By Senator Rehman Malik
Pakistan is dear to all of us as it is not just a piece of land but an identity for each one of us and is proud home for all of us. Every citizen is Pakistan and everything present in it is dear to us.
Every political party represents its respective block of vote bank and political parties collectively are also the face of Pakistan. We as Pakistanis have not yet arisen above the politics and we political parties and leaders are still fighting on petty issues and ignoring the bigger national causes. We are still fighting to get votes and the party coming in the power continues in the mode of opposition.
The political elite are in the race of breaking news on TV channels. The leaders are more concerned for their image building rather giving attention to measures for nation and/or institution building. The record of successive Governments shows that they either fought for their survival or to pin down their opponents. There are hardly any meaningful efforts to bring the country under rule of law. The capacity building of law enforcement is being ignored. The countries do not progress without respect for rule of law.
The lack of rule of law will continue to generate the smell of corruption. Accountability in the past remained disputed because of the element of victimisation, and in fact accountability had become a tool of self-serving governance.
We only operate to get favourable flashy media coverage and the government operators can go to any extent to fetch publicity to give different temporary cosmetic looks. Every government comes with cosmetic approach of change and they engineer certain actions to get quick attention and we have seen in the past that such actions back fired for having no leg to stand on.
The newly formed government as their right announced 100 days plan agenda with austerity drive that includes auction of various items of government houses with a bid to generate cash. This auction plan just like the 100 days agenda is completely out of the understanding of many of us.
The first initiative to improve the economy is announced as under
- Non-use of the President House / PM House/Governor Houses.
- Auction of old Vehicles of the House
- Arrests of 100 big names for mega recoveries.
In a bid to implement the proposed austerity plan to raise funds, the task forces have planned to convert all the Governor Houses in the country into hotels for public use so that these government-owned lands lying as ‘dead capital’ could be used to generate income instead of resorting to foreign aid. I have a question, that how can these mini auctions meet our requisite financial requirements?
Can these few pieces of land from the PM House, President House, Governor Houses and rest houses sustain the shocks of heavy debts? Answer is no as the solution lies in a better fiscal policies and utilisation of our God gifted natural resources which have not been fully explored and are still not fully utilised.
The country needs reforms and not playing to the gallery. The nation is not interested in the media hypes, either curtailing the protocol or opening of the government houses to the public as picnic points, as they are interested only in their rise of economic status and reduction in price hike.
The governance too is a serious business, so instead of presenting the verbal dialogues by ministers in the evening shows in the defense of the government, kindly bring the reforms so that the public becomes your defender after experiencing qualitative change in their lives. Government needs to face the reality and to move forward with national reforms to get the country out of the crises with doable plans.
There is a growing trend among the public that the iconic buildings should not be altered nor their present status should be changed as any such hasty decision now will bring loss to the exchequer and may become subject of probe by NAB or FIA later. I hope that the competent authorities are aware of their duties to protect the national assets.
Pakistan still has many school and colleges which are lying vacant as if they were built for ghosts to study. The government needs to improve these already available institutions.
Literacy rate will be increased by introduction of a broad based education system and reforms and not by possessing of 8 to 10 official buildings. The devolution through 18th amendment does not allow the federation to interfere in the provincial autonomy.
Please leave these historic icons for their original use and do not use them to generate funds. Here i suggest that in order to raise funds, please convert Kashmir Highway into a commercial road like Shiekh Zahid road in Dubai. It will create nearly 2000 commercial plots and put them to auction only restricted to Overseas Pakistanis.
Bring the overseas Pakistanis investments with doable attractive and constitutionally secured profitable packages and give them their own Bank with their own management especially in real estate sector. You will raise billions of dollars and also create charm of investment for them. Create a Shiekh Zahid like roads in the name of our national heroes across the big cities and then see the response Mr. Prime Minister .
Please create environments of investment and not fears as fears technology will make the local capital further fly away and as in the past it will be parked either in Canada, Dubai or any other international tax heavens.
No country will help you to return already invested amount back to Pakistan. Let us create new ways to improve our economy and not by auctioning few heritages which are our icons. Modern fiscal policy with utilisation of under-utilised resources and it is the way forward to gear in the national economy on the right direction.
The government should consider protecting the icons /national buildings and national heritage and come with smart fiscal policy with the local business community and overseas Pakistanis.
(The writer is a PPP Senator, former Interior Minister of Pakistan,and Chairman of think tank “Global Eye” and Senate Body on Interior and Narcotics.)