On my recent visit to Pakistan, I was amazed at the number of conspiracy theories floating there. Everything was blamed on a shadow conspiracy. And I heard these statements from very very (yes, the second very is not a typo) educated people – and many of these people have close connections to policy makers. Some of the craziest things I heard was that the recent crash of a commercial plane, despite the fact that the weather was bad and the plane was flown by a pilot two years beyond his retirement age, was actually caused Blackwater agents trying to crash it into Pakistan’s nuclear facility at Kahuta. That American President Harry Truman, soon after the end of World War II declared that we may think that Soviet Union is our (United States) enemy, but our true enemy is Islam. And that the catastrophic floods in Pakistan were actually caused by an American experiment in Alaska – that can control weather and earthquakes. Now all of these things are absolute nuts – not much different from many Americans believing that the astronauts never landed on the Moon, or the Kennedy conspiracy theories, or that the Pentagon was actually hit by a missile and not a plane on 9/11. Continue reading
By Khalid Ahmed
Pakistan began describing itself as an ideological state when the word had been made respectable by the Soviet Union through its planned economy and rapid growth. Ideology in the case of Pakistan was its religion.
The state is not supposed to be without a purpose. Our ideology, like most other ideologies, was utopian. It made us different from India. India was more ‘planned’ and ‘socialist’ but was not called ideological because it did not ordain coercion. Today India is de-Nehruising itself. Should we too de-ideologise ourselves?
Ideology means that the state has an idea which it thinks is right, and will punish anyone who doesn’t believe the state. With the passage of time, and despite Section 123-A in the Pakistan Penal Code punishing anyone opposing the ‘ideology of Pakistan’, Pakistan has become relaxed about ideology. It is not like Iran; it is not like the Soviet Union either when it was run by the Communist Party. Continue reading
Dr. Niaz Murtaza
A most unhelpful occurrence in Pakistan’s history was the visit in the 1950s by South Korean officials to study our economic policies. Western experts then ranked Pakistan higher than Korea. Soon after the visit, Korea started developing astronomically while Pakistan gradually floundered. Thus, the visit created the illusion that Korea outpaced us by copying our recipes which we failed to utilize ourselves, and its memory still causes an immense sense of unfulfilled national destiny. Popular myth maintains that we could easily have been like Korea if only we had better leadership and/or better ethics, especially unity, honesty and hard work. Actually, our slower progress is rooted in a broad array of structural factors which include politics and ethics but also anthropology, history, geography, chemistry and economics. Understanding this complexity will help in reducing our frustration levels and analyzing our future development potential. Continue reading
By Taha Kehar
There is a growing consensus that the ongoing sugar crisis could inevitably lead to a crisis of hegemony in Pakistan. Poverty reduction appears to have taken a backseat to the constant profiteering that the PPP-led government is quite brazenly engaging itself in. This has become even more conspicuous after the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) has indicated that sugar barons in the sugar industry are swindling consumers by the use of an unfair scheme of cartelisation.
The report presented by the CCP suggests that despite the fact that a sufficient quantity of sugar is available, it is still being sold at a price that is substantially in excess of its production cost. These findings have been re-affirmed by the Information Minister, Mr. Qamar Zamar Kaira, who has recently held the Punjab Government accountable for spearheading the sugar crisis. Continue reading
Ahmad Nadeem Gehla
Investor is the first bird to fly away when there is a remote possibility of instability and fear of disregards for international contracts. Populist rhetoric of half-learned scholars and opportunists politicians that corruption and lack of accountability are responsible for discouraging investment does not makes any sense. Although these two factors impact the investment decisions, the studies suggest that authoritarian regimes with massive corruption and lack of accountability has attracted equal investments as did the transparent and democratic governments. In reality, the authoritarian regimes are favourite of international investors while corruption, kickbacks and commissions are established practice of doing business in corporate MNE’s. From arms deals to explorations licences and from Foreign Direct Investment to award of development projects,;corrupt practices, political influences and reactivity commissions do exist at varying levels. The biggest fear of any investor lies in uncertainty and discontinuation of policies of host state where institutions become dysfunctional because of internal conflicts.
In case of Pakistan, much glorified case of preventing privatisation of Pakistan Steel Mills by Supreme Court of Pakistan, played a key role in breeding uncertainty. As the judgement is a public document, it is open for criticism, but very little has been said and written on it’s impact and constitutionality apart from securing political mileage against an unpopular dictator. In terms of investor confidence, the judgement proved to be an absolute disaster for privatisation and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The most vocal economists in country who are aware of its disastrous consequences on economy remain silent because of fear of backlash from supporters of popular Chief Justice.
Superior courts play a supervisory role and their prime function is to resolve the matters where rules, regulations and constitutional provisions are violated by by executive authorities. When a public functionary or institution violates these regulations, courts have powers to direct them to follow the same, but court has no capability to acquire the functions of that institution. When it does so, not only said institution would becomes dysfunctional and people loose faith on it but also a court would not be able to understand the complex deals which only professionals are capable to handle. This basic principal of dispensation of justice was ignored by Supreme Court while deciding the case of Pakistan Steel Mills in 2007. Despite pointing out the irregularities and directing Privatisation Commission to ensure the public interest is safe guarded under certain conditions, the Supreme Court exceeded its constitutional and supervisory limits by indulging in to investigation process before finally scrapping the deal. Certainly, none of the Honourable judges in bench has expertise to understand and structure the complex fiscal arrangements, which only corporate professionals can perform. Continue reading
The recent decision of the federal cabinet to rationalise General Sales Tax (GST) and levy a one-time flood surcharge are much-needed reforms to bolster Pakistan’s elusive and perhaps unattainable ideal of economic self-reliance. A state, which has perfected the art of collecting and negotiating rents for its strategic games, is least interested in creating a redistributive welfare state.
The emergence and fortification of a rentier state, therefore, is neither peculiar nor new as phenomena. However, it has now come to haunt the future of the country due to the evolution of rent-seeking culture, which is almost a way of life. We need no half-baked perceptions-based studies from abroad to know that crude and sophisticated forms of corruption are now embedded in our public life. From the delivery of a basic service to the purchase of a submarine, this is the way the country functions. The elites have strengthened trends such as tax-evasion and made them legit mechanisms of governance and public affairs.
Tragic that the world leaders such as Hillary Clinton had to remind Pakistanis about how they were not willing to pay up in the face of the 2010 floods devastation and were continuously looking towards the West and international community at large. Such a debate should have emanated from Pakistan’s Parliament and its patriotism-obsessed media. But this did not happen as all barons are averse to paying taxes in this country. Continue reading