Thursday, July 23, 2009

In Pakistan’s Interest

By Saeed Qureshi

Extensively grieved over Pakistan’s socio civic problems that, of late, have assumed nightmarish proportions, I have been offering plans and strategies to Pakistan government for raising the quality of life in Pakistan. People generally are less concerned about the political issues, such as the form of government, the elections and the party in power than the social-civic and utilities based issues such as water, power, prices, law and order, police, courts billing etc.

With regard to the generation of electricity, without which no society can be socially or economically viable, I have been continuously writing to the former and the existing government to try a very cost effective and simple plan that can generate as much electric power as we want. There has always been a deaf ear or cold response to all these well meaning proposals devised over a long period of time and hard work of persistent thinking and planning.

I had been in touch with our former journalist colleague Mr. Farhatullah Babur who is now the media advisor to the president of Pakistan. He thought that the plan was exciting. He forwarded my plan to the Ministry of Water and Power and perhaps talked to the minister as well to give it a serious consideration. Thereafter the Public Relations Director to the minister sent me an email, stating that since he was proceeding for Hajj he would take up the matter with the minister on his return. This correspondence took place several months ago. Despite my repeated messages to him he has, perhaps, decided to not respond to me.

In the meantime, I received a letter from the Ministry of Water and Power that is typically stereo- type and speaks for the lethargy and red tape of the officialdom. It is beset with rather impossible conditions and bottlenecks. The burden falls on me to prove as to why I was committing a crime to propose a plan to the Pakistan government. I am reproducing the letter for my readers to understand for themselves as to why Pakistan is still poor and dysfunctional. The common sense or at least courtesy demanded that in view of the appalling electricity shortfall in Pakistan, someone at the highest level should have contacted me immediately to know more about the nature of plan I was offering. Ever since that letter written to me in totally bureaucratic esoteric language, I am rather stunned with the non- challance of the bureaucrats that run our administration in Pakistan with age old strait jackets and tangles to stave off useful inputs.

Long time before, I submitted a comprehensive report to then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to run, refine and streamline the city and the local government system and bring about a civic revolution in Pakistan. The objective of the report was to clean our cities of the filth and garbage on regular and scientific basis, smoothen and improve the traffic system and roads, provision of abundance of water and beautify the cities and purify the environ as I can see in USA where I live. Mr. Farhatullah Babar told me that they were under the impression that I wanted a job. What an egregious insult to a patriot and a conscientious citizen of Pakistan!

As a follow up of that, I was told to meet barrister Kamal Azfar, Shahnaz Wazir Ali, the federal secretary on development, and some official in Punjab. Since Benazir Bhutto had written on my plan to be considered, all these guys performed the ritual of meeting me simply to summarily dispose me off. I remember that Madam Shahnaz Wazir Ali to whom I was referred to by Kamal Azfar gave me an appointment to meet her after two months. When I entered her office, she stared at my face, never asked me to sit and ended the briefest encounter by saying that they already knew what to do. I was then the Editor of the Diplomatic Times.

Let me candidly confess we are belonging to the old bandwagon of the PPP since 1967. We want the revolutionary élan and spirit of the party to remain as the supreme mission of the party. But woefully, since the demise of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto that thumping spirit and abounding zeal has been waning. Although after ZAB, the revolutionary cadres like us have been marginalized but our liking and attachment with the party remains alive and vibrant to this day. Our commitment is to the party and not to the individuals. Still more than the party, our commitment is to Pakistan and its people.

Unfortunately, there has never been a clearly laid out system of grooming the party cadres on revolutionary path with the passions of patriotism and selfless service for this unique nation. But so many among us still keep blazing that light with the hope that it would one day become a beacon flashpoint once again for the people of Pakistan. After ZAB, barring his daughter, despite her failings, the party remained on the right track as devised and nurtured by his illustrious father. Benazir could not do better under the changing circumstances.

Back to the electricity crisis in Pakistan. My considered conclusion is that our industrial sector is handicapped due to a host of barriers and avoidable complex and plethora of rules and regulations that instead of expeditiously promoting the growth of industry in Pakistan create stumbling blocks at every step. In order to seek permission for the establishment of an industrial unit, one needs powerful contacts and kickbacks at every step to move the file. The decision making to allow the setting up of industries in slow and complicated.

Moreover, the lack of utility services, proper infrastructure and heavy taxation deter the investors and entrepreneurs to undertake industrial ventures in Pakistan. With influential and high profile contacts such as the prime minister, the president, the ministers and top bureaucrats one may succeed in establishing factory or the manufacturing unit without much hassle. But the investors usually remain haunted and intrigued by never ending demands for grafts and monetary demands from a small minion to the bigwigs lording over the industry. In the absence of transparency, tendency to bend rules and because of the faulty mechanism for redress against the bureaucratic wrong doing, the industrial sector remains at the mercy and whims of the concerned officials and bureaucrats.

To my sincere and well thought out plan, finally the response by a lower rank officer was sent to me through email. I am attaching that email to give an idea to my readers how the priority issues relating to the citizens’ life and country’s welfare are treated with rank indifference. This reply candidly depicts the mindset of the bureaucracy scuttling projects that benefit the country but not to them. After laying down several conditions, still they did not pledge that finally the plan would be approved. In the meantime they want someone to invest millions for assurances and activities that are nothing except wastage of time and money. I wanted this plan to be invested and started by the government itself.

I have exhausted all my options and avenues to prevail upon the political whistle blowers and bureaucratic charlatans in Pakistan to let me start the project on experimental basis. I am not going to invest because I don’t have investment I can readily share this easy-to-execute plan with the Pakistani expatriates who would like to get a peep into it. If someone can come up with a modest investment and can also get a permission to go ahead with the execution of the plan without loss of time, then I can hand over this idea to him.

I want the poor and grieved people of Pakistan to at least have enough water and power to lead a peaceful life on this count. With abundantly uninterrupted supply of electricity, the whole system from factories to functioning of hospitals and schools can come to life and be productive. I shall be more than happy to send my paper on civic revolution in Pakistan to anyone for study and draw their own conclusions about its efficacy.

No comments:

Post a Comment