CITY NOTES: Waiting for a minister


It seems we’re never going to get the good old budget speech from the finance minister. True, we have the speech in the National Assembly, but for two years in succession, we’ve had a minister of state deliver it, or rather read it out. Last year, it was Raja Muhammad Afzal, instead of Miftah Ismail, who was only Finance Minister because he was seeking a seat in the House, or at least that’s what he said, not that anybody believed him because the National Assembly had banned all by-elections because it was so close to dissolution.

This year, we had Hammad Azhar, the minister of state for Revenue do what Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh could not. Dr Sheikh has been there, done that because he was the finance minister during PPP’s government, so he’s not found a seat in Parliament (he had been in the Senate last time) and left the Speech to Hammad.

I don’t think the PM liked this. After all, the Budget Speech is the most important speech of the parliamentary year, when the government is supposed to state its policy for the next year. You can trump the Finance Minister by keeping the portfolio, but PMs usually don’t, and you only have Murad Ali Shah of Sindh who has retained the portfolio. And the Speech.

Imran Khan didn’t like the fact that he wasn’t making the Speech. Was that why he tried to upstage Hammad Azhar with his own broadcast to the nation, in which he announced a special commission, which he will head, which will determine what happened to all of those previous loans. Paying the IMF back?

I’m surprised that there was no tax on trousers (a set sum per square centimetre, hopefully with a specially high rate for bells) or skin (a set sum per square centimetre exposed). The taxes are both to celebrate the Punjabi sayings pantaan laa dawangay (we’ll take off their trousers) and khal khich lawangay (we’ll pull off their skins). Imran Khan and Hammad Azhar being belonging to Lahore would also be acquainted with the old institution of the Jagga Tax.

In fact, I wonder why Dr Sheikh was not inspired by his Tanzanian counterpart, who has slapped a tax on wigs and hair extensions. I wonder if the Tanzanian Cabinet has anyone like Sh Rashid, or Ch Nisar Ali Khan, who would have been willing to make personal sacrifices.

If Imran could have taken the finance portfolio, we wouldn’t have been spared the midnight speech, in which we were told that borrowing money was robbery if done by someone other than him, maybe we would have been introduced to a new form of economics, after his earth-shaking discoveries in history and geography (Germany and Japan are next to each other, remember?).

It would probably help console him for the loss to Australia. I see former jailbird Amir took five wickets. Was the match fixed somehow? I assume none of the Aussie bowlers had any help from Smith or Warner, who have served out their ban for ball tampering. What a match! One bowler convicted of match-fixing, opposing batsmen over a ban for ball tampering, a Pakistani skipper eager to win because he can’t become PM any other way. I wonder if the umpires are also corrupt elements. Y’know, the type who takes a pound for calling a short run, and go up to a fiver for giving a dodgy lbw, with half the money for the TV umpire if he upholds the decision.

The UK is headed for an interesting Brexit, with one Tory candidate for PM having said he had used cocaine. Does anyone remember Bill Clinton saying he didn’t inhale when he smoked marijuana? I wonder when someone in the run for the Prime Ministership of Japan will admit to using heroin? And I wonder whether the current frontrunner, Boris Johnson, will be high when Brexit happens? He’s the British Trump, and when he becomes PM, three heads of government will have ridiculous haircuts.

But it does seem as if the way is being paved for candidates to admit to ever more serious drugs. Will Mian Nawaz Sharif ever confess to anything? Will Imran?

I presume NAB won’t go after them if they do. NAB was particularly active last week, arresting not just Asif Zardari but also his sister. To keep the PML(N) involved, Hamza Shehbaz was also picked up. And so was Sibtain Khan of the PTI.