Futuristic View of New Pakistan - By : Munir M Hasan, PhD

Water Crisis and Building of Dams
It is a well-known fact that Pakistan is heading towards a serious crisis of sweet water. The Honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan took the bold initiative to make everybody realize it and initiated a fund to collect money for building of two dams. This project later has been owned by the new government. So far so good! However, I have pointed out earlier that this way of collecting money will not be able to generate sufficient funds for the building of dams. So far an amount of hardly 8 billion rupees has been collected which amounts to only half percent (Only one part out of 200 parts) of the total cost of the project. I also suggested that apart from this fund, other avenues have to be searched for raising this fund. One and the most effective of them is the bringing of the looted money back to Pakistan and confiscating the local illegal assets. However, it appears as if this scheme has lost the priority of the new government.
The lost priority of the new government in building dams is evident from one incident. The Chief Justice of Pakistan organized an International Symposium on Water Resourses in the month of October. Neither the Prime Minister nor any minister from his team attended this symposium. This incident shows how much interest the Prime Minister and his team has in one of the most important issues of Pakistan.

Bringing the looted money back to Pakistan
It is such an important issue which should have been given the highest priority to ease the financial situation in Pakistan and keep the IMF away.

The looted amount by the elites of Pakistan is so colossal that even a small fraction of this amount, if brought back to Pakistan, not only can build many dams in Pakistan comfortably, but also can pay off the foreign debts. It is repeatedly claimed by various authorities that this amount will be brought back to Pakistan soon. However, the ground realities do not seem to match with this claim, and it is felt that these authorities themselves are not sure whether this amount will be brought back to Pakistan or not. That is why more stress is being given on the donations for the construction of the dams and no solid steps are seen to bring the looted money back to Pakistan.

Initially it was felt that this issue has been given importance and within a few days of the new government a “Task Force” headed by a former Governor of State Bank of Pakistan was formed. Looking at the structure of the “Task Force” I immediately wrote in one of my articles that it was not a hopeful sign. I was right in assessing this situation. On this important issue the public should have been briefed at least on monthly basis about the progress, but there is a complete silence and nobody knows what targets have been achieved in this direction since this Task Force was made more than three months ago.

If bringing the looted foreign assets back to Pakistan is creating problems and is taking time, it is a mystery why the local assets of the corrupt people in Pakistan are being spared and no progress is seen in confiscating these local assets.

During the recent visit of the Prime Mister to Malaysia, one of his statements is being publicized on TV when he said, I want to put all the looters in Jail. I request the Prime Minister to correct his statement. Your target should not be to put the looters in Jail but the foremost target should be to recover looted money from them. Putting them in jail without recovering the looted money will be a useless exercise.

NAB, FIA and the Department of Anti-Corruption
To stop corruption from Pakistan has always been a popular slogan of every government. However, in the presence of these three strong and powerful agencies, the corruption has always been flourishing with time. Initially, the corruption used to be at individual level. The organized corruption at the governmental level started with the formation of the civil governments in the late 1980s. Last decade has seen this organized corruption breaking all the previous records.

National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is the latest in its formation which was established some two decades ago. Legally it is an autonomous organization having vast powers, but like many other autonomous organizations in Pakistan it has been working under the influence of the incumbent governments. The example of the tenure of the last Chairman NAB, Mr. Qamar Zaman Chaudhry, is so obvious that needs no proof. Even the present chairman has been appointed by those corrupt politicians whose cases are under investigation in NAB. The outcome of such cases is quite obvious.

Just to quote an example, almost three years ago, the Panama papers exposed some 436 corrupt elites of Pakistan. Except the Na-Ahel former Prime Minister, no other person from the Panama Papers has been punished so far. Even the case of former Prime Minister was finalized and he was punished by the Accountability Court after the initiative taken by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. If NAB was fair in dealings, the cases of many other persons from Panama Papers should have been finalized and corrupt people punished in so many years.

The favourite job of NAB is to inquire, verify and investigate, and investigate and investigate, and go on investigating the cases of corruption endlessly for months, years, even reaching a period of several years without getting solid proofs. Another favourite job of NAB is to make weak cases against the powerful corrupt elites so that these corrupt people are exonerated by the courts. The latest example is allowing the bail application of the former Prime Minister and his family by the Islamabad High Court because NAB with its incompetency was unable to defend the case in the Court. Looking at the performance of NAB I call it “No Accountability Bureau”.

The presence of “Plea Bargain” clauses in the NAB Ordinance provides safe haven to the corrupt elites. Under these clauses, if any time a corrupt elite is caught, he may surrender part of the looted money and become honourable once again and free to do more corruption in future. This provision is a negation of justice to the taxpayers and should be eliminated from the NAB Ordinance. Changing the law will be difficult in the present political situation. However, a petition could have been filed in the Supreme Court of Pakistan to declare Plea Bargain provision as against the fundamental rights of the people of Pakistan, with the prayer to declare this provision illegal. However, there seems to be no such move from the new government.

FIA and Anti-corruption Departments are already governmental organizations. Their favourite job is to keep some designated persons within limits, and never to eliminate corruption. That is why, in spite of their long presence, the corruption has always been flourishing in Pakistan. If recently, a few cases are seen where the corrupt persons have been punished, the credit goes to the Honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan who took initiatives and made way for their punishment. The role of the investigating agencies is evident from the facts that Dr. Asim, Sharjeel Memon, Ayan Ali, and many others were arrested many years ago. However their fate is still undecided. Many years ago, a former provincial minister of Punjab, Rana Mashhood, was caught in a video taking bribe. However, he could not be prosecuted. He completed his tenure honourably as a minister and still is active in politics. If you go to the interior Sindh and ask anybody who killed Benazir Bhutto, almost all of them will give the same answer pointing to the same person. In spite of this, Pakistani investigating agencies are unable to find the real killer of Benazir Bhutto in more than a decade.

Some people may here say that the punishment of Nawaz Sharif in Avenfield reference case, and the possible arrest of Asif Ali Zardari in money laundering case are the hopeful signs and show the good working of the investigation agencies. I take these two cases as items of unfinished agenda of “Minus Three” along with some of their close allies. These cases have nothing to do with the elimination of corruption at ALL levels.

After the recent visit of the Prime Minister of Pakistan to China, people are talking about the China model to eliminate corruption from Pakistan. In my opinion, whatever model Pakistan government may adopt and how severe punishment may be prescribed in the law, the corrupt elites in Pakistan will never be punished because the incompetent investigation agencies with their faulty investigations will never be able to prove their corruption in the courts.
The present government does not seem to be serious in reforming the investigating agencies by removing the corrupt, inefficient and politically-motivated persons and appointing honest and competent persons in these agencies. So, the corruption is not likely to be eliminated from Pakistan.

Police Reforms
Whether anybody believes it or not, the Police, as an organization, have always been the main source of criminal activities and street crimes in Pakistan. Presently, police force is not working as a real Police. It is in fact the gang of criminals which patronizes all sorts of crimes and the criminals after taking bhatta from them. “Weekly” and “Monthly” are very common and popular terms in Police. All the crime dens in the cities run under the patronage of so called Police. Illegal occupancy of the roads and the footpaths by the road-and-street vendors, which is a major hurdle in the flow of vehicular traffic, works under the protection of Police which, only in Karachi, collects a bhatta from these hawkers of about 30 million rupees on daily basis. And it is just one item of illegal income of Police in one city. The total of all type of illegal income in the whole of Pakistan may match the economy of Pakistan. And narcotics cannot be spread in the cities without the help of Police. The roots of all these activities are so deep that if the Police are completely disbanded and their employees, including senior-most officers, are kept away from public, in my opinion, the crime rate will appreciably decrease.

Another favourite activity of Police is to arrest a number of poor and innocent people taking them as suspects, and then release each of them on the payment of a good amount as ransom.

The Police in Pakistan are also famous for offering its services as “hire-a-killer”. All fake encounters reported quite often in the press are the evidences of this service.

This Police, in general, also act as armed force of the ruling political parties and oblige the governments by obeying all their illegal orders and help in their illegal actions. Unless this system is completely overhauled, there is no chance of any improvement in the street crimes.
Recently, I heard a statement of a minister on TV saying that those SHOs in whose areas the crimes are not controlled, they will be transferred to other places. How innocent this statement of the minister is! The SHOs will be transferred only to continue their criminal activities somewhere else, while such incompetent and corrupt Police officers should have been dismissed from service and punished for their crimes.

Theft of Electricity and Gas, and Raising their Prices
Pakistan is a country where theft of electricity is quite common. Not only that the “Kunda” system is quite popular with the patronage of local Police and the representatives of the local area, but also it is done with pre-arrangement with the electrical inspectors and the meter readers. As an electrical engineer, my assessment is that in Pakistan about 40 percent of electricity is being stolen with these arrangements. The unfortunate situation is that instead of calling it as theft, it is termed as “line losses”. Line losses are the losses which are unavoidable and always are within certain limits depending on the size of the system. Mixing huge theft with small line losses by the “experts” and the government officials is an attempt to reduce the severity of the theft.

This theft of electricity decreases the revenues and so, the price of electricity has to be increased to make up the revenue deficiency, and so, the burden of theft is put on those who pay their bills regularly and honestly. It is a clear dishonesty on the part of the electrical companies and the governments which take no steps to eliminate this theft. Similar is the case of gas theft. It is estimated that about 20 percent of gas is being stolen. Nobody considers that the high prices of electricity and gas due to thefts damage the industry.

Pakistan industry is shrinking day by day due to high costs of electricity and gas. The items which used to be manufactured and still can be manufactured in Pakistan, are now being imported. Exports are mostly on grown items. The new government should have taken immediate steps to stop these thefts with the help of Rangers and the Army. However, no move is seen to eliminate this curse.

Demolition of Unauthorized Buildings
Recently, a large number of unauthorized buildings and other constructions have been and are being demolished on the orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and many illegal road encroachments have been cleared in many cities of Pakistan. Please note that this is not the first time that this exercise is being done. It has happened many times earlier. Each time the illegal construction and encroachments have regrown. It is so because everywhere in the cities the municipalities, building control authorities and building inspectors who are responsible for stopping these illegal constructions, allow these illegal constructions after taking bribe. No illegal construction can take place if these authorities and the building inspectors perform their duties honestly. If the illegal constructions regrow every time, it only shows that the dishonest inspectors, after taking bribe, allow the construction. In each operation, including the recent one, large number of buildings in many cities have been demolished, and in Bani Gala, Islamabad, large numbers of illegally-constructed buildings are being regularized after the payment of fines, but not a single employee of building control authorities or building inspector has been punished. So, with the same corrupt persons sitting in their offices, even this exercise is not expected to last long.

Closing Remarks
A lot may be said and many other examples may be given to show the state of affairs in Pakistan, and the approach of the new government. However, it will make this article long. My view of this situation is that in spite of many u-turns and strange decisions taken by the Prime Minister Imran Khan, I have no doubt that he is a sincere Pakistani and wants to make positive changes in Pakistan. However, a famous Urdu proverb says that:

“ ایک چنا کیا بھاڑ پھوڑے گا ”

Even if there are just a few, they cannot make much difference.

During the reign of Field Marshal Ayub Khan, Pakistan was in much better position in every respect. In spite of this, Sardar Bahadur Khan, the brother of President Ayub Khan, acting as an opposition leader in the National Assembly, quoted a poetic verse in the Assembly, saying:

گلستاں کے لۓ بس ایک ہی الو کافی تھا بربادی
ہر شاخ پہ الو بیٹھا ہے انجام گلستاں کیا ہوگا

In the present all-corrupt environment, this poetic verse becomes more meaningful if the word “ الو ” is replaced by the words “Corrupt person” or “ ڈاکو ”.

Posted on Nov 25, 18 | 10:56 pm