in the rain
The killings of Shias is a rude wake-up call for the saner
elements in our state and society
By Raza Rumi
The joke is that
those who raise the slogan of Islam in the loudest voices have nothing to
do with the philosophy of this religion... Apart from imperialism, no
mention is ever made of Islam’s great humanism, nor is it considered
necessary to speak about the open-heartedness of Arab seers, Iranian poets
and Indian Sufis. There is no interest in the philosophy of Ali and
Hussain. Islam is being presented as a violent religion and a violent way
of life.” (Qurratlain Hyder, Aag Ka Darya, 1957)
On August 16, 2012,
passenger buses headed towards Gilgit-Baltistan via the
Mansehra-Naran-Jalkhad route were stopped by killers dressed in military
uniforms, who undertook a witch hunt of Shia Muslims by putting them
through a theological test. Later, the terrorists killed 21 Shias and 3
Sunnis who tried to protect the former. This was the second such incident
on the highway — in February 2012, 19 Shias were murdered in broad
daylight. Only this year, there have been dozens of attacks on the Shia
population in Pakistan, and hundreds have been killed.
More recently, the
Gilglit Baltistan and Balochistan have emerged as the hot spots for Shia
hatred and killings. These are zones where governance is weak and new
havens are being established for Sunni militant organisations that can
launder the Taliban and Al Qaeda agenda of destabilising the country and
cleansing it of non-Wahabi-Salafi influence.
The expansion of
sectarian hatred has emerged as a major threat to peace and harmony in
Pakistan. The denominational differences in Islam are not new. They have
been there since the new faith spread from the seventh century onwards.
Sects of Islam have always reinforced the pluralism of this faith and its
ability to absorb myriad cultural nuances. From the spartan
interpretations of the faith in the Arabian Peninsula to the eclectic
Central Asian and Persian cultures, the core principles of Islam –
equality, redistributive justice and focus on spirituality – have
attracted a variety of groups and communities.
In South Asia, Islam
arrived through the Sufis who were multicultural by birth and attitude.
Sufis had their sectarian origins but they placed emphasis on the inherent
cultural diversity of the subcontinent; instead of being exclusivist, they
attempted to be as inclusive as possible. Most Sufi orders established in
medieval India respected local traditions, folklore, languages and age-old
belief systems. This is how the peculiar framework of a tolerant, secular
local society emerged in South Asia. As court-based Ulema gained power and
influence, there were communitarian and sectarian tensions, which usually
come with the organised clergy.
The Shia and Sunni
clerics opposed each other but kept the debates intellectual and
theological. Manazara (a theological debate) was a popular instrument in
the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It would shock many
Pakistanis to know that even Ahmadis (also termed pejoratively Qadianis)
held manazaras with Sunni clerics and no one brandished each other as
infidel or called for ‘cleansing’.
The contemporary notion
of violence and hatred is a political phenomenon that has come through the
manufactured majoritarian religious identity developed by the state. This
is why there was an official dilemma, a schism, manifested at the time of
the funeral prayers for Jinnah, the country’s founder. The latter had
converted to Shia faith but, as a leader of the Sunnis, his funeral had to
subscribe to the majority norm. The civil-military bureaucracy — devoid
of a political and progressive vision for the postcolonial state —
allied with the clerics and capitulated at every stage. In the 1960s, the
funeral of Jinnah’s sister, also a democrat, Fatima Jinnah underwent
similar trajectory. Khaled Ahmed has quoted Ayub Khan’s diaries in his
seminal work on sectarianism. The lines from Ayub Khan are tragicomic as
well as indicative of how early we had started to pander to exclusion of
Shia identity in the public arena. Here is our ‘progressive’ dictator
recording the account of Fatima Jinnah’s funeral:
“11 July 1967: Major
General Rafi, my military secretary, returned from Karachi. He had gone
there to represent me at Miss Jinnah’s funeral. He said that sensible
people were happy that the government had given her so much recognition,
but generally the people behaved very badly. There was an initial namaz-e
janaza at her residence in Mohatta Palace in accordance, presumably, with
Shia rites. Then there was to be namaz-e janaza for the public in the Polo
Ground. There an argument developed whether this should be led by a Shia
or a Sunni. Eventually, Badayuni was put forward to lead the prayer. As
soon as he uttered the first sentence the crowd broke in the rear.
Thereupon he and the rest ran leaving the coffin high and dry. It was with
some difficulty that the coffin was put on a vehicle and taken to the
compound of the Quaid’s mazar, where she was to be buried. There a large
crowd had gathered and demanded to converge on the place of burial. This
obviously could not be allowed for lack of space. Thereupon, the students
and the goonda elements started pelting stones on the police. They had to
resort to lathi charge and tear gas attack. The compound of the mazar was
apparently littered with stones. Look at the irresponsibility of the
people. Even a place like this could not be free of vandalism.”
While the Sunni state
was tottering for creation of an identity, the real putsch came in the
1970s with the formal alliance that Bhutto made with the Arab world and
its proxies, ie, the religious right. Thereafter when General Zia
contracted with the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia. There were a mix
of factors: petrodollars, migration of Pakistani workers, vague notions of
an Ummah (dominated by Saudi and Pakistani muscle), and later, the
clear-cut alignment with US strategic interests in South West Asia.
Saudi money started to
shape a new Pakistan: an influential madrassa network which followed the
‘Ahl-e-Hadith’ interpretation of Islam closely tied in with the
puritanical Wahabbi stream of Islam defined by the House of Saud to
control the Arabian Peninsula and deny the Shia populations their voice
and status in most of the Gulf belt. The introduction of mandatory Zakat
collection and the promotion of Deobandi groups for jihadi purposes became
state policies. To counter the evil Soviet Union was a collective project
of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia with US money and shortsighted objectives in
the region. Today, the US cries foul of Islamic jihad, conveniently
forgetting that decades of investment have created ‘demand’ for jihad
This is why known
clerics and ‘scholars’ such as Dr
Israr Ahmad received state patronage. Their Shia hating views were well
known, and state-run television gave them ample space, and the vernacular
press articulated their version of Islam spreading hatred across all
strata of society. Pakistan’s civil military bureaucracy prayed on
Fridays under the leadership of Dr Israr who married his daughter in
Muharram (month of mourning) to undermine the Shia religio-cultural
practices. It is another matter that Pakistan’s inherent pluralism,
which is centuries’ old, continues to resist this top-down project of
‘Sunnification’ project is now an existential danger for Pakistan.
Despite the limitations of PEW polls, their new survey shows that nearly
half of Pakistanis do not consider Shias as ‘true Muslims’. Hate
literature is found everywhere, printed in thousands, and the Internet is
the new bastion of religious extremism. On Youtube alone, thousands of
videos calling and rationalising Shias as infidels can be found.
The top down sectarian
hatred for Shias has been institutionalised through the formation and rise
of anti-Shia militant organisations such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ),
Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), or its ‘sanitised’ version
Ahl-e-Sunnat-wal-Jamaat (ASWJ), all of whom have played havoc with the
social fabric of the country, especially in the Punjab province. Reports
suggest that they are in league with the anti-state Tehrik-e-Taliban
Pakistan (TTP). Others have warned that this is the way Al Qaeda is
operating in Pakistan. Thus the state and society of Pakistan are under
severe threat. Ayaz Amir (The scope and tapestry of religious extremism,
The News August 24, 2012) has
put it plainly:
extremism has ideological sympathisers, sleeper cells and a support
network, a mosque support network, running from one end of Pakistan to the
other. And it is thriving in an atmosphere of radicalisation marked by
such incidents as the killing of Shias in Quetta, the murder of Shias in
When the next bunch of Shias is murdered we read it as a newspaper
item and shrug our shoulders and carry on as usual. And the call to
prayers is sounded and it makes not the slightest difference to our
Across the spectrum,
Pakistan’s sane voices are calling for urgent attention of the state.
But the politicians are scared of the power of Sunni extremists, as well
as of their historical links with the intelligence agencies. The law
enforcement agencies as a subset of the larger society are not free of
radicalization either. The police recruitment and training methods are
antiquated and do not have adequate focus on human rights’ protection.
The prosecutors are in short supply and insecure to take a stance. Worse,
the judges have also been cowed down by the might of these agencies. Some
say that they also espouse the majoritarian [Sunni] Islamic identity. And
the armed forces, never shy of advocacy on US Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill,
have nothing to say on the murder of their fellow citizens whose security
is their professional duty. We are faced with an onslaught of silence,
inaction and policy paralysis.
Pakistan has to protect
its Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It has a Constitution, which needs to
be upheld by all institutions of the state. Most importantly three areas
of reform are critical: First, beefing up and re-educating the law
enforcement agencies and giving protection to witnesses, prosecutors and
judges who handle sectarian cases. Second, urgent measures to regulate the
check the growth of hate industry, which should be unacceptable in a
plural country like Pakistan. For this purpose, publications need to be
screened and the seminaries’ curricula have to be regulated. Lastly, a
comprehensive policy review by the military and civilian authorities that
far from being the assets, the Sunni extremist organisations are now
sources of social instability and can accelerate state collapse. Surely
this is not what the ruling elites want unless they are on a suicidal
The writer is Director
Policy & Programs at Jinnah Institute in Islamabad. The views
expressed are his own. His writings are archived at www.razarumi.com
A few headlines this
year say it all
January 13: Shia man
shot dead in Karachi
Blast in Khanpur Shia Procession killing 18
Three Shia lawyers killed in Karachi
January 25: Three Shias
shot dead in Quetta
Former Imambargah trustee killed in Karachi
Fast food outlet manager killed in sectarian clash in Karachi
February 6: Sectarian
Clash resulting in 14 injured in Mansehra
February 16: Sectarian
attack leaves one dead in Karachi
February 17: 29 Shias
killed in Kurram
February 17: Sectarian
attack claims two more lives in Karachi
18 Shias shot dead in Kohistan
March 2: Suicide attack
at valley’s mosque in Khyber Agency kills 23
March 12: Passenger van
attacked in Kurram killing two
March 15: Jafferia
Alliance leader injured, son killed in Karachi attack
March 18: Shia leader
and member of peace committee gunned down in Hangu
Shia lawyer gunned down in Karachi
Seven Shias killed in Balochistan
Sectarian unrest boils over in Gilgit-Baltistan, after 16 were
April 3: Two people shot
dead in sectarian violence in Quetta
Six Hazaras killed in Quetta sectarian attack
Three more Hazaras shot dead in Quetta
Eight more Shias gunned down in Quetta
Hazara Shias attacked in Quetta
April 21: Two more
Hazaras killed in Quetta
Hazara man shot at, injured in Quetta
May 6: Shia passenger
coach attacked in Kurram
May 6: Hazara man killed
Brothers killed in sectarian attack in Quetta
Two Shia policemen killed in Quetta
Member of Hazara community killed in Balochistan
May 28: Three Shias
killed in Kurram bus attack
May 30: Another Hazara
killed in Quetta
May 30: Two Shias shot
dead in Karachi Violence
Four Shias gunned down in Quetta
June 18: Five Shia
students killed in Quetta bus blast
Suicide attack on Shias kills 14
June 28: 60 Hazaras fall
victim to terrorism this year
July 4: Senior
government official, two others killed near Quetta
Bodies of two kidnapped Shias found in Quetta
Unidentified men torch three vehicles in Shia Action committee
rally in Karachi
August 16: 25 Shias
pulled off buses, executed in Kohistan
August 17: Shia bus
attacked in Karachi killing two, wounding 18
August 21: Shia killings
continue in Gilgit- Baltistan, two killed
largest province in terms of agricultural produce, Sindh has nosedived in
areas of social and rural development. The social development indicators
for rural districts of Sindh paint a bleak picture of the province given
the level of marginalisation people of province are going through.
With 72 percent of
households in Sindh facing the challenge of food insecurity and a large
chunk of rural people lacking adequate shelter and housing rights, rural
areas of the province are becoming increasingly backward.
Rural Sindh comprises of
about 50 percent of the province’s population. However, the level of
human development in rural Sindh is worse than in some of the African
It has been kept
marginalised by successive governments, blaming their ineptness and
indifference on their predecessors and complaining about un-seen
conspiracies stopping them from carrying out development in rural Sindh.
Multiple factors have
been responsible for inadequate rural development of the province,
including skewed landholdings, poor education and health facilities, lack
of infrastructure, increasing unemployment, etc.
To begin with, Sindh’s
majority of rural population is associated with agriculture as source of
their livelihoods. However, a majority of them does not own the land and
serves as tenants to the big landlords. The fact is substantiated by a
Social Policy and Development Centre, SPDC, report, “Social Development
in Pakistan, Annual Review, 2004”.
It claims that in Sindh,
at the time of inception, eight percent of land owners owned 55 percent of
total farm land. According to the Agricultural Census of 2000, Sindh has
the highest incidence of absolute landlessness (62 percent), and the
lowest share of land ownership (26 percent) in Pakistan.
Wealthy landlords, less
than one percent of all farmers in the province, hold 150 percent more
land than the combined holdings of small farmers. This wide gulf in the
landownership pattern is further aggravating the plight of the people.
With population increasing at the rapid pace people associated with
agriculture are becoming poorer and vulnerable to many social and economic
“Lack of land
ownership by the peasants and absence of agro-based industry in rural
Sindh has pushed the rural development downwards”, says Suleman G Abro,
Chief Executive of Sindh Agriculture and Forestry Workers Coordinating
Organization, (SAFWCO). “The subsequent factors have given birth to
increasing poverty and unemployment in rural areas of Sindh,” he adds.
Education is another
area where rural areas of Sindh have been facing exclusionary polices and
neglect by their own representatives for years. An ASER 2011 report on the
state of education shows that in 17 rural districts of Sindh substantial
number 29.5 percent of children in all age groups are out of schools or in
other words are never enrolled in schools.
Sartaj Abbasi, Chief
Executive Root Work Foundation says that “in broader context, the major
issue which has marred development in rural Sindh is of governance. The
community in general is not involved in the development initiatives of the
government,” he maintains.
According to a 2011
UNESCO report, ‘Policy Analysis of Education in Sindh’, the total
number of primary schools in the province is 45,044, 91 percent of these
are in rural Sindh. The biggest anomaly here is that Sindh has category of
non-functional or closed schools.
The number of closed
schools in rural Sindh, according to the report, is 4,965. While the
report notes that 2.6 million children aging between 5-9 years are out of
schools. State of primary schools in the rural districts of the province
is another unfortunate example of the landed elite based political
system’s neglect for the education of children of the poor and
Suleman G Abro says that
number of primary and middle level schools is quite low, including lack of
quality education which is an off-shoot of incompetence and ignorance of
successive governments, which has been hampering the development in the
province. He also notes that female education is one of the core aspects
of development anywhere in which Sindh is lagging behind. “Millions of
graduates are without jobs due to lack of equitable development in rural
districts of Sindh”, he notes.
According to Education
and Literacy Department, Sindh, in terms of missing facilities in these
primary schools, 12,794 are shelterless, 34,386 are without electricity,
26,669 have no boundary walls, 23,349 are without lavatory blocks. While
it has 4,346, secondary schools (from class V1-X) with 0.77 million
students enrolled and 36,718 teachers.
Here it is pertinent to
mention that thousands of primary and secondary schools were destroyed
during the catastrophic floods of 2010 in Sindh. The loss inflicted by
floods on the education of millions of children has further worsened the
situation. The provincial government has failed to shift strategic focus
on the rehabilitation of schools destroyed in floods which only
compromises education of the children in rural Sindh.
“Lack of social
responsibility is also contributing to absence of education of children in
rural Sindh,” says Sartaj Abbasi. Rural development funds awarded to the
public representatives should also go though the mechanism of
accountability, he adds.
There has not been any
perceptible improvement in the health indicators of children during the
last 15 years in Sindh. Maternal and infant mortality rates remain higher
than those countries at comparable levels of development, and malnutrition
rates are extremely high.
For example, according
Sindh Bureau of Statistics only 88 teaching, civil, specialised and taluka
level government hospitals were in the province during 2008 with 11,514
bed capacity. The number might have increased a bit since then though.
And there were 323,
departmental local bodies and private hospitals with 15,701 bed capacity.
Also, Sindh Bureau of Statistics has put the number of Rural Health
Centres, Basic Health Units, including Mother and Childcare Health Centre
at 103, 768 and 40 respectively. These statistics indicate that the number
of health facilities is not enough given the trend of increasing
population in Sindh, particularly in the rural areas.
Abro maintains that
government’s decision to launch Peoples’ Primary Healthcare
Initiative, PPHI is good initiative; still a lot needs to be done on this
front. “Health facilities are at the lowest ebb in rural areas which
need to be enhanced and people, especially women, need to be educated
regarding health issues”, he says.
Pakistan Demographic and
Health Survey 2006-2007 recorded that at the time only 37 percent of
children aging between 12-23 months were immunized in Sindh. Besides,
Sindh has the highest mother maternal mortality rate of about 314 against
1000 live births, and 101 child mortality rate on 1000 live births
compared to the 94 at national level and with highest fertility rate of
As far as the case of
social sector development in rural Sindh is concerned it is based on the
broken down policies and neglect from the provincial governments in
particular. It is necessary that development in rural Sindh is carried out
with well-thought out planning which also includes perspective of the
local people and introducing the strict mechanisms of accountability.
The writer is researcher
at Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, PILER
Behind the picture.
One feels sick
and tired of writing about the shenanigans of Federal Board of Revenue (FBR),
the apex authority responsible for administration of federal taxes in
Pakistan, as it makes no difference to the top brass who come with full
political backing — sitting fearlessly until the political masters so
desire. Most of our friends keep on advising us that writing about FBR’s
hopeless performance is nothing but an exercise in futility.
institution has become totally ineffective due to political interferences
and maladministration. Many a times, we have suggested that FBR should be
a truly autonomous authority, as is the case with many countries, with a
foolproof system of checks and balances to ensure proper revenue
collection, but nobody has ever bothered to consider it.
Pakistan is in dire need
of raising taxes to the level of Rs. 6 trillion at least — though the
real potential is Rs. 8 trillion — which is not possible unless the rich
and mighty are first brought into the tax net and made to pay income tax
due from them.
In fiscal year 2011-12,
FBR failed to meet the target of Rs. 1952 billion — it is yet not
officially known what the actual shortfall is, but is estimated at around
Rs. 71 billion. In fiscal year 2010-11, the shortfall was of Rs. 38
billion, though in the late hours of 30 June 2011, the then chairman with
his “favourites” claimed that FBR collected Rs. 1590.4 billion against
the revised target of Rs. 1588 billion — a false claim, which was
exposed by the media in the wake of resignation of Mr. Shahid Kardar, a
man of impeccable integrity, who as State Bank Governor refused to
participate in the dirty game of manipulating tax collection figures.
He was not ready to
accede to the kind of verification Ministry of Finance and FBR wanted. Due
to his bold stance and media’s exposure, FBR retreated and admitted that
actual collection was just Rs. 1550 billion. Chairman FBR and his
“favourites” even after admitting cheating and fraud remained
unpunished. Later, in the conference of Chief Commissioners, serious
disagreement openly emerged between the Chairman and member IR. We raised
the following point:
“……one wonders how
FBR can be trusted to meet the revenue target of Rs. 1952 million fixed
for the current fiscal year when the house is divided. It miserably failed
to collect merely Rs. 1588 billion, revised target for just ended fiscal
year — the target originally fixed was Rs. 1660 billion. FBR, a divided
house in shambles, has become an epitome of inefficiency, corruption,
indiscipline (infighting between various groups) and highhandedness. It
has failed on all fronts: collection targets, widening of tax base,
countering tax evasion and avoidance, recovery of arrears, voluntary
compliance and reform process”.
We have written
repeatedly that FBR is guilty of criminal negligence in not taxing persons
having taxable incomes, but extorting money from many who earn below
taxable income — majority of the people subjected to withholding taxes
have below taxable incomes.
FBR has been
misreporting the figures regarding income taxpayers in Pakistan — they
are not less than twenty million paying income tax under withholding
system, though return filers are less than two million. Failure is
entirely of FBR in not compelling those having taxable income to file
Its performance is poor
in achieving a satisfactory tax-to-GDP ratio [it is one of the lowest in
the world]. It is just thriving on withholding taxes and voluntary
payments—constituting 92 percent of total collection. The contribution
of field officers [collection on demand through investigation or audit] is
just 8% of total collection proving beyond any doubt how unproductive this
organisation has become.
Our contention is now
substantiated by the Federal Revenue Alliance Employees’ Union (FRAEU)
that has written a letter to the Chairman FBR expressing serious concern
“over the tax evasion of over Rs 300 billion by around 1,200 so-called
foreign companies, operating as Association of Persons (AOPs)”.
If this allegation is
correct, both in fiscal years 2010-11 and 2011-12, FBR could have exceeded
the targets by collecting huge amounts of tax from these entities. The
FRAEU claimed to have given exact calculations in its letter and also
showed that the issue was decided in favour of FBR by the Federal Tax
In the light of the
decision of FTO, it is suggested by PRAEU that “the FBR should reject
the exemption certificates and retrieve refunds issued in such cases”.
It is also proposed that the said cases may be re-opened under section 122
of the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001 for the last five years “to retrieve
the loss of revenue in trillions caused in those years”.
People generally believe
that low-grade tax employees cause loss of revenue, but here the higher
officers are allegedly the real culprits. As evident from above, the issue
is not that of tax potential, but existence of inefficient and corrupt tax
apparatus that is the root cause of the present pathetic state of affairs.
The tax officials persistently and ruthlessly squeeze and penalise
existing taxpayers while collaborating with tax evaders — massive
evasion is not possible without their abetment as in the case of AOPs
mentioned by PRAEU.
Small business houses
and salaried persons, already heavily taxed through withholding tax
mechanism, are victims of highhandedness of FBR. It is high time that FBR
tax the rich and mighty tax evaders as mentioned by PRAEU. It must tell
the nation through media how many bureaucrats, parliamentarians and
businessmen, including their dependents, are paying utility bills of over
Rs. 200,000 in a year, but not paying any income tax. They must be asked
about the sources from which they enjoy a life of luxury whereas the poor
are dying of starvation and untreated illnesses.
The writers, tax
lawyers, are Adjunct Professors at Lahore University of Management
We all know that
corruption is eating into the very fabric of our society. Admittedly, it
has assumed mammoth proportions and has seeped into every walk of life. It
has not only tarnished the nation’s image, it has also badly affected
new investments and, in turn, the establishment of industrial ventures,
creation of job opportunities and the country’s progress and prosperity.
An indication of the
prevalence of corruption can be imagined from the recent statement of the
Chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Admiral Fasih Bukhari that
Pakistan loses five billion rupees a day in corruption in only three
sectors of the economy. He said that the oil mafia, agriculture cartel and
tax evasion contribute to a daily loss of Rs. 5 billion, which means Rs.
150 billion in one month and Rs. 1,800 billion a year.
disclosure gives credence to the Transparency International Pakistan (TIP)
report that Pakistan has lost over Rs. 8,500 billion (Rs. 8.5 trillion) in
corruption, tax evasion and bad governance during the last four years.
has lost, according to the State Bank of Pakistan, almost Rs. 3 billion a
day, Rs. 90 billion a month and over Rs. 1,050 billion a year on account
of war on terror during this period.
Corruption is one of the
main causes for acute shortage of energy, which has slowed down the
economic development in the country. A study by WAPDA has revealed that
Pakistan has a total potential of producing 100,000 MW of electricity
through hydropower, which is one of the most economical modes of
electricity production. But, this huge potential remains untapped.
According to the study,
against an identified potential of producing 59,208 MW from hydropower,
the tapped capacity is merely 6,516 MW while under process is 1,557 MW and
under study is 35,000 MW.
A classic case of
corruption and malpractice in the Pakistan Railways was taken-up by the
National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee, on May 23, 2012. It
pertained to the leasing out of 19 schools of Pakistan Railways to a
private School System, owned by a former Foreign Minister, on a nominal
lease of Rs. 5,000 per school in the year 2002.
The mafia does not spare
cooperative societies; rather these often become the prime target for
their corruption. While corruption in the National Assembly Employees
Cooperative Society was still fresh in one’s mind, the Lahore District
Officer Cooperatives disclosed, on May 24, 2012 embezzlement of billions
of rupees in transactions involving land owned by Military Accounts
Cooperative Housing Society.
The real impact of
corruption in the country’s economy, TI believes, is far more that what
was generally estimated or what was formally uncovered. The TI pointed out
that the volume of corruption stood at Rs. 390 billion in 2008, while it
increased to Rs. 450 billion in 2009, to Rs. 825 billion in 2010 and R.
1,100 billion in 2011. The Finance Minister himself admitted that Rs. 500
billion was lost in corruption in FBR, while Auditor General of Pakistan
pointed out Rs. 315 billion corruption in 2010 and Public Accounts
Committee recovered Rs. 115 billion in 30 months till 2011.
In addition, close to Rs.
2 trillion have been doled out by the government to grossly mismanaged
corporations and state-owned enterprises. Out of this, over 1.1 trillion
have gone to electricity companies. Despite raising electricity tariff by
150 percent, the government gave the power sector subsidies to the tune of
Rs. 1,122 billion, but all the money seems to have gone down the drain.
In order to check
corruption, NAB Chairman stated, there was a dire need to de-politicise
the civilian bureaucracy so that government employees could perform their
duties without any fear or favour. But, the authorities often turned a
blind eye to reports of corruption and irregularities committed by their
chums or blue-eyed boys.
For instance, despite
having received an adverse report from the Prime Minister’s Inspection
Commission about Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) two years ago, the
prime minister has yet to take any action.
Among the allegations
against ETPB include corruption and kickbacks in development and other
property-related deals for allotments, leases, transfer as well as
If any bureaucrat dares
to challenge or object to non-transparent deals involving ETPB’s
property, that person can be made an example for others for having taken a
bold stand. Here one may quote the case of the Secretary Ministry of
National Harmony, Javaid Awan, who has been unceremoniously removed from
his post and made an OSD for having moved a reference in the
Secretaries’ Committee against irregularities in ETPB property deals.
The lukewarm attitude of
the authorities to root out the evil of corruption impelled Peshawar High
Court (PHC) Chief Justice to observe, on May 24, 2012 that the government
was not interested in curbing corruption. “Had the government been
interested in ending corruption, it would have formulated
comprehensive policy for ending corruption from the State
departments,” stated PHC Chief Justice while hearing a writ petition.
Currently, at around 60
percent of GDP, the underground economy in Pakistan has acquired enormous
proportions, inflicting heavy losses to trade, industry, citizens and the
State, while it deprived the nation of badly needed revenues in hundreds
of billions rupees every year.
The government is
impelled to meet growing expenditure by borrowing, new taxation measures
and deficit financing which, in turn, leads to inflation, price hike and
poverty. But the government could easily meet its financial needs without
resort to borrowing, imposing new taxes or deficit financing if it
displays the will and determination to curb corruption, smuggling, piracy,
electricity and tax theft instead of over-burdening the already tax-paying
segment of the population.
The writer is a
freelance columnist based in Islamabad
act as entrepreneur as per the popular view of the political economist or
is there some influence exercised by the people on the political outcome
through voting? Why some people in Pakistan do not want to vote? Is it
worth the time and effort and whether it makes a difference?
Since 1947, nine general
elections have taken place in Pakistan and with an average of 49.5 percent
of voting turnout, Pakistan stays at the lowest in South Asian countries
for the last 8 elections as per a Pildat study.
Based on the steadily
declining trend for the past few elections one can speculate that this
trend will also prevail in the coming general elections of the next year.
Despite electoral reforms programmes are devised by the Elections
Commission’s 5 year strategic plan based on the assumptions that people
do lack the trust in electoral system, the people have become cynical
about democracy and electoral system resultantly they feel so helpless and
Why people do not vote
and if they do, is this rational voting? Just increasing voter turn out
cannot be perceived as “rational” as normally it is suggested that
voting is the strongest form of political participation in the political
activity of democracy.
This perspective can be
helpful to legitimise democracy only to the extent of participation of the
people but it will still not help the question about going to the ballot
Political economists are
concerned with this question on the concept of the rationality in which
actions are judged as being rational to constitute the preferred way of
achieving the goals and decisions on the issues. So, rationality is a
means rather than an end.
Public choice applies
the method of economics to the analysis of political behaviour on the
assumption that participation in the political arena is driven by the goal
of utility maximisation, though no denying that people do care for the
their families and community but in public choice and economic assumption
rational behaviour is motivated chiefly by self interest.
Like an economic model,
the individual becomes the fundamental unit of analysis and it is not
groups or the community that makes decisions, it is the individual who
makes decision, and rationality is the element through which diverse
preferences of self-interested individuals get expressed when decisions
are made collectively.
Therefore, public choice
is the economic study of joint decisions such as those typically made by
voters, government agencies, and political leaders. People not only
maximise utility when buying products, but also when voting in elections
under the assumption of rationality, which can be defined as preferences
of ranks and options.
The major assumption is
that voters, politicians and bureaucrats are motivated by their self
interest. The voter pressurises the government to reduce taxes and
increase welfare programme and subsidies, etc, the bureaucrat wants
increase in perks and benefits and the politician wants to maximize their
The influence of special
interest groups indicates that the public’s true preferences are not
necessarily represented in the government. There is a critical role of
rent seekers, comprador bourgeoisie and interest groups, which can disturb
the national budget for the allocation of resources for their self
interest and ultimately increases the power of the politician, which
brings imbalances to the whole political and economic system and
ultimately failure of the government.
The hardcore public
choice paradigm is based on the assumption that all actors — government,
voters, bureaucracy, etc, have a rational conduct and that’s what
economics of politics is all about.
Ironically when we spend
money to buy a product as private good we know what we are doing and what
we will get and when we are going for vote to get a public good we do not
know what we are going to get. Public choice of voting is based on the
same assumptions when people are acting in the political market they do
watch their own interests while having concerns for others.
When there is market
failure the government has to intervene through certain corrective
actions, but government intervention does not work till the time voters
play their role by watching different lawmaking and its implementation for
If the parliament
frequently passes bills which do not protect rights of the people on an
equal basis then the element of public choice becomes crucial.
Though the role of the
constitution is to stop government from actions contrary to the
fundamental rights but if that is not respected then voters do not have to
be romantic about role of the government. Unfortunately, voters are least
bothered because the incentives for voters to be watchful in polls is
That’s one aspect. The
other can be that voters are mostly ignorant and ill informed on national
issues on which they have to exercise their choice. Whether voters are
ignorant or wrong is a question of debate.
The economist’s view
is that a voter is a great hurdle in making sound economic policies as
voters are moved not by public choice but their special interests, which
results in bad economic policies.
ignorant brings no obvious impact on the voter for casting an irrational
vote because a voter thinks that there is no risk and his vote will not
change outcome of the elections.
When a voter wants to
influence the legislators through the power of vote on issues like tax
ratio, utility rates, subsidy and ballooning of public debt, etc, even
then voters are not motivated as they do not find a direct impact on their
As a consequence,
individual voters tend to think that they generally cannot alter such an
election result whether they vote or not. As per conventional
understanding, voters’ turnout reflects that people do care about
This also implies that
the public have a right to question which system will provide the best
information and incentives to act on that information to achieve results.
There is no reason for
voters to pay attention to the candidates’ promises if there is no
predictable connection between the profile of voter preferences of
candidates and left with very low probability for one’s voting as it is
not decisive , which makes it apparently irrational voting.
The public choice
approach of the voting behaviour is also marred by the role of the IMF in
developing countries. Whenever the IMF’s standby agreement is
implemented, the public choice option is halted.
Though a democratic form
of government is supported by Western powers as well as the IFIs but the
budget allocation is constrained by conditionalities. That’s the reason
that during the election year the government spends too much on creating
an artificial economic strength through different development and
employment generating programmes.
Resultantly, the next
government inherits a weak economy, whereas the politician secures maximum
votes on the given superficial development. Therefore, the myth of
rational voter is unfolded when they vote under the influence of false
belief and ultimately brings in poor results.
That’s the reason that
one institution in Pakistan has to bear the burden of whole fractured
governance of political institutions ultimately to the extent of
determining prices of commodities.
Social and economic cost
of irrational voting is very high and the same is manifested in Pakistan
where rational voting is a myth. Though the solution to these problems is
‘more democracy’ and democracy means that everyone is entitled to
The democratic systems
still relies on collective choice which ultimately needs rational and
informed voters. Likewise, we need a rational act in the market.
Institutional reforms is
another way to deal with voter irrationality, but paradoxically, it again
goes back to public choice to decide
which kind of reforms and which level of actors. Educated and
well-informed voters can have sensible review of policies because
institutional reform is unlikely if voters are not well-informed.
Democracy will stay as a
battle of conflicting interests between the public and politicians. The
voters who are well-informed and know little bit more than an average
voter have to speak up rather than being modest and staying silent.
It is important to
inform the voters that they have the right to choose because, generally,
voters are not well-informed in Pakistan of public policies and the cost
and benefit of their voting.
Till the time we come
out of the illusion that political decision maker’s dominant motive in
political activity is private interests, we will end up with an imperfect
market as well as imperfect state.
demands serious political action in support of social justice. Yet, states
around the world are doing quite the opposite, retreating in favour of
global capitalism. Transnational corporation are advocating a radically
unjust solution: commodification and hence privatisation of water for
Peddling an illusion,
proponents say that such a system is the only way to distribute water to
the world’s thirsty. However, experience shows that selling water on the
open market does not address the needs of poor, thirsty people.
Urgent issues confront
us. Who owns water? Should anyone? Should it be privatised? What rights do
transnational corporations have to buy water systems? Should it be traded
as a commodity in the open market? What laws do we need to protect water?
What is the role of government?
How do those in
water-rich countries share with those in water-poor countries? Who is the
custodian for nature’s lifeblood? How do ordinary citizens become
involved in this process?
Instead of allowing this
vital resource to become a commodity sold to the highest bidder, we
believe that access to clean water for basic needs is a fundamental human
Each generation must
ensure that the abundance and quality of water is not diminished as a
result of its activities. Great efforts must be made to restore the health
of aquatic ecosystems that have already been degraded as well as to
protect others from harm.
Everything for sale
The dominant development
model of our time is economic globalization, a system fuelled by the
belief that a single global economy with universal rules set by
corporations and financial markets is inevitable. Economic freedom, not
democracy or ecological stewardship, is the defining metaphor of the
post-Cold War period for those in power.
As a result, the world
is going through a revolutionary transformation as great as any in
history. The most direct result of economic globalization to date is a
massive transfer of economic and political power away from national
governments into the hands of the bureaucracies they helped to create.
At the heart of this
transformation is an all-out assault on virtually every sphere of life.
Everything is for sale, even those areas of life once considered sacred,
such as health and education, culture and heritage, genetic codes and
seeds, and natural resources such as air and water.
services and resources are controlled by a handful of transnational
corporations who shape national and international law to suit their
Institute for Policy Studies reports that the top two hundred corporations
are now so big that their total sales surpass the combined economies of
182 countries and they have almost twice the economic clout of the poorest
four-fifths of humanity. Of the 100 largest economies in the world, 53 are
now transnational corporations.
As nature is
increasingly commodified, governments all over the world are dismantling
environmental legislation or allowing industry to police itself. Countries
are lowering corporate taxes and environmental regulations in order for
securing high profits to capital.
As a result, governments
are left with reduced fiscal capacity to reclaim polluted waterways and
build infrastructure to protect water; at the same time they are also left
with reduced regulatory capacity to prevent further pollution.
The massive abuse and
pollution of the internal waterways of most developing countries has been
one price of belonging to the global economy. The depletion of underground
aquifers and rivers to supply the water demand of transnational industry
Bottled water becomes
Water is fast becoming a
globalised corporate industry.” In May 2000, Fortune magazine stated
that, in a world fleeing the vagaries of tech stocks, water is the best
investment sector for the century. The World Bank places the value of the
current water market at close to $1 trillion; however, with only 5 percent
of the world’s population currently getting its water from corporations,
the profit potential is unlimited.
The world of privatised
water is overwhelmingly dominated by two French transnationals. Suez
Lyonnaise des Eaux (which built the Suez Canal and had 1999 profits of
$1.5 billion on sales of $32 billion) and
The trade in bottled
water is one of the fastest-growing (and least regulated) industries in
the world. In the 1970s, the annual volume was 300 million gallons.
By 1980, this figure had
climbed to 630 million gallons, and by the end of the decade, the world
was drinking two billion gallons of bottled water every year. But these
numbers pale in comparison to the explosion in bottled water sales in the
last five years—over 20 percent annually. In 2000 over 8 billion gallons
(24 billion liters) of water was bottled and traded globally, over 90
percent of it in non-renewable plastic containers.
Global capitalism wins
both ways – profits from degrading public water and then profits from
processed water. As the world’s freshwater supply becomes more degraded,
those who can afford it are favoring the packaged item, even though
bottled water is subjected to less rigorous testing and purity standards
than tap water. A March 1999 study by U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense
Council (NRDC) found that much bottled water is no safer than tap water
and some is decidedly less so. One-third of 103 brands of bottled water
studied contained levels of contamination, including traces of arsenic
Of course, the global
income gap is mirrored in inequitable access to bottled water. The NRDC
reports that some people spend up to 10,000 times more per gallon for
bottled water than they do for tap water. For the same price as one bottle
of this “boutique” consumer item, 1,000 gallons (3,000 liters) of tap
water could be delivered to homes, according to the American Water Works
Association. Ironically, the same industry that contributes to the
destruction of public water sources—in order to provide “pure” water
to the world’s elite in non-renewable plastic—peddles its product as
being environmentally friendly and part of a healthy lifestyle.
The writer is the
chairperson of Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum
second and third weeks of August, cities and settlements in the Punjab and
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were intensely affected by torrential rains and flash
floods. About three dozen innocent people perished due to various
It is disappointing to
note that despite clear warnings about potential anomalous changes in
weather cycles, our preparedness and awareness falls short of the
desirable level. Issues prominent in the national scenario include
droughts, unpredictable rates of precipitation, depletion of water
aquifers, spread of water logging/ salinity, melting of glaciers, flash
floods, unpredicted monsoons, acid rains, drastic reduction in forest
cover, marine pollution and sea level rise.
Apart from the global
factors, a sizable damage has been caused as a consequence of nascent
development process and locally induced factors.
Different zones of the
country are facing challenges in respect to sustainability of various
kinds. Coastal locations in Pakistan are facing a death knell,
paradoxically at the hands of its very users. This has been spiraled by
periodic reduction of mangrove forests from traditional habitats such as
Gizri, Korangi, Phitti, Gharo and adjoining creeks. Development of large
scale real estate developments along Defence Housing Authority, Bundal and
Buddo Islands is one reason for removal of mangrove cover.
The other factor that
has led to this catastrophe is the reckless cutting of mangrove branches
and trunks by coastal communities for using as firewood. Field studies by
researchers have shown that local people uproot and plunder budding
habitat of mangrove plants and continue to do so for use.
Uneven pattern of land
reclamation by some ambitious developers has cut away marine water flow
thus causing a natural death of mangroves. Marine ecology is also impacted
by raw sewage inflow. At present, more than 400 million gallons of sewage
is ejected into the Arabian Sea from Karachi on a daily basis.
Human waste, sludge,
acids, bases, bio-degradables and toxic substances are few of the
ingredients that pass untreated into the sea. Micro environment of the
coastline is thus constantly degraded. The oil spills from ships is also a
source of pollution.
Thousands of tonnes of
used oil is discharged along the Karachi coast without any effective check
measure. All of these factors contribute to the various climate factors
which need to be scientifically analysed for proper prevention and
The once pristine
ecosystem of Indus delta is another case in point. It is spread on a space
of 0.6 million hectares between Korangi and Sir Creeks. This habitat
primarily owes its life line to the fresh water discharges from Indus.
Research studies have
shown that 35 million acre feet (MAF) water flows down the delta although
fresh verification of this fact is now required. Despite the
interprovincial conflicts and claims, it is found that the estuaries run
dry for most part of the year.
Ingress of sea and
threat of destruction of soil quality are two main hazards faced by local
communities in these locations. It may be noted that high salinity
adversely impacts the aquatic life and fishing population.
Over harvesting of
marine resources, naturally occurring meandering of creeks, grazing of
marine greenery by cattle and camels are some of the concerns. Mangrove
reduction in this region is also extensive due to the causes discussed in
Needless to say, that
tsunami, cyclones and tidal waves are naturally intercepted by mangroves,
saving lives and assets. They do the work which is worth a multi million
dollar construction of artificial dykes.
A trip to Super Highway
on Karachi and many other locations in the country will show 2010 flood
affectees still camping on road shoulders. Dislocation of population and
re-location to places unprepared for settlement destroy flora and fauna.
Scientists had estimated
a forest depletion process on an average of 800 sq. km. per annum. Common
sense informs that loss of forests cause soil erosion and compound effects
of land sliding.
The conservation of
forests acts as the natural regulator of climate and topographical
conditions. In the prevailing anarchy and lawlessness, the forest cover is
conveniently removed by the vested interests for their private advantage.
institutional arrangements for the management of forest lands fall grossly
short of this vital national duty. Mass scale corruption and involvement
of high stakes render the monitoring process ineffective.
administrative attention with befitting political assistance is not
initiated, it is feared that the damage will lead to environmental
catastrophes of high magnitude.
Apathy and inaction
towards climate change has impact on farming and productivity.
Meteorologists and other professionals have predictions about impending
droughts and reduction in water availability.
For food production and
conservation of settlements, it is most vital to prepare a mitigation and
adaptation strategy. If food prices soar, it can lead to social and
It is also likely that
the country may suffer from the climate migration syndrome. That is to say
people would be forced to relocate due to hazards generated by climatic
factors. For a country which is already grappling with security and
conflict based dislocations, a further wave of natural displacement of
population will not be desirable.
There are many ways of
approaching this scenario. Several organisations are working towards
addressing the issue of climate change. Asian Development Bank has a
spread out agenda of supporting climate change mitigation and adaptation
Some of its
institutional arms looking into this avenue include Climate Change Fund (CCF),
Clean Energy Financing Partnership Facility (CEFPF), Asia Pacific Carbon
Fund (APCF), Future Carbon Fund (FCF), Water Financing Partnership
Facility (WFPF) and Poverty and Environment Fund (PEF).
Several research groups
are busy analysing the trends and developing plans and strategies to
combat the issue. The knowledge base is now being developed to address
this menace which is common to all of us. By intelligent use of resources,
timely actions and concrete implementation, the constraint can be turned
into an opportunity. It is hoped that our decision makers will rise to the