Haj 2010 may become harbinger of change

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FAISALABAD – Haj 2010 is likely to cast longtime and far-reaching impact on the credibility of the government as the Haj regulatory authority. Wikileaks’ disclosures continued to haunt the whole world during last two weeks.
The repercussions of the leaks shook the corridors of power in Pakistan. However, the dust began to settle with every passing day as the overdose of the leakages led to a condition like indigestion.
Pakistanis have saved a part of their sense of taste during the wikileaks days to spend on the next presentation. The curtain has already been raised and Pakistanis now see Wikileaks as a thing of the past as they have no time to set aside their gaze from the dismissal of two cabinet ministers this week.
Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, is replaced by Maulana Fazlur Rehman who after announcing a break-up from the coalition government has ruled out the possibility of any reconciliation with PPP. Going back to the beginning, Haj 2010 was the most terrible experience for Pakistani pilgrims who literally walked on the stones and slept on thorns, hungry and thirsty, during their journey to self-purification.
The organisers, on the other hand, are alleged to have embezzled Rs four billion from the national exchequer. When the government sensed that Supreme Court of Pakistan might convict those responsible for Haj corruption, it sacked the Haj minister to save him from conviction by the court.
It is interesting to note that the minister who earlier refused to resign on moral gorunds was dismissed not for corruption or inefficiency but under the charges of violating the discipline. Minister for Science and Technology Azam Swati was also fired to divert the public attention from the actual crisis.
Rs 4 billion corruption in Haj is a ‘bsuiness as usual’ in a country where annually a tax evasion of Rs 500 billion, government institutional corruption of Rs 400 billion and a corruption of another Rs 500 billion by Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) are just a few examples. In this context, Rs 200 billion corruption in Pak-Afghan Transit Trade is one more eye opener for those who are looking forward to impose Reforemd General Sales Tax (RGST) to generate funds for the dying economy regardless of the dying public.
There is yet another aspect of Haj scandal. After the withdrawal of JUI-F from the saddle, every stakeholder is in search of a new role. Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who knows the art of political bargaining more than anybody else, has refused to rejoin the coalition.
But Maulana’s liking for the treasury benches is known to every corner and his rapport with former US ambassdor Mary Patterson to win the US support for PM’s slot is an open secret that has a special relevance to the current stalemate. MQM’s 10-days ultimatum to the government is taken as a ploy to weigh the situation and gain time to bargain with the other power brokers as well. Jamaat-e-Islami which has no seat in National Assembly due to its boycott of the last general elections is keeping the hopes alive to reorganize an old alliance with JUI-F.
The most significant factor is PML-Q that is struggling to revive its past glory. There were speculations that PML-Q will join hands with PPP by supporting them in the Centre and PPP, in return for this good gesture will say goodbye to the Punjab coalition so that a no-confidence move could be brought against Shahbaz Sharif.
In the event of success, PPP-PML-Q coalition in Punjab might install Pervaiz Elahi as the chief minister. But these are unconfirmed stories. Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain is holding his cards close to his chest and his stance is unpredictable so far.
The major power broker, PML-N, is not demonstrating a clear stance. One possible reason is that they are playing a ‘wait-and-watch’ game to foresee the strategy of PML-Q. The analysts say that most of the policies adopted by Sharif Brothers are PML-Q specific. Nawaz Sharif has clarified that he will not be a part of any political compromise.
His party is already fighting to wash out the image of a friendly opposition. ANP has not shown any significant posture in any direction. PML-N, is not demonstrating a clear stance. One possible reason is that they are playing a ‘wait-and-watch’ game. The RGST which is likely to be postponed has been over-politicised and the government is finding it difficult to go ahead with the plan as all political parties have clearly opposed the move.
There is a question that if the government side, during the voting on RGST in the National Assembly fails to get it passed, will it resign? Our moral grounds and democratic values are not equivalent to UK and USA where it is a tradition to accept the failures and quit. We have, instead, a tradition of clinging to the chair despite all the disgrace.
In a nutshell, Haj 2010 is likely to cast longtime and far-reaching impact on the credibility of the government as the Haj regulatory authority.