Sunday, October 14, 2018

5 Million Jobs is a Better Option than 5 Million Houses

October 12,2018

By Saeed Qureshi

Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced construction of 5 million houses or dwellings in Pakistan over a period of five years. Truthfully, such huge number of houses cannot be built even in fifty years. It is not an easy task as these gigantic projects might need at least ten years for planning, arrangement of funds, selection of the locations, preparing of the designs, selection of the contractors and so on.

One may also imagine that it might take quite a long time to determine who would the needy and deserving. It may happen that merely brokers and middle men who might simply take possession of the houses through poor people and then sell those at higher prices. It is yet to be determined and found out whether this colossal number of dwellings would be needed or would be difficult to ascertain that those people who are identified as homeless and living in rundown places would be deserving these houses. But how they would be able to pay the cost or the prices of the house as most of these people are perceived to be resourceless and poverty stricken. It is another matter than the government allots these houses free of cost to the penniless, poor and the mendicants. Yet one can imagine thefinancial burden on the national exchequer.

It might be preferable if the government allots plots and lands to the homeless freely and they can later build the houses on their own either by spending their savings or taking loans from the banks and the loaning agencies. But procurement of loans for the houses would be a tall order as the loaning agencies and banks would not dole out loans without safe guarantees and after undertaking due procedures that the allotters would be able to pay back the loaned money over a period of time. As such the government should also look into providing jobs to the homeless in order to enable them to pay for the cost of the houses that would certainly put a heavy burden on the national exchequer.

To build 5 million houses in five years is certainly an impossible and unattainable goal. It would be rather better if the government provides jobs and legitimate sources of income like small businesses and vocations that can bring money to pay the loans. But first providing jobs and then building the house would be a double jeopardy on the national economy as even the most economically advanced countries would not be able to attain and accomplish such a gubernatorial task and undertaking.

Per say, if the government loses the majority in the parliament or is faced with demonstrations and huge rallies for mishaps and misdeeds that the opposition parties would be planning, then the mega and super-duper housing project would have to be abandoned half way. That possibility is very bright and the time might prove that as well.

If the PTI government is exploiting the attraction and urge of the homeless for owning house to win in the next term, then this gamble might not fructify. The PTI government is not going to have a smooth sailing and peaceful governance for a variety of reasons, one of which is that what goes around comes around.

In the backdrop of these serious challenges and pitfalls outlined above, the best recourse and way-out for PTI government is to build community homes and multi housing blocs and big buildings for the homeless. They should be given a job or provide reasonable source of earing either to be able to build their own house or be able to pay for the rent of the apartment in a multi-storey complex or building. Providing residences in government managed complexes and multi-story- buildings would be a better choice than building   individual full-fledged houses.

There would be crooks and phony people who would take the house by posing as a homeless or someone living in the open places as homeless. Such deceptive demands and the fake people have to be checked but apparently it might be difficult for this exercise to be totally flawless and foolproof.

Instead of building and providing five million houses, the PTI government can create jobs for five million poor people.  It would lessen the poverty as well as the sense of humiliation and deprivation of being homeless. It would be safer, better and objective strategy If after getting a job a person may like to buy a house or vacant piece of land to build a house. It should be ensured that a person provided with the job doesn’t claim to be homeless. However, those who cannot do a job because of old age or disability, he or she may be provided a modest. House.

The government may detect fraudulent practices on the part of the phony buyers then it would have to initiate inquiries and punitive and judicial remedies that might put additional burden on the national exchequer and might be prolonged for an indefinite period. It would boil down to wild goose chase as all the cheating and fraudulent practices may not be proven to award punishment or award of penalties.

The intention of the PTI government is good to eliminate the homelessness but there can be better ways, one of which is to give way loans for the people to buy land and go on their own to build the house. Or else it should be left to the leading construction companies, builders and contractors to create colonies in various parts of Pakistan to build the houses for the needy people. The government can pay the cost of land and construction to the contractors which can be recovered from those who are provided the jobs or who can physically work. The only check that the government will have to make is that the houses were actually built and given to the really needy and genuinely homeless people.

The failure of building 5 million houses in Pakistan would negatively imping upon the PTI for winning next elections in Pakistan. As such the government should simply oversee how the construction firms built the houses and allot those to the real and deserving citizens. The PTI government should not move in a hurry as building of countless houses is not catching a hen or arranging a garden party. It would be a kind of project that nowhere else in the world has happened. Safeguards and necessaries fulfillment of a whole lot of conditions are essential for the allotment to the deserving homeless people and then ensure how they would pay back the cost. If these would be providing free then it is another matter but look at the financial burden under which the national exchequer and economy would come under.

Finally, building of housing colonies is not the biggest issue but the removal of poverty is one of the real challenges in Pakistan. Then comes the elimination of bribery and financial corruption. Making Pakistan economically robust is another challenge that might not happen in five years period. The PTI government has to address the health, education, civic mess, mismanagement, building and renovating roads and highway, weeding out corruption and malfunctioning from the government departments. It has to curb the religious and sectarian feuds and animosities. It means creation of a modern state and the society that one can see in Turkey, South Korea Indonesia, Malaysia, Sweden, Holland, Austria and so on.  Just follow and take queue from their systems.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018


October 9, 2018

By Saeed Qureshi

As the scenario both political and administrative in Pakistan is unfolding, it is becoming evident that the PTI dispensation is getting paralyzed and directionless. There seems to be a mayhem of diverse challenges and intricate and cumbersome issues that are staring right in the face of the new establishment under the inimitable yet rabble-rouser; Imran Khan as the Prime Minister.

The people of Pakistan, on the whole, had pinned enormous hopes and expectations in PTI’s election victory for a gubernatorial revolution to make Pakistan a politically and economically robust country.  Besides, it was believed that Pakistan would earn a renewed dignified status and image in the comity of nations and the world around.

These hopes and aspirations have yet to see the light of the day. The fiscal and economic mayhem persists with cost of living and commodities skyrocketing by the day. The loans that the incumbent government aimed at procuring from the foreign lenders have fallen flat because of the harsh and unacceptable conditions attached. The IMF that the PTI leadership detested is now being approached to lend money for buoying up the sinking economy of a politically fractured Pakistan.

With inane slogan of harnessing the runaway economy of Pakistan and exhibiting the urge of beefing up the shortfall of revenue by selling a few buffaloes, a fleet of luxury cars and telling the people to be patient with the heightening cost of living is simply agonizing and speaks for the failure of the recently installed revolutionary government of PTI.

The PTI has been treating the other political outfits with disdain and contempt as evidenced during the campaigning and sloganeering of the 2018 General Elections and even thereafter. Imran Khan and PTI were looked upon by the expectant people to be Messiah endowed with magic and miracles to turn Pakistan into a politically and institutionally vibrant state with hallmarks of honesty and rule of law and Economic uplift. Well the intention to straighten the bureaucracy was sincere and much welcomed. But to replace most of the bureaucratic order replete with thieves and dacoits with angels and morally upright individuals is still to happen. In my reckoning the replacement of corrupt and discredited bureaucracy and officialdom with legions of absolutely honest righteous individuals is asking for the moon.

The latest spree of dismissal and sacking of a horde of the high and low bureaucrats is causing more dents in the smooth working of the ministries and departments and to implement PTI’s far reaching and revolutionary agenda. The pick and choose dismissals as well hiring of the bureaucrats and senior government officials is based upon the criteria as to who was loyal to the PMNL or PTI. Several high-ranking officials and senior bureaucrats have been sent home not because they were dishonest or incompetent but they were perceived to be loyal to the former political set up. The Election Commission of Pakistan has reversed the decision of sacking of at one senior bureaucrat.

The promise of breaking the begging bowl has been set aside by the PTI.  The freshly incumbent government has decided, after much dithering, to approach the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for $8 to 10 billion loan to overcome the acute financial deficits and improve Pakistan’s fiscal credibility at the international level.

On the domestic front, I feel that the propensity of antagonizing and degrading the rival parties and the politicians especially the Sharif family, should be called off.  Instead Prime Minister Imran Khan should unfurl a revolutionary yet workable agenda for rebuilding a great Pakistan. This agenda should aim at eliminating poverty degradations, bribery and mal-functioning of the institutions and uplifting the administrative network. The consent and cooperation of the opposition parties should be sought before launching it in order to avoid political tussle and brinkmanship.

With a meagre coterie of the honest and efficient workers, with lofty slogans of creating a corruption-free Pakistan and streamlining the governance, seem to be nullified by the way the situation is emerging. The PTI had claimed that Pakistan would be turned into a debt free country and that no loans would be taken from the IMF. That claim has been now thrown to the winds although it is the only yet temporary way to buoy up Pakistan’s fragile economy.

My hunch is that by prosecuting and imprisoning the rival politicians and humiliating them wouldn’t be fruitful for the incumbent government. Such an exercise and policy are counterproductive and wastage of time on a non-issue. The real issue is to refurbish the institutional framework and embark upon streamlining the judicial, governmental and institutional network, promotion of democratic culture and taking along the opposition parties to achieve these far-reaching goals. By calling Zardari, Nawaz Sharif and other political stalwarts as scoundrels and forcing them to gorge out the money sent abroad might take years and by that time the PTI tenure in government would be over. While these efforts and mission can continue, the PTI government should generate income by increasing the domestic production, enhancing the agricultural sectors’ output and setting up more industries.

Prime Minister Imran Khan and his garrulous and warrior Information minister Fawad Ahmed Chaudhry should learn to keep their tempers down and shake hands and consult with their political contenders. They should stop referring their cases to the courts and transferring or removing the non-compliant or rival government officials and appoint their cohorts and supporters in their posts. Such pursuits finally prove to be counterproductive as well.

With a positive and reconciliatory approach and outlook towards all the political parties and politicians, the country can be served positively and in a much better manner. Otherwise, when the PTI government is out after the end of its tenure, its leaders would be exposed to the same rancorous treatment with their cases referred to the NAB and Accountability courts and arrested as happening currently. It would be the same vicious policy of giving hard time to the political adversaries.

Let PTI buoy up the economy by increasing exports, easing and streamlining the imports and exports procedures, building educational institutions, making the justice system honest and economically less burdensome for the common people. The government should create jobs, build more hospitals. Its leaders should focus on enhancing the industrial and agricultural output building more roads, highways and refining and modernizing the civic system. These tasks ought to be the priorities of the PTI government and Prime Minister Imran Khan. The PTI should shun the underhand tactics to browbeat the political opponents. On the contrary, it should prove its worth by results and reforming Pakistan and bringing it at par or near to the developed countries. This ought to be the priorities with it.

If Pakistan becomes economically strong and its civic, judicial, courts and educational systems at par or near, per say, to the Scandinavian countries, the people would be enormously relieved and delighted. Thus, the country would be refined and political system well stabilized. Just by way of suggestion, if the cities, counties and the local government systems as being run in the United States, are even marginally established in Pakistan, our people and country would enter into a new era of a welfare, civically modern state and clean society.


Monday, October 8, 2018

Shahbaz Sharif’s Arrest is Politically Motivated Witch-Hunting

October 8, 2018
 By Saeed Qureshi
The Accountability Court (AC) on the request of NAB (National Accountability Bureau) sent Shahbaz Sharif, the former Punjab Chief Minister, the current president of PMLN (Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz) and the opposition leader in the National Assembly on a 10-day physical remand for misuse of power, corruption and nepotism displayed in the award of construction contracts to his favorite parties. It seemed to be a sudden hoax by NAB against Shahbaz Sharif. There seems to be more characters behind than what meets the eye for such an action.   
It might turn out to be a tall order for the sitting PTI’s federal government as well as the NAB (National Accountability Bureau) to justify the untimely, unbelievably imprudent and hasty arrest of Mian Shahbaz Sharif who as stated above is the president of the PMLN, the former Chief Minister of Punjab: the largest province of Pakistan and the opposition leader in the National Assembly.
If PPPP and PMNL join hands in the National Assembly, the PTI may turn as the minority party.
 Also, one may Imagine as to what would happen if the two parties return the same treatment to the PTI by initiating corruption and similar baneful allegations against Imran Khan and other PTI stalwarts. It would therefore, be advisable and prudent if the unproven corruption cases against the well-established rival politicians such as Shahbaz Sharif are withdrawn in a spirit of accommodation and reconciliation for serving the nation and the country.
It may happen as well that the PPPP and the PMLN jointly launch a no-cooperation countrywide movement, take out processions and hold dharnas like the PTI and Imran Khan has been doing. That mayhem and fiasco might impel the army to step in and take up the reins of power which means imposing the martial law. The country would drift back to square one for a few years and as along the military rule can remain in place.
It would have been much better if the PTI government had done its homework by preparing the solid evidence and incontrovertible proof of the arrest of the top leader of the PMLN. That would have helped the Accountability Court and the NAB (the National Accountability Bureau) to explore, investigate and compile solid evidence and the reasons for Shahbaz’s sudden arrest.
The evidence that has been cited for the arrest of top PMLN leader is flimsy and far from being convincing. Apparently behind Shahbaz’s arrest there seems to be the political vendetta and urge to remove a powerful rival politician and Chief Minister of the largest province of Pakistan. In better times an investigation should be mounted as to why AC and NAB chose a stalwart of PMNL and no one other at this juncture.  
The arrest of Shahbaz Sharif by NAB comes as a follow-up of the grueling treatment meted out to his elder brother Mian Nawaz Sharif now incarcerated along with his daughter in jail for alleged financial malpractices one of which is the hoarding of wealth in the foreign banks.
The elder brother lost his premiership of the country while the younger was deprived of his chief ministerial status of the biggest province of Pakistan. With Shahbaz the accusations and allegations inter-alia are about awarding contracts to his favorite builders and close friends. He was summoned to the court for other reasons but was sent to NAB for indulgence in corruption and nepotism causing huge financial loss to the national exchequer. This looks fishy and preplanned.
While corruption is a huge issue in Pakistan, it is not only the Sharif family to be accused of this crime but hundreds if not thousands are milking and fleecing the national wealth by devious and uncalled means. The case of Shahbaz Sharif seems to be a political ploy to remove him from a powerful position and to deprive the PMNL from ruling a most prosperous province. This was the second lethal blow to PMLN after the incarceration of Nawaz Sharif and initiating several cases of corruption and money laundering against the entire family including the two sons of Nawaz Sharif now living in London.
Had the drive against the corruption was initiated without discrimination and not in pick and choose style, it would have been welcomed by the people of Pakistan. Evidently it emits an impression that these moves are aimed at demolishing the Sharif family leadership besides crippling the PMNL as a strong political combatant and rival of the PTI.
The PTI leadership and the government wants to remain at the helm for the stipulated period of five years with Imran Khan as the prime minister. The main hurdle in this goal is the PMNL government which though has been thoroughly debilitated politically and operationally thus far by the government agencies like NAB and Accountability Courts
The main and most compelling factor behind the disqualification of Sharif family is to deprive them of their political clout. The other most strident factor is to punish the culprits of the Model Town carnage with several deaths. But that carnage and killing, somehow, can be attributed to Allama Tahirul Qadri who came all the way to Pakistan despite being the Canadian citizen and start campaigning for Islamic rule and removal of the Punjab government under Sharif family.  
For that grave incident, it should have been Allama Qadri who should be held responsible. He wanted to create a law and order situation by launching an Islamic movement which had insidious motives to subvert the provincial government in Punjab and pave way for Imran Khan to step in and be accepted by the people. The Dharnas (sit in) jointly sponsored and held by Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri were aimed at paralyzing the political system and remove the sitting PMNL governments both in Punjab and at the center.  That ploy didn’t work at that time but ultimately that proved to be fruitful and thus transferring of power from PMNL to PTI at the federal level via 2018 general elections.  
Yet the motivation of removing the Sharif family’s leadership in Punjab province remained unattained. That goal has been attained with the arrest of Shahbaz Sharif by NAB against the charges of favoritism, corruption and misuse of power. The PPPP senior leader Khursheed Shah on Friday termed the arrest of Leader of the Opposition in National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif as the contempt of parliament.