to high taxes levied on energy and fuels, quite a few industrial units shut down, Rupee losing greatly to dollar etc are few causes to quote. Resultantly, swarms of daily wagers are forced to beg and starve that needs immediate remedial measures before it is too late. In order to let the people to earn their bread and butter and to let economic wheel rotate, Prime Minister has to touch the ground himself like a down to earth politician rather than merely relying on blurred picture painting by staff. A direct outreach by PM Imran Khan to representatives from all segments of the Pakistani society is of utmost urgency otherwise the political cost may be just unbearable. The incumbent government’s successes on the economic and foreign policy fronts are fine at the macro level; nevertheless, the real test is coming up to the expectations of people of Pakistan on the internal front.

Tail-piece: I would like to sum up Pakistan’s contemporary quandary with a quote, “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them; neither persons nor property will be safe”. Frederick Douglass

14th July 2019

· Saleem Qamar Butt, SI (M) is a retired senior Army officer with rich experience in International relations and diplomacy. (Mail: sqbutt61@gmail.com, Website: www.sqbutt.com )

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