Monday, November 28, 2011

Some Suggestions to Imran Khan

November 26, 2011

By Saeed Qureshi

Imran Khan has suddenly shot up like a meteorite on the murky horizons of Pakistan. He is a different Imran Khan from that flamboyant and temperamental of yester years. This new Imran Khan is talking a lot of sense. He looks prudent and cool while expressing or explaining his point of view.

It is a reincarnated and rather rejuvenated Mr. Khan who has, in the recent past, made giant strides in the realm of politics in Pakistan throwing up wonders one after another. One such wonder was the mammoth crowd at the Minar–e-Pakistan Lahore, addressed by him.

As a senior journalist I had been holding a particular perception of Mr. Khan ever since he made his debut in politics, that he is a non-starter. He has been fretting, fuming, and flexing his body muscles and then disappearing with lightening speed from the political scene of Pakistan. He has been aggressive and petulant. Till recently his party PTI has been a one man show.

He was docile and energized at the same time. During his political journey of fits and starts, he has been changing his opinions and recipes about fixing Pakistan’s perennial and multitudinous problems. But of late he has come of age. He spells out his programs for changing the nauseating status quo in Pakistan with exceptional candor, absolute conviction and amazing cool. He is not fuzzy anymore nor ambivalent about grave issues and monumental challenges that one witnesses on the unpredictable political chess-board of Pakistan.

He vehemently talks of changing the loathsome status quo which means shaking the society upside down not in the physical sense but in cultural, economic and political connotations. And that is what is squarely needed in Pakistan. He is determined to launch a merciless crusade upon the self-serving, greedy and exploitative, privileged classes whose one ugly face is the centuries old feudalism and the so called abominable elitism or aristocracy. He aims at upholding the supremacy of law, the writ of the state and the dignity for the denizens of Pakistan.

He aims at bringing about a social revolution that is what late ZA Bhutto initiated but then recoiled from it in the later part of his rule. The refashioning of Pakistan ‘s foreign policy with hallmarks of dignity , territorial integrity, independence as well as self reliance in economy are the cornerstones of the agenda that Imran Khan has variously reiterated in his speeches and in front of the media.

Imran Khan should always keep in mind the reasons for Mr. Bhutto’s’ decline and his tragic end who otherwise was the brightest, most charismatic, endeared and lofty politician of Pakistan and who rebuilt the remaining Pakistan with marvelous astuteness and magnificent brilliance. His main drawback was that he would not accept dissent. He was highly egotistic and turned revengeful against anyone who would offer a piece of good advice or oppose his policies.

He forsook his pioneering companions one by one after humiliating them. While the PPP gradually was depleted from the dedicated ideological pillars, Mr. Bhutto started courting the parasitic classes and individuals against whom he raised the banner of change and revolution. He tried to rule by his personal charm and fear at the same time. When he landed in trouble because of his defiance and untimely resistance to the powerful rivals one of which was army, his public image had dwindled enormously and people’s support waned.

Mr. Khan pledges that no one would be allowed to contest elections from his party’s platform unless he or she declares his assets and comes clean in matter of paying income or property taxes. If he can succeed in forcing everyone in the county to declare assets without exception, he can change the economic destiny of Pakistan.

But while assets would be furnished and declared by the wealthy and rich citizens of Pakistan, it should also be applicable to everyone in the country which means from a vendor to a factory owner and an army general to a bureaucrat and a politician to a parliamentarian.

Those who falsify their assets and submit wrong information should be heavily penalized both by fines and jail terms. The assets that they would conceal should be confiscated by the government. Thus a true and transparent picture would emerge and the national exchequer would be filled to brims by way of income tax and property tax.

Far-reaching and radical changes must be made in the income tax regime obviating the slimmest chances for the tax collecting staff or the tax payers to dodge or swindle the government. The existing tax collection system in Pakistan needs to be thoroughly overhauled and computerized for proper and correct record keeping as is being done round the world. Secondly, it should be made simple and easy to follow. The people should be encouraged to solicit help from the professional tax specialists to prepare proper tax returns.

Since everyone will be forced by law to file tax returns, those such as small shopkeepers and vendors can get tax refunds that can help offset their overspending beyond their earnings. Even if the low income individuals or families do not need to file a return as they have no taxable income still they should do it to remain in the loop of income tax records.

One of the principle revenue generating sources for America’s federal administration, local governments and counties is the property tax. There is no way that anyone can evade payment of property tax for which the invoice or ther bill is sent well in advance. The property and income tax staff is always skeleton in counties here in America. In Pakistan there are excessive and surplus tax inspectors who mostly remain in unholy league with the tax payers.

If along with these momentous tax and property reforms, the civic and municipal system is transformed into city and country governments, Pakistan can have a real grass-root democratic system that would ensure people’s participation in decision making from the lowest rung to the highest level. With that if the independent school districts are created to be run and administrated by cities or the counties, the schools and colleges in Pakistan would never be starved of funds as a portion of each county and city’s income would be allocated to the educational institutions.

The civic system in America is mostly run by the cities and can be effectively duplicated in Pakistan. The greatest outcome of that change would be that cities would become clean and there will be order in traffic and more roads would be correspondingly built at the city or county level with the increase in traffic.

Then the people would get water round the clock as each city would have plenty of funds to have water reservoirs and an immaculate water supply system, without reaching out to the central or the provincial governments for help or to beseech the parliamentarians from their areas to provide such facilities which they seldom do.

The department of land administration and revenue merits emergent transformation. This is one department where bribe and grafts are the order of the day and exchange in broad day light like drawing buckets out of water well. There are touts that operate between the needy citizens and the officials. The vacation of the land or house grabbed by mafia or influential individuals is one of the most hazardous and impossible tasks in countless instances unless a demanded price is paid to the rogue occupiers.

A separate cell needs to be created which should deal with the cases pertaining to the illegal occupation of properties on war footing basis. The owners with genuine documents should be restored their grabbed property and liberated from the powerful land mafias and fearsome grabbers. Those so called land mafias that are behind forcible grabbing of land and properties either of government or of the private citizens must be dealt with mercilessly.

The existing land department must be reorganized on most modern lines with computerized record and data saving systems. The obsolete legacies of the past, Patwari, Girdawar, the Tehsildar, and other minions that present a chain of corrupt command have got be replaced with a small section of professional officials that we find in the United States, in West Europe or even in China. The transfer of properties should be computerized, transparent, and fast and backed by law in case someone does not comply with the procedures. We can copy and follow up what the modern and developed societies have done in this regard.

Without further delay, a plan for creating network of highways and motorways between major cities should be unraveled. The funds that would come by the reformed revenue system and bolstering of industrial sector should be channeled towards constructing these over- delayed yet most indispensible modes of traveling.

I would recommend making free and compulsory education in Pakistan up to matriculation or senior schooling level. All children until the age of maturity or adulthood that is 16 years must go to school depending upon the age level. They should get free lunches and the building must be built that no one can enter at free will or encroach upon the internal class rooms. One can pick up a model of a school from any developed country and build replica of that gradually replacing or remodeling the existing ones.

No child should be seen alone in parks or in restaurants serving as a waiter or in auto workshops as trainee mechanic. This should be punishable by law. These young boys and girls should be getting education and not wasting time at work places before the adult age.

The roving teams should check the bazaars and markets if adulterated products were being sold. Such surprise raids should also be conducted on hospitals if spurious and outdated drugs were being used or the patients overcharged or the staffs were absent or derelict in their duties. This strict checking and accountability should be enforced both in the public and private sectors.
Strict codes of conduct and standards should be implemented and there should be no exception or leniency for the government hospitals or private clinics to bypass or infringe those codes and guidelines.

So there should be a team of honest, daring, strict and uncompromising checkers and inspectors in every public department to enforce the codes and rules and regulations and ensure their compliance in letter and spirit. Such a system would be a part of rule of law that is inevitable for clean, efficient and good governance in Pakistan.

I shall offer more suggestions for good governance and for changing the appalling status quo and stagnant social life in Pakistan. These suggestions are being doled out under the presumption that Imran Khan might be the next to sit in the power saddle.

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