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
A natural disaster, largely unavoidable, has provided a glorious opportunity to all those who have been hankering to reverse Pakistan’s fragile transition from an authoritarian to quasi-democratic rule. There is hardly a new script for the much-touted change and its proponents are using the same old tricks out of their worn out hats to prepare for a rollback of the democratic process. Therefore, the intense rumour-mongering, which has gripped Pakistani psyche over the last fortnight, is a tried and tested success formula: create the perception of change and then turn it into reality.
Even though Pakistan’s military remains unwilling to intervene, regime-change seems to be the flavour of the month. Ironically, this time large sections of the electronic media are hyperactive participants in the process, which is most likely going to push the country towards another man-made disaster. It is appalling to note that TV talk shows are focusing on extra-constitutional remedies. For instance, a Mr-Know-It-All anchor, whose acrobatics are well-known, posed a question to his (utterly uninspiring) guests to discuss the merits and demerits of the Bangladesh model and the so-called ‘General Kakar formula’. While the responses of the guests were entirely predictable, the most shocking response came from none other than former minister and Senator Iqbal Haider who has been a dyed-in-wool democrat. He confidently and at times vociferously advocated the “General Kakar formula” which essentially relates to the intervention by the army chief in a situation where a political deadlock emerges. One had always sympathised with this reputed lawyer’s position on the problems with the way his former political party – the PPP – was led and managed but to hear pleas for an extra-constitutional intervention was shocking to say the least. Continue reading
Raza Rumi (Published in Tehelka)
AFTER 37 YEARS OF POLITICAL UNCERTAINTY, PAKISTAN’S CONSTITUTION HAS BEEN RECAST ON ZARDARI’S WATCH. WILL IT HELP REKINDLE DEMOCRACY, WONDERS RAZA RUMI
BRANDED A ‘failed state’, Pakistan has become notorious in the global media. Political change is often a result of the notorious 111 Brigade (the Rawalpindi-based army contingent which leads any military coup) moving on the streets of Islamabad and capturing the derelict PTV (Pakistan Television) headquarters. News-worthiness is defined by the number of suicide blasts that take place in a single day within what has been termed as the “most dangerous country” in the world. Pity that such stereotypes have prevented a nuanced understanding of Pakistan, as well as the fact that it is a fast changing country with a strong yearning for the rule of law and constitutionalism. (Photo: AFP)
These days, Pakistanis, when they are on a break from the next suicide bomber, are rejoicing over a major political shift brought about by the April 8 approval by parliament of the 18th Amendment to fix the truncated Constitution. Thirty seven years ago, for the first time in its existence, Pakistan’s political elite was able to reach a consensus on the scheme and shape of the Constitution. An earlier version was the 1956 Constitution, which was abrogated even before its implementation by Field Marshal Ayub Khan in 1958. There were two other military “gifts” to the nation in 1962 and 1970, which were hardly democratic and barely representative of what citizens actually wanted. Continue reading
From The Friday Times: Altaf Hussain Asad reviews a unique biography of legendary political worker
r.Hasan Nawaz Gardezi and the Pakistan Study Centre of Karachi University and its director are to be congratulated upon issuing a two volume edition of the memoirs of Dada Amir Haider Khan.(1904-1986)
by Shaheryar Azhar, moderator, The Forum
There we go again….The seeds of this impending implosion were laid in the very victory of democratic forces on February 18, 2008 when a free and fair elections brought eight-years of General Musharraf’s illegitimate rule to an end. The seeds lay in the split in Pakistan’s civil society and democratic forces that took place at the very moment of their victory. These seeds were:
1. Inability of large part of the ‘lawyers movement’ to realize that a credible election just took place despite their call for its boycott. That the basis of this election was none other than the ‘political deal’ hammered out between PPP and General Musharraf that they had vociferously decried. Instead of realizing this new political reality and reaching out to the other side for hammering a bargain, they opted for continuation of their confrontational politics as if they were still battling General Musharraf.
2. Inability of the leadership of PPP, particularly President Zardari, and its coalition partners (MQM and ANP) to fully appreciate that ‘the deal’ itself was made possible by the struggle of the lawyers movement and other democratic forces and they also needed to reach out to them and somehow bring them in the fold. Continue reading
The same dark forces that appear to have killed Ms. Bhutto on this day last year – Islamic extremist groups based in Pakistan – seem to be behind the carnage in Mumbai last month, an event that pushed Pakistan into an even deeper crisis.
Tensions between Pakistan and India, which blames “elements from Pakistan” for the Mumbai attack, escalated sharply yesterday after Pakistani military officials said that troops had been “pulled back” from the Western border with Afghanistan. Unconfirmed reports said that thousands of troops had been redeployed to the border with India in what would be the first concrete sign that either side was preparing for conflict.
For Ms. Bhutto’s admirers, and for many other Pakistanis, the issue that rankles most on the first anniversary of her murder is the apparent lack of any investigation into who killed her, despite the fact that her own Pakistan Peoples Party was elected into government 10 months ago. This omission says much about the state of the country.
“The investigation of the [Bhutto] murder has remained suspended by fear of facing the demons within Pakistan’s body politic,” said Raza Rumi, a newspaper columnist. “She alarmed those who didn’t want a secular, civilian country. The unravelling of Pakistan can be dated as starting from her death.” Continue reading