OUR NATION HAS FORGOTTEN HOW TO SMILE

STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

I had the good fortune to spend Eid with my son Faisal Hafeez Khan in Maryland. I guess it is a dividend for not travelling to Pakistan this winter. I am at a stage in life where homing instincts grow stronger. In my many decades of travelling I used to joke that if I stay away from Pakistan for over six months, my oxygen level starts to drop. I need the fix of “mitti ghata”, the dust and polluted air to revive. Jokes aside; that is where my youthful memories reside and preserving them is through connecting with my roots; essential for my soul. My biggest trove is from Lahore, followed by Lyallpur and Abbottabad. I am unable to travel to Lahore to prevent what awaits me. It is painful; nothing replaces spending time with my buddies Hassan Nisar and Afzal Ghauri.

Pakistanis have been robbed in many ways over the last two years. They are suffering through the worst inflation in our history. The youth which comprises over 60% of the population see no future. The systematic robbery of national wealth by corrupt politicians, aided and abetted by our military leadership has paved the way for bankruptcy. We are borrowed to the hilt and have squandered away these loans on non-productive ventures that failed to build the capacity to stand on our own two feet. Their biggest motivation was how to steal, rob and launder money overseas. The repayment of this debt mountain takes 50% of the GDP while the remaining 50% is consumed in maintaining our armed forces and governmental overheads. We have to borrow more just to repay the debt installments!

There is no joy left in the present and the future of our generation unless there is a radical path correction. With the inflation spiraling out of control the lives of 95% of Pakistanis has turned upside down. The utility bills of gas, fuel and electricity add up to more than the salary of the working classes. How do they feed and clothe their families? Putting food on the table for the family used to be a source of joy, bringing a smile on the providers face. Now getting just the basic staple food ingredients is deepening the worry lines on the forehead.

Pakistan’s economy is dictated by IMF. They want the revenue to increase so they are twisting the hands of the Government. Our revenue collectors are totally corrupt and extremely inefficient. This coupled with the lack of government’s collective will to put our house in order has resulted in having a tax base of under 3 million, which is only 1% of the population. Majority of the tax payers are the salaried class who have no choice. USA has 168 million filing their taxes and India has a tax base of 21 million. Majority of traders, agriculturalists, production units and private sector service providers are out of tax net; the few who are in it, understate income in cahoots with the corrupt tax collectors. Sales tax collection is a disaster that leaks like a sieve.

As a result of this poor tax collection of direct taxes, the lag is made up through indirect taxes raising the prices for every day consumption items. It is a vicious cycle that needs to be broken to give relief to the common man. The suffering Pakistanis are being ground into mince meat in every segment of their lives. There is no joy and relief anywhere. The entire system of governance has broken down. Every law in the book is being violated. We are at the bottom of the heap when it comes to providing justice in Pakistan. There is one set of laws for the elite and powerful and another set for the ordinary people. The few Judges who stand up to implement their oath are coerced into submission or removed from their positions. An unjust society attracts the wrath of God and makes peoplemiserable and unhappy.

Laws are implemented through law enforcement agencies led by the police under the control of Provincial Governments. The police in Punjab and Sind where more than 3 quarters of the population lives; have become instruments of repression. In the last two years their brutality and cruelty has reached heights never experienced in Pakistan before. Homes where women and children reside were considered sacrosanct by even the worst dictators. That has been shot to hell. Police have turned into goons who loot and plunder at will, torture and arrest Pakistanis as if they were enemy agents. People have lost their peace of mind as these mindless morons follow the dictates of intelligence agencies.

In a country where there is no security from the brutal rulers how does the populace maintain their sanity? We are being ruled by a bunch of ambitious generals and their political puppets. These rulers have demolished democracy and usurped the will of the people. February 8th was a watershed moment for the nation. Voters came out in droves to give their verdict in favor of rule of law, justice and equality for all citizens. The results of these elections were stolen. Pakistanis have to stand up against this broad daylight robbery and regain control by challenging these robbers. Giving up hope is not an option and IK holds this flame of hope high for the disenfranchised Pakistanis. Come out and enforce your will.              

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