Imran may follow some austere Pakistani, world rulers

Published on: 20/08/2018 | Comments: 3 comments 

LAHORE: As Pakistan’s new Premier, Imran Khan, is adamant to introduce austerity at all levels in a bid to shun the apartheid of elitism and hence cut down on the exorbitant excesses, he should not only seek inspiration from compatriots like Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and one of his predecessors, Muhammad Khan Junejo, but should also take a leaf out of Uruguay’s ex-president, Jose Mujica’s book and may even follow the likes of Nepal’s former head of government, Sushil Koirala, and Malawi’s first female President, Joyce Banda.

All the above-named world leaders had set magnificent examples for the mighty and powerful with their humble and austere lifestyles.

Chronicles of history reveal that Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had practiced the values of honesty, austerity and humility to the very end of his life, but unfortunately, this glorious phase of our history is buried in books that are hard to find.

An example of how Quaid-e-Azam prioritized austerity was the way he checked the details of the expenses incurred on the first cabinet meeting, although the sum spent on serving tea and biscuits to cabinet members was only Rs 38. He ordered that, in future cabinet meetings only cold water will be served because Pakistan could not afford even such small expenses.

By the 1930s, Quaid-e-Azam had become the best and one of the most expensive lawyers in India. He would charge Rs 1,500 an hour for going through a client’s case papers. To ensure that clients were charged fairly, he kept a clock in front of him while reading their case papers to note the time spent thereon.

In one such instance, a client had submitted his case papers to Mr Jinnah’s secretary who, after looking at their volume, asked the client to deposit Rs 3,000 thinking that the Quaid will take two hours to study them. But because it took Mr Jinnah only one and a half hour to read the case papers, he informed his secretary accordingly, and the next day his secretary called the client asking him to collect a refund of Rs 750.

In the budget for 1987-88, the-then Pakistani Prime Minister, Muhammad Khan Junejo, had sought to introduce austerity in governance. He scrapped the head of purchasing new, big and imported cars for official use and for officers who had been entitled to them. Under the scheme of austerity, he ordered that all officers who were entitled to use cars would now use locally-assembled Suzuki cars instead of imported cars.

His move had annoyed many in government and bureaucracy, but Muhammad Khan Junejo remained unfretted and unmoved. By the way, on November 20, 1979, Pakistan?s military dictator, General Ziaul Haq had announced that he would ride a bike in Rawalpindi.

In the beginning he rode a bicycle to his office from his residence. Later, he had planned to travel on a bicycle to Raja Bazaar in Rawalpindi. A large number of soldiers had to peddle bicycles alongside him in plain clothes to ensure the General?s security, while the event was given wide publicity by the official media.

While this show of cycling was taking place, on the morning of November 20, 1979, some Saudi militants calling for the overthrow of the House of Saud had taken over the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca.

Shortly after news of the takeover was released, Irani leader Ayatollah Khomeini had told radio listeners that it was not beyond guessing that it was the work of criminal American imperialism and international Zionism.

Following Khomeini’s announcement, a crowd had started to move towards the diplomatic enclave in Islamabad to attack the US embassy. The embassy was set alight, while the staff was trapped inside and faced almost certain death.

At Fawara Chowk, the infuriated mob came across General Ziaul Haq riding a bicycle. General Zia thus had to rush and address the nation, urging people to calm their nerves and declared that America had nothing to do with the sad incident in Makkah. General Ziaul Haq’s bicycle riding was thus short-lived.

In modern history, Uruguay’s ex-president, Jose Mujica, had caught the world’s eye for being the humblest head of state on Earth. The former president shunned the luxurious lifestyle and was usually seen in casual clothes for official ceremonies and rarely, if ever, wore a tie. By donating 90 per cent of his salary to charity, his income was roughly equal to the average wage in Uruguay – $775 (?485) a month.

According to BBC, in 2010, his annual personal wealth declaration – mandatory for officials in Uruguay – was $1,800 (?1,100), the value of his 1987 Volkswagen Beetle.

While most presidents travel around in chauffeur-driven saloon cars, the former Uruguayan president drove his own beat-up Beetle. He was even offered $1m for the car by an Arab Sheikh, but said he didn’t give the offer “any importance”.

This year, he added half of his wife’s assets – land, tractors and a house – reaching $215,000 (?135,000). With just his three-legged dog Manuela and two police officers for security, Mujica lives on a small farm on the outskirts of the capital Montevideo.

The first female president of Malawi, Joyce Banda, had sold off the presidential jet and the fleet of 60 Mercedes limousines in an effort to steer the then-struggling country to financial austerity. Later, the money earned from selling the plane went to feeding more than one million people, the country’s Treasury Department said.

Nepal’s Prime Minister, Sushil Koirala, was widely lauded for eschewing the perks associated with being the leader of his country. In a nation where politicians are typically associated with wealth, Sushil Koirala’s only declared assets were three mobile phones.

Before moving into the official prime minister residences, the BBC reported that he rented a house in Kathmandu. Koirala is also said to have stayed with his brother when he visited the city instead of a hotel.

History also shows that the only substantial property that former Indian Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, had when he died was an old car that he bought on installments (part of which he was yet to pay). After his death, his wife had repaid the bank loan.

“The Times of India” had written: “In 1964, the Shastri family only had Rs 7,000 in the bank. The Prime Minister applied for a loan of Rs 5,000 loan which was sanctioned the same day. But soon tragedy struck the family and the nation. The Prime Minister passed away on January 11, 1966 in Tashkent where he had gone to sign the declaration that resolved the 1965 war between India and Pakistan. “The loan remained unpaid. It was repaid by my mother (Lalita) from the pension.”

Another former Indian Prime Minister, Gulzarilal Nanda, had died in a rented house and never managed to purchase a house of his own.? .. Source

Democratic deficit and reform in Pakistan

Published on: 15/07/2018 | Comments: No comments 

.. by Raza Muhammad Khan

AS the political drama on our screens about the candidate?s eligibility, polls prediction, tempering with public infrastructure, mudslinging, rowdy rallies and pre-poll bickering continues, the 80 percent underprivileged part of our population expects no return from the political circus for themselves. They are aware of the numerous dichotomies, across the political spectrum in Pakistan, and yet, they continue to pin their hopes on the ballot box, for a better tomorrow for posterity, if not for themselves.

I salute and espouse the common man for his continuous faith in democracy, despite the following imperfections: according to recent media reports, 60 per cent of the candidates are either tax defaulters or out of the tax net; the use of dozens of dubious and illegal methods to beat opponents is rampant; genuine internal democratic norms are hard to trace within the parties; a politician is free to contest from as many constituencies from any province, for the national assembly, with only one security deposit, however, the voter is restricted to a single place to choose a candidate from; illiterate persons can now contest elections and if they win, they could head any ministry, including that of education ; there is no retirement age for politicians and even centenarians are free to be part of this profession; a 25 years old, who wins an election can straight away hold a cabinet level office, as practical experience or managerial skills are not a prerequisite for the job; since formal medical examination is not a criterion, sometimes a physically unfit person, a narcissist or a sycophant could get elected as a law maker; occasionally, murderous criminals, slapped with court cases, and prisoners who could pull strings to emerge on bail, have contested and won elections ; hereditary politics and affluence reign supreme and often supersede merit in allocation of party tickets; Finally; most campaign promises are forgotten, soon after winning the contests and this trend is an intrinsic part of our democracy.

Due to these glaring deficits and inadequacies, the so-called ?democracy dividend? hardly ensues and the outcome is usually bad governance by the rich, for the rich, over the poor. As a consequence, today, Pakistan has the largest number of out of school children in the world after Nigeria, that includes 7 million primary and 25.3 million, secondary school kids. Pakistan?s Human Development Report 2017 warned that we have the highest youth unemployment in the region and unless immediately addressed, this situation is likely to aggravate further. Except for some lip service during election campaigns, addressing these problems is not a political priority. Sometimes, the wretched life of the poor and neglected, with dismal healthcare, no shelter, work, education, food or social security, depicts the dark and real face of democracy in Pakistan. The longer they live in such disempowerment, the less they favor democracy as a preferred form of government. When democratic governments fail to serve the people, it creates a doubt in their minds, whether democracy, in its present form, can ever deliver in Pakistan. This state has in turn, provided reasons to non-democratic forces in the past to intervene.

When democracy was born in the 5th century BC at Athens, it symbolized a political system that meant the rule of the people, in contrast to that of the aristocracy or the elite. Modern democracies are expected to signify the same essence as well, but it is usually missing. This is particularly true in Pakistan, where ordinary persons can only dream of participating in electoral politics, for purposes other than voting for the rich. Note the purchasing power of the Pakistani youth in 2018, worked out by the UNDP, which reveals that 76.9 per cent youth in Pakistan have to quit their education for financial reasons, 57 percent is unemployed and 77 percent cannot afford to own even a bicycle. Ponder now, over the declared affluence and assets by most candidates for the elections this year. Add to this the millions allowed by the ECP as permissible expenditure on elections and the enormous cost of the innumerable pre-election campaigns. Any hopes of the middle class, to compete with the giant elitist parties in the political arena were deliberately scuttled through restrictions imposed vide Section 202(2) of the Election Act 2017. Though this decision violates fundamental rights enshrined in Article 17 of the Constitution about formation of new political entities, it has been embraced without a question and raised doubts about the fairness of our representative process.

While a panacea may be impossible to find to reform the democratic theories and practices in Pakistan, the following ten measures may be worth considering for fixing some of the pitfalls and predicaments of our political system. First; elected representatives must hold national interests above that of the party and make provision of education, employment and health care as central issues in their manifestoes; Second; appoint ministers purely on merit, including a few from the opposition. Third; continuous, structured engagement of the majority and minority elements in a cooperative environment; Fourth; frequent use of electoral tools, like referendums for consensus on crucial or controversial national issues should epitomize major decision making; Fifth, revoking dishonest politicians before the end of their elected term; Sixth; initiating lawsuits for breaking campaign promises.

Seventh; arranging recall elections when desired by civil society or enough petitioners; Eighth; key political decisions must approximate the wishes of the median voters and politicians with tendencies to stray too far from the middle of the public opinion, may be denied public office; Ninth; revoking the restrictions imposed on registration of new political parties and Tenth; reinstating graduation as an eligibility condition for future elections. Only time will tell if the new Pakistani rulers will display the empathy, will, sagacity and audacity to transform the existing political paradigm, for the sake of the country and its people?

? The writer, a retired Lt Gen, is former President of National Defence University, Islamabad.