Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Seems to be Clueless

November 13, 2013

By Saeed Qureshi 

I am one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the PMNL and for that matter Mian Nawaz Sharif. But of late I am getting skeptic about the incumbent regime because of a visibly dismal performance during the past few months that it has been in the saddle of power. 

In the distant past it would look inconceivable that Nawaz Sharif could stage a come back as the prime minister of Pakistan for the third term which the constitution does not cater. But this has happened with an impressive electoral victory for the PMNL.

Mian Nawaz Sharif took up the reins of the government with the expectation that it would herald revolutionary and watershed changes in the decadent and rustic system by replacing it with the charter of a new destiny. But it appears that the newly elected government is stuck up in the old grooves and is handicapped for a milestone onward movement. The solution of a maze of intricate issues are being defied by a dull and mediocre bunch of ministers who have no vision what to say and how to proceed ahead.

It’s a very disappointing situation both for the country and its people. Undoubtedly, the PMNL government has come with a very heavy hand on the rampant and unstoppable lawlessness and vandalism in Karachi. But apart from that, Pakistan direly and urgently needs structural changes and doing away with the system of governance that fosters and sustains the exploitative and special interest pockets. 

The social and economic woes are far from being healed. On the contrary the beaten track of borrowing money from the cutthroat IMF and other international bloodsuckers has been adopted.

Thus far the fundamental changes in the taxation, revenue collection, the incontrovertible accountability, the radical overhauling of the national building institutions remain non issues for the government. It is fine and remarkable to build a highway between Gawadar and Kashghar that would certainly lift the stagnant economy of Pakistan by way of jobs and enhanced business and economic activity. But people of Pakistan want the government to address their immediate problems. These problems are numerous. The most pressing among these nightmarish irritants is the generation of electric power, the lowering of commodities of daily use, and a host of civic and social reliefs.

I would expect the new government to constitute a panel of reputed, honest and brilliant economists to prepare and lay down an economic charter that should envisage plans to push the country towards an economic miracle and prosperity.  Let us not get the impression that the prime minister has fallen prey to political exigencies and merely to rule for five years and then depart.

The starting point for colossal and historic breakthrough for a glorious Pakistan would be to enact devolution of powers by creating new provinces, per say each existing province to be divided into minimum four provinces. The best and the tried recipe for local governments around the world is the county and city governments which mean empowerment of the people at grass root level. Those modes of local self government should be initiated.

In this system of local governance, the servants and office bearers from judges to police officers are elected by the citizens of the respective areas. So they remain committed to the service of the people with a clear conscience, with immaculate integrity and with utmost zeal. They serve their communities with utmost diligence because they have to contest again after the expiry of their tenure of term. But what keeps them in the right track is the fear of accountability to which they are always exposed. Once tarnished by any misdeed they go into oblivion, exposed to public disgrace besides facing the wrath of law.

There is so much to do to carve a new state of Pakistan and to reorient the stagnant society in Pakistan. Let us start by building four lane roads (two each side) within the precincts of the cities, with paved footpaths on both sides. The traffic lights should be fully functional round the clock and those violating the traffic rules should be strictly punished. Let us clear all roads and pavements from encroachments that hinder smooth flow of traffic and pedestrians. Let us send all animals to the countryside to be kept in there to rid the society of filth and stink created because of their presence in the streets and lanes.

Let the old housed with dark and dingy and narrow lanes are demolished and rebuilt through construction companies. The residents can be paid soft loans over a long period of time. Every house should be separate from each other and proper zoning rules to be a sternly applied. Let all the stalls, carts and kiosks should be relocated in special areas to be regulated under the city rule.

Let highways should be built between the major cities whose quality and maintenance should be of international standards. Let the bodies of our crooked and rotten truck and buses should be brought at par with the pubic transport in the civilized countries with cooling and heating systems, automatic doors and no overloading. I saw such buses some forty years agony in east European countries which were then not as modern as west Europe. 

Let us built neat traffic stops with all the information. Let noisy rickshaws should be replaced with decent and centrally regulated taxis, not the junks that emit smoke and noise on the roads. Bullock and horse driven Tongas and carts should be banned. There should be only one loudspeaker in a wide area to say Azan (calling for prayer).
Let us modernize our railway that is still a relic of the British colonial rule. All the railway lines whether main or branch should be converted into two way tracks. The railway compartments should be equipped with all the facilities that we find in railways of other countries. Most of the railway stations need to be reconstructed with latest automatic signals, sitting lounges and information booths. Etc. The arrival and departure of the trains should be enforced as an article of faith as we find in the United States, Germany, and China and all over Europe.

If we cannot operate PIA because of financial constraints, administrative bottlenecks and deficient standards, let it be closed. Instead international airlines such as Emirates, Qatar, and Singapore etc should be permitted to operate from all the airports within Pakistan. If there is need to run the national airline then it could be confined to domestic lines. But for that an immaculate system from landing, taking off, the conditions of the runways, sale of tickets, and civic conditions at the airports should be the replica of the airports of developed countries.

Let government take off its hands in running industries and manufacturing units. The industrial units like steel mills, banks, and other industries in the public sector should at once be disposed off so that the colossal financial losses on their maintenance can be averted. The public sector should be confined exclusively to services such as civic facilities and social benefits. Let the private sector invest and run the business and enterprises. 

Like China industrial zones should be created in Pakistan where uninterrupted facilities like power, water, link roads should be provided round the clock.These could be tax free zones or with minimal taxes. That would attract the foreign investment. The blue print of such zones can be taken from China. This landmark economic pattern conceived by the architect of modern china Deng Xiaoping changed the economic complexion of China.

The Mammoth and overdue indispensable changes in all sectors of public dealing departments and institutions should at once be taken at hand. The education, health, civic and municipal facilities, revenue, taxation, courts, police, postal and all other sectors should be updated with new rules and regulations for the sake of efficiency, propriety and flawless management as one can find in the contemporary world elsewhere. The designs of the buildings of courts, schools, colleges, the police stations and other government institutions should be redesigned for safety, neatness and order as we can see in modern societies.

We have in Pakistan a parliamentary democratic system. This system falls short of making prompt decisions and their effective and immediate implementation. If someone has the muscles and the will to bring a change from parliamentary to the presidential from of government then certainly it would be historic change that would eliminate the delays and intrigues and political brinkmanship. Pakistan is in dire need of stemming the burgeoning rot by quick decisions and their implementation without dithering and wastage of time. That can be done only in a presidential form of government.

Let Pakistan stop taking loans and the so called aid packages from lenders that, in fact are, dangerous traps for the third world and developing countries. Instead Pakistan should adopt and take their technology and scientific know how. Pakistan should learn from them what their governance is and how they rune their institutional network. 

It means how they operate and run their local government, their nation building institutions and departments such as justice system, police, railways, pricing of commodities, the construction of houses, the orderly traffic, and the collection of taxes, the oversight and accountability, the establishment of writ of law and so on. There are excellent models of governance and statecraft in the world that can be implemented in Pakistan with some suitable variations.

The present government should emphatically move to build Kalabagh dam and other dams that have been left halfway. Several dams can be built over river Indus at various distances for generating power. Other rivers can be utilized for the same purpose. In America coal is extensively used in power generation plants. A contingency plan to be executed on war footing can be mounted with the help of the private sector to exploit the hidden huge coal deposits.

There should be four kinds of taxes that would bring enough revenue in the federal banks to spend on the developmental projects for a modern and prosperous Pakistan. There are agricultural tax, the income tax, the property tax and the sales tax. For collections of all these taxes the systems being practiced in developed countries can be copied and enforced strictly and diligently. In the United States, the taxation staff seldom comes to the businesses or house in person. Instead the value of house is fixed every year and a letter comes with the property tax amount.

Same system is applicable with regard to other taxes federal, state and local governments. Those who refuse to pay or falsify their incomes both individuals and enterprises must be dealt with mercilessly. No contravention or manipulation of any sort should be entertained in matter of tax collection. For sale tax the computerized register (a small handy machine) should be made obligatory for use for all the small and big shops that sets aside tax on sale of each item. 

Huge warehouses and storage facilities should be built in rural areas to enable the farmers and the growers to keep their wheat, corn, cotton and other output for a longer period of time. The fertilizers, insecticides and implements depots and centers should be created so that farmers can get all these at their doorsteps. 

The scandalous irregularities in distribution of water, seeds and similar inputs should be curbed with an iron hand. Several groups of experts can sent to China, Germany and United States to learn about systems ruled regulations and the techniques for tax collection to local government systems.

Finally the FATA (federally administrated tribal areas) where Pakistan army is fighting against Taliban should be declared a province of Pakistan. The laws of Pakistan should be applicable to that no go region as in other provinces of Pakistan. Thereafter the writ of the state can be enforced with full might. Once the people of that strife torn land join the mainstream national life, they would be pacified and thus peace can be resorted on permanent footing.

Note: This article offers a brief glimpse and rudimentary sketch of what should be done in Pakistan for a turnaround and for improving the quality of life. I have written a detailed and comprehensive paper on the reforms that Pakistan desperately needs to make it a viable modern state.

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