Why the euphoria?

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  • With hope, I live

In trying to find an answer to this interrogative title, I will take you on a short journey through the maze of history. Albeit, most of it is either distorted or in the process of being continuously re-written. The dark chapters are buried. And then the events of that period are presented, in a manner, which is not what had happened, but what the writer of history believes “should have happened”.

This scribe is only a concerned Pakistani, who in his thirteenth year of existence saw the dismemberment of the largest Islamic Country. As a citizen the concern is about how politics and economics has been handled post the separation. If the loss of the densely populated East Pakistan wasn’t enough, we have been subjected to additional misery, by enduring the miserable rule of politicians and the Junta, albeit with some periods of economic growth and semblance of national cohesiveness, when the Khakis were in power. The only exception to this was period of ignominious rule by the self proclaimed Islamist ruler (may God Bless his soul). The darkest period since 1971 was between 5th July 1977 and 17th August 1988, when divine intervention brought about its inglorious end. It’s another matter that by then the entire social fabric of the country was tattered by promotion of drug and weapon culture. The results of the most ill thought out nationalisation of key industries had started to descend upon the economic horizon. Nationalisation damaged irrecoverably the entrepreneurial spirit of the nation. Entrepreneurs are shy today. Suspicion about the durability of any government policy reigns supreme. We still remain hostage to the fall out of nationalisation.

While there are many reasons, and largely reliable ones, for anybody to remain positive about the future; there is an equal match and contest to such feelings, because of the many elements of despondency that we as nation face today.

Like Prime Minister Imran Khan, I am fascinated with the Ayubian Era. And there are sound justifications to be proud of that period. The industrial base in Pakistan got established. The civil bureaucracy, which was very strong, did not allow much space to militancy bureaucracy. The civil servants were of very high caliber, talent and foresight.

Consequently, the economic managers then had the vision to establish sound institutions like Industrial Development Bank(IBD); PICIC and the Investment Corporation of Pakistan (ICP). These institutions were created to provide long term funding resources for the development of industry, trade and commerce. Entrepreneurs availed the opportunity and built up several industries. This led to wealth creation. Wealth creation did not result in equitable distribution of it, instead it began to concentrate in the hands of few — the famously infamous 22 families. So, today when the prime minister lectures on the positivity of wealth creation, I would expect him to say in the same breath, that he will make policies to ensure its free, fair and equitable distribution.

Where the Ayub government went off-course was the concentration of wealth. He did not control that. Sweden is a good example for Imran Khan to emulate but then the Swedish economy does not believe in creation of monopolistic tendencies. Instead it’s Socially directed towards the welfare state concept. So, If Imran Khan’s new Pakistan is to be the Sweden of South Asia, encourage business but not the promotion of exploitative profit ventures.

As regards the institutions cited earlier, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that these deteriorated only under Zia’s rule. The nationalisation of banks, insurance and other key industries in the mid-seventies was a disastrous move. But again in fair judgment ZAB did not plunder the institutions, either through grant of political loans or by massive hiring of the incompetent.

Like Prime Minister Imran Khan, I am fascinated with the Ayubian Era. And there are sound justifications to be proud of that period

The martial law period of 1977-1988 brought upon us religious zealots , not that prior to 5th July-77 we did not have believers; but it was the mindset that was slowly and gradually radicalised.

Democracy was played out as a game of musical chairs between 1988 and 1999. The president(s) armed with the lethal but constitutionally approved weapon of 58(2b) used it, without any qualms. Governments were sacked for corruption and incompetence with zero substantiation and also no conviction followed. Hence the whole exercise and claim of bringing in more honest teams in Islamabad than previous ones actually resulted in installation of the more corrupt than the previous one.

The Oct ‘99 coup happened at a time when Coup d’etat had globally become unfashionable. But then 9/11 happened. We became yet again a front line state. The GDP grew at an average of 6pc per annum during that period. President Musharaf brought for us some global respect. But for reasons that aren’t understandable, all who assume power through the barrel of a gun wish to be democrats; he fell, too, in this trap. He be-friended some die-hard politicians, whose claim to fame has always been of being the most ready, willing and able turn-coats. President Musharaf was undone by the wily-banker prime minister, whom he had hand-picked. The PM drove a wedge between the President and CJP, leading to the ultimate resignation of the former. And to our collective dismay, since 2008 till July this year, the same political tunes were being blurred out of Islamabad.

With this dismal history, do we have room to become euphoric? Since the elections, I am, as a citizen dismayed, not because Imran Khan won, but because of the lack of preparation to run the government and the economy. There’s no doubt that he has an arduous task at hand. Even the man on the street knew at election time that Imran Khan would form the next government so how is it that he did not know how to adequately prepare. Being an optimist, despite the visible unpreparedness, I still remain hopeful.

About the recent Euphoria… what is of pain, firstly, as a Pakistani is that as a nation we “celebrate” the resumption of flights by an airline to our country. Secondly, we are proclaiming with no shame but with loads of pride and arrogance, that we “borrowed” vitamin ‘M’, from friendly countries. Aren’t these acts shameful? Like Imran Khan fondly recalls the sixties, I do too. The growing up years of the late sixties I witnessed, airlines from the west and east, re-fuelled at Karachi, in preference to Bombay. Later in life I flew on them; to name a few Pan-Am, Air France, KLM, Lufthansa, SAS, from the west and Cathay, JAL, Singapore, Thai, etc, from the east.

‘A nation of shop-keepers’ is what Napoleon had remarked in describing a particular country. Are we so naive as a nation to think that an airline takes “emotional decisions” while charting and choosing routes to fly upon? There has to be and is an economic justification. There is available and ready market of traffic. They just wish to have their share of the pie. Why are we celebrating? In fact they should celebrate that we have given them landing rights.

Mr Prime Minister, just get the house is order. A little focus on good governance would add value. Install the upright, honest and incorruptible, and then watch how many airlines queue for seeking landing rights. Also the “Q Block” must clearly distinguish between “borrowing” and “revenue generation”. The two are mutually exclusive. We need revenue generation not more begging bowls. Enhance exports and reduce imports.

The import of luxury items should be completely banned. Ask and demand of the nation, Dear Prime Minister, the “spirit of sacrifice”; you will not find the populace shy on that front. Try it. Save the dollars earned through exports. And please don’t seek advice from tax-evaders on how to improve tax collection! Business leaders, to the disadvantage of this country, have been misleading politicians for over three decades.

With hope, I live. With unflinching faith in my country’s resilience I overcome these short bouts of depression.

Please chose the right reason to “celebrate” and then “be proud of it”. A long way ahead…  Hold the euphoria and celebrations. We have miles to go…