STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

The budget has been announced. All kinds of analysis and analyst have sprung up. Those impacted are complaining vehemently. Government spokespersons are laying the blame on past regimes misdoings. Panelists are giving their own interpretations. I like to keep it simple by giving this analogy. Pakistan’s budget is like a big guy stuck in cold with a small blanket. If he covers his feet, his body is exposed and vice versa.

The coffers are empty, an economy teetering on bankruptcy, more than half the revenues go towards debt servicing. Debts that were taken recklessly to repay past debts, meet budget deficits or fund unnecessary projects that paid the highest commissions. This mountain of debt has put the country in a deadly downward spiral. If the economic direction is not changed, it is perfect recipe for disaster and insolvency. The tax base is extremely narrow. The load for a population of 220 million is being carried 2 million tax payers. Out of which 1.2 million are the salaried class. 800,000 tax payers carry this nation! It is 0.36% of the population!

Just a quick look at other countries. 2% of Indians pay taxes. 2% of Chinese pay taxes, but Government gets 68% of all corporate profits. USA’s tax base is 50%, UK’s tax base is 44%. In all these countries the top 1% pay 25 to 35% of total taxes.

In Pakistan many of top earners escape the tax net entirely. Here is my take on 2019-2020 budget. For the first time it is a budget for Pakistan, not any segment. Defining the problem is half a solution. This budget is focused on expanding the tax base, removing structural defects and documenting the Economy.

Finally there is an attempt to manage mega issues with some relief to the lowest segment. If achieved, even partially, it will set the nation on the path of climbing out of the hole previous regimes have dug. There will be pain for the common man. But this is the only solution. Folks put on your seat belts!

The past week has been historic. A 3 times Prime Minister spent his first Eid in jail. A past President and future Chief Minister, in waiting, have been arrested by NAB. The leader of Opposition seems headed the same way! There is no political reason for it. It is their own criminal deeds. A 3rd perpetuator Altaf Hussain is withering away in London. IK calls it divine intervention. I have stated the same in many previous posts!

3 things are common amongst them.

  1. Both PPP and PML(N) leaders have looted Pakistan to their hearts content, sanctified by “Charter of Democracy” akin to fixing a match.
  2. They suffer from a sense of entitlement, they feel they are designated to be the rulers. Their arrogance emanating from the Billions siphoned illegally. Royal presumptuous behaviour. Zardari’s “Kya Majaal” or Maryam’s “Kaisay Juraat” translates for IK “How dare you!”
  3. They share a hatred for Establishment, especially the Army because that is the only institution standing between both clans from making plots of Pakistan, selling them and pocket the proceeds!

They have forgotten the basic principal of democracy. Democracy without accountability is anarchy. Had Hudaibya not been buried by “saaf aur shafaaf” in the words of “Judge & Jury” Maryam (Safdar) Nawaz,  Mr. Justice Isa, the accountability process would have been much further along.

This brings me to the main subject of my post. The pressing need to define “treason”. Google Dictionary defines it as “The crime of betraying one’s country”.  The synonyms of treachery are betrayal, subversion, duplicity, rebellion, and over throw of Government.

Financial corruption when holding office, after taking the oath of loyalty and upholding the Constitution is not a white collar crime. It is betrayal, it is subversion from within, and it’s duplicity. It is treason. If a one star General can get death penalty for receiving bribes to sell State secrets, how would you read the multiple acts by Nawaz, Zardari combine of compromising national interests for personal gains?

I believe we should have a national debate and discussion on defining the acts that can be termed as treasonous. Some of my readers may find this approach harsh. But when your own leaders for their selfish ulterior motives, attempt to drown the nation in a sea of debt what would you call these acts?

The main perpetuator of this debacle, Ishaq Dar fled the country from right under our noses. He walks a free man in the streets of London thumbing his nose at Pakistan while the authorities look on as imbeciles. So do Salman, Hassan and Hussain, and son in law Imran Ali.

Our Criminal and Civil Procedure Codes are “expired good”. Simple civil dispute can last generations. Laws are unenforceable. They lack teeth. They were developed in 19th Century by Colonial Rulers. A decadent system leading to the corrupt elite looting at will. Drastic measures are required. Hence the Prime Minister’s midnight speech. A guest on a talk show called it a “midnight knock”. It actually is! Plunder of last 10 years of loans taken are entering accountability process. Hence the uproar by the Opposition. Keep up the tempo IK! Plunderers are to be met on their own turf.

Mr. Zardari is acting maturely. He knows his sole purpose of being in politics was to enrich himself. His declared and undeclared assets circulating on social media show his success in doing it. Hence him stating “Jail is my other home” maybe bravado or an acceptance of reality.

However Ms Maryam Nawaz’s righteousness and outrage is mind boggling. She has learnt her lessons well from her dad at pretending to be innocent. Her efforts at turning a straight forward criminal prosecution into a political vendetta is brave, but without any base and in my view wishful thinking.

My message to Prime Minister Imran Khan is simple. After the Commission completes its inquiry, if misappropriations are identified they should be tried as treason. It is betrayal of an oath taken on Quran to serve and protect. Misappropriation and pilfering of National wealth is treason.

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