Wages of crime
This letter is in reference to the recent decision made by the PML-N government under which retailers are no longer required to provide any form of identification – such as a CNIC, NTN or even an address – for starting a business.
The people of Pakistan, who have witnessed the loot and plunder of state assets and taxpayer funds during the last five years, had great expectations from this government, but they seem to have been in vain. While the tax To GDP ratio has declined further from the already low 9.1% in 2011-12 to 8.5% in 2012-13, the FBR, contrary to their objective of widening the tax net and the documentation of the economy, has reduced the withholding sales tax for unregistered persons from 17% to 1%. The sales tax on fabrics has also been reduced from 5% to 3%.
This decision is likely to increase the profits of the undocumented black economy and benefit only a particular section of traders who rarely pay any taxes. At the same time, the decision to impose Income Support Levy on tax exempted pensionable emoluments invested in National Saving Schemes and banks is proving to be an additional burden for honest tax payers. The privileged and corrupt elite of this country, who own earn billions from the stock exchange and own numerous properties, are exempted from income tax.
Such policies aim to protect and promote the black economy of this country and lead to further shrinking of the documented white economy. This leads to massive unemployment, a rise in poverty and starvation, an increase in crime rate and the creation of an environment where terrorism thrives.
Increasing debts is not the solution to fill this ever widening deficit, but is rather a formula for destruction.
Menace of terror
The recent Peshawar church attack shook the conscience of all the people of Pakistan. Terrorism is undoubtedly the biggest challenge that Pakistan has been facing for the last 10 years. Thousands of innocent people have been massacred by right-wing militants. The PTI government is apparently running the show in the most troubled province of Pakistan.
The federal and provincial governments have been under severe criticism for showing insensitivity towards the protection of life and property of citizens. The founder of Pakistan had assured all Pakistanis of their rights, irrespective of their religion, caste, creed or culture. No one is safe in today’s Pakistan, particularly the minorities.
The authorities give priority to their own interests and are too occupied with corruption to care about the lives of civilians. The PML-N and PTI governments bear the largest share of the blame. The so-called harbingers of justice remain oblivious to the problems of the people. The PTI should focus on delivering its promise of a new Pakistan. The security establishment should also make some critical policy decisions with regard to curbing terrorism otherwise the lives of the thousands of soldiers who died fighting for this cause will go in vain.
Only the development of good relations and coordination between the main political and non-political players can pull this country back from the brink of destruction. A strong policy must be devised and implemented to rid the nation of the menace of terrorism.
Atif Mahmood Majoka,
I was surprised to read a CDA advertisement inviting applications from the general public for allotment through balloting of residential plots in sectors D12 and E12. Perhaps this is a smoke screen that the CDA is using to project its image as an organization that serves the people of Pakistan and obfuscating their real role as the providers of expensive real estate at throwaway subsidized rates to the paid civil and military bureaucracy or members of elite pressure groups, land developers, CDA employees and members of the ruling political party. Will the greed of our paid bureaucracy for real estate ever be satiated?
The last time such an advertisement was placed and plots were allotted by the CDA to the general public in sectors D12 and E12 was back in 1989. The results of the computer ballots were published in newspapers on 5th September 1989. After 24 years, the successful applicants are still waiting for the plots to be handed over to them in E12. In fact, many have departed from this world.
I am one such victim of the injustice of CDA who has witnessed thousands of plots being allotted to elite government servants or powerful groups while common citizens like me wait and hope that perhaps their turn may come while they are still alive.
Will the chief justice of Pakistan or the prime minister ever take some time out of their busy schedule and address this injustice?
From Tharparkar with love
It is pleasure to read The Friday Times every week. I was introduced to TFT in 1989 by advocate Anwar Kamal and since then I have been reading it off and on. I once also met Jugnu Mohsin at the home of Naseer A Shaikh.
When the Weekly Viewpoint section was terminated, I was worried about the future of TFT, but after reading the recent views of Raza Rumi, I am hopeful once again. TFT provides a refreshing change from most other publications which are apparently transforming press releases of various parties into news and columns. Unfortunately, as we receive TFT by post in Tharparkar, it is usually late, but thanks to the internet we stay aware of important news events.
It has come to my notice that a majority of the media seems to be criticising former president Asif Zardari for being a Sindhi. It is time to learn from our past mistakes and develop a consensus for the future. I hope that this esteemed publication will lead us in this endeavour.
Day of democracy
Democracy is a form of governance based on the free will of the people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems. It is a time tested model which, despite many glitches, has proved to be the best-suited and most sustainable form of governance.
In 2007, the UN General Assembly decided that the 15th of September should be observed as the International Day of Democracy. Since then, hundreds of events have been held in over 90 countries to commemorate this day. The theme for this year’s IDD is “Strengthening Voices for Democracy”. In the context of this theme, it is relevant to take a look at democracy in this country.
Pakistan has had a chequered history as far as democracy goes. Every time a fledgling democratic government was formed, it was toppled or ousted by the military. Alongside that, fundamentalist groups were deployed by these forces for political expediency. Unfortunately, this Frankenstein’s monster has grown so large now that it now dominates the social, political and international spheres of the country.
Despite all the above, the last parliamentary election was a landmark of sorts for democracy. For the first time in the history of Pakistan, a democratically elected government made way for the next one as per a regular democratic procedure rather than through military intervention. Moreover, these elections witnessed a level of public enthusiasm for democracy that was hitherto unseen in the country.
In the currently changing dynamics of the political system within the country, even the elected public representatives face significant challenges in fulfilling their designated responsibilities adequately. The times have changed. In Middle East the realization of the importance of democracy has been manifested in the Arab Spring. Similarly, our awareness of democracy is not perfect but the strengthening of public voice will make it better.
This year’s IDD theme will be beneficial for our country if we utilize it to engage and involve more people to understand and participate in the democratic process. Pakistani politicians and public appear to be on the back foot in organizing events to strengthen democracy. In contrast, the Parliament of India will mark the IDD by hosting a live televised debate on the ‘Challenges to Indian Democracy’ with members of the Parliament, civil society groups, university students and journalists. Given the much better and older credentials of democracy across the border, this is not surprising, but it is high time that we make up for the lost decades.
I can only reiterate the call of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon: “On this International Day of Democracy, I call on leaders to hear, respect and respond appropriately to the voices of the people, whether expressed directly or through elected representatives.”
Haroon Mustafa Janjua,
Lamb to the slaughter
Recently, I paid a visit to the cattle market in central Lahore and was quite surprised by some of the sights and practices. Firstly, all the customers, dealers and opportunists had to go through a through security check. The healthier the animals and their herders looked, the less likely they were to be scrutinized. Next, as I entered, I saw all the animals queued up in rows of steel bars, moving slowly towards a dark coloured glass door. The cattle, including me, were aware that this door led to our destiny.
There were separate areas designated for men and women as is proper in an Islamic State. The most distinguished feature, however, was the herders who were standing under the shades wielding a great weapon. No, the weapon was not a stun-gun but a remarkably loud voice. They used it mainly to shout at any animal that dared to move against or around the designated path. Finding the right path to the sacred door was a challenge for the animals.
Many people had travelled far and wide to reach this sacred door and were determined that nothing would stand in their way. It took me almost two hours to reach the door of destiny. Alas, when I was finally granted entry I faced another ordeal: there was yet another long queue, this time in the open-air. Now the animals had to present themselves for a picture. After only one hour of standing in the second queue I was awarded a registration number and told to wait some more.
Two hours later it was finally my turn to be scanned. I felt like a dumb animal, mindlessly following the head-herder’s orders and moving from one cubical to another. In the end, after five and a half hours, I was told that my passport would be ready for pick up on a future date.
A short history of progress
Our leaders seem to hold Dubai, a Gulf City with three quarters of its population comprising of expatriates, as a model for development. From a small desert town popular with smugglers, Dubai has developed into a trade and leisure centre for the rich people of South East Asia and a tourist resort for many Europeans. It is also very popular with the Third World’s corrupt politicians, tin pot dictators, bureaucrats and even some notorious members of the underworld as it offers them a tax free environment where no uncomfortable questions are asked.
No doubt Dubai is a relatively crime free, police controlled city where political activities are banned. Yet in no way can it be a model for a country with a population of over 180 million which was created through a constitutional political struggle for a modern democratic welfare state.
Instead, we need to emulate the development policies of countries like the UK, Germany, Japan and Singapore, who have developed their human resource capacities instead of relying upon expatriates. These are countries with documented economies, and have employed their best and most qualified personnel for running the affairs of the state, with strict auditing of state funds and zero tolerance for tax defaulters. They utilize state funds for the welfare of the deprived and for developing internationally acclaimed universities. Islamic countries like Malaysia and Turkey are already following the development plans of these countries, as should we.
Getting away with murder
Maulvi Abdul Aziz, the mastermind of the Lal Masjid fiasco, has been acquitted in all the court cases against him. Is he not the man who held the entire capital city hostage and put the life of his students, both male and female, at risk? Former president Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf is held responsible for the incident, but he did not attack the seminary the way terrorists routinely attack schools and hospitals. There was ample evidence against Maulvi Aziz, including eyewitness accounts, news reports, media footage and agency reports.
While it is claimed that the judiciary is independent, one wonders why the courts could not see Maulvi Aziz’s innocence during the Musharraf regime.
The present government cites the on-going trial of
Musharraf as a proof of the judiciary’s independence, but why did the petitioners wait for the regime to change before registering a petition against him? Musharraf’s trial seems to have turned into an exercise of revenge for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s own trial in exile. It is believed that a number of such cases are now waiting for the outgoing president Asif Zardari as well.
That the court could find no evidence against Maulvi Aziz is unbelievable.
The Jundul Hafsa militant organization might have threatened judges, lawyers, interrogators and investigators, police, jail officials and the witnesses, but do they all lack the courage to stand up and risk their lives for truth and justice? Is the protection of the country’s honour, for which they have taken an oath, not more important than their personal concerns?