STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan
Turn on Pakistani news and talk shows and you feel as if the Government is about to fall. The system has totally failed, everything is topsy turvy and there is no hope. The opposition and big part of media is continuously stoking the fire. Watch National Assembly proceedings and you feel repulsed. These guys can’t be our representatives; they are behaving like street urchins. Each is trying to outdo the other in their crudeness and vulgarity. In all this drama there is one big casualty. The truth.
Adding flavor to this scenario is the fierce defense put forth by treasury benches in the most aggressive manner. It seems PTI is still in opposition mode. Lashing out is not the only option.
At this point the elephant in the room is rising inflation faced by the common man. It happened due to empty coffers inherited by PTI coupled with a crippling debt load. In order to balance the books the financial bleeding had to be controlled. What were the options available to the Government? Either to continue in the self destructive merry ways of their predecessors and keep borrowing; or put an end to this reckless behavior and retrieve the country from the downward spiral.
Sensibly, Prime Minister Imran Khan chose the latter. But this was just half a solution. I have previously written and also conveyed through friends to IK that to swallow a bitter pill you need water to down it. With belt tightening comes pain. The nation needs to be prepared and protected from the alligators in the swamp.
An effort to balance the books will result in downloading the shortfall to the public. In such an environment, hoarders and unscrupulous traders will jump in to take advantage. Preparatory work was required to deal with such scum with an iron hand. Provincial leadership had to act boldly to prevent ruthless profiteers and prevent this disaster.
Who in his right mind could expect the evaporative CM Buzdar to take such brave, proactive steps? Could he prevent the inflationary effect that has crippled the buying power of the common man? He did not. Prices went up through the roof. Impact of Governments corrective actions was a fraction of the price points of where they stand now. Mafias had a field day gobbling profits beyond their imagination. This was the result of anemic management of daily used food items, the common man’s Achilles heel.
Here is the truth. PTI took over the Government where for the past 50 years various governments have operated based on ‘disinformation’ and ‘greed’, not in national interest. When the premise is wrong the results are bad. Unfortunately this Government has failed to stem the rot and put an end to this gross mismanagement. Culprits are an errant bureaucracy, corrupt and inefficient law enforcement and incompetent or greed ridden leadership.
Let us analyze the recent “atta” crises:
- The mug’s game started with overstated wheat production and stock figures in Punjab and Sind. Cause: Inefficient bureaucracy, incompetent leadership.
- These wheat stocks were depleted through rampant smuggling. Cause: Corrupt and inefficient law enforcement an errant bureaucracy.
- Based on overstated production and stock figures, wheat was exported despite protests. Cause: Inefficient bureaucracy and incompetent leadership.
- Hence the shortages, price hike and panic stoked by sensation seeking media and blood thirsty opposition hounds.
- Knee jerk reaction: import wheat using scarce foreign exchange.
- It helped the government to weather the storm, but what will happen to the perpetuators of this criminal enterprise? Probably nothing.
This is the malaise that PTI has thus far failed to address. It’s more of same as practiced by previous governments. IK has focused on exposing the existence of Mafias. It begs the question what are you going to do about it? With a redundant, broken down, corrupt and inefficient prosecution system, the crooks will continue to flourish while IK and like-minded reformers grind their teeth in frustration.
Pakistan’s governance has turned into a swamp with predators consuming the public. This swamp needs to be drained. IK needs the support of his party and allies who are at various levels of frustration. PML(Q) is complaining about unfulfilled promises.
I have known the Chaudhries for nearly 5 decades. As a young buck, I worked closely with Chaudhry Zahoor Ellahi, and opponents of PPP. One may agree or disagree with their politics, but they do make reliable allies. There is a need to clear the decks with them. MQM is always a delicate course to be treaded carefully.
Without an efficient system to deal with crime and punishment, this deep swamp shall not drain. Even with the best will in the world, IK will keep spinning his wheels without a breakthrough.
Controlling inflation and making items of daily use available through Utility Stores is a positive endeavor. It should have come earlier, but navigating the bureaucratic maze is not easy. I have known the Chairman forever. He is a successful, creative businessman whose heart beats for Pakistan. Providing him and his team a clear berth to implement their programs and making the resources available should go a long way to break the back of this crippling inflation.
I urge IK to keep taking these positive steps and focus on investments that will create jobs. The latest interaction with Turkish delegation is positive. They have been through the process that we are going through presently. I have witnessed the Turkish nation’s quantum jump from a broke state to a throbbing economy. A great model to follow. Good luck IK, God bless Pakistan.