Daily Archives: March 16, 2008

The Pakistani flying carpet

— Khalid Hasan
Daily Times, March 16, 2008

The poorer a country is, the more scant the regard those who preside over its affairs seem to have for public funds. The taxpayer in whose name all is done is nothing more than a depersonalised entity, a cliché, an irrelevance, a cipher. Each penny spent by those holding positions of governance out of the state exchequer should be a penny spent in the public interest. Sadly, it is not so.

Over the years, our elected and unelected governments have become increasingly profligate, their leaders spending public money as if there was no tomorrow. There is no questioning of what they do. Legislatures, what there has been of them, have been either powerless or disinterested. And on the rare occasions when they have asked questions as to the need or justification of government expenditure, they have been ignored. In one case, not long ago, a certain quasi-public establishment simply refused to appear before a committee of the legislature when summoned to answer a few questions concerning the financial propriety of some of its activities.

In the early years of Pakistan, public funds were spent with the utmost meticulousness. The first prime minister of Pakistan, Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, who donated his personal residence in New Delhi to serve as the high commissioner’s residence and who after his assassination was found to have left not more than a couple of hundred rupees in the bank, was refused the slight increase he had once sought in his sumptuary allowance. I think it was Mumtaz Hasan, joint secretary at the finance ministry, who had turned down the prime minister. Continue reading

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