- Economic hardships are not at an end
By Azam Badar
Economy talks are going aggressive nowadays. Traders and industrialists are ready to observe strike while many others are announcing dates. While on the other hand the government amnesty comes to the chase and now is ready for its aggressive revenue effort by using the benami law. FBR Chairman Shabbar Zaidi has gone so far about the claim by saying that up to 30 per cent of all bank accounts in the country could be holding benami assets.
However Prime Minister Imran Khan directed the FBR Chairman to not harass the business community in the process but it seems unbelievable. The danger here is that the documentation drive has mixed with the accountability drive that is running in parallel.
It should be easily understood by even laymen that Pakistan that founded in August 14 1947 faced economic hardships in every regime. After the demise of the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, our beloved country has been playing in the hands of politicians and rulers who have not been visionaries, as history had proved. From Ayub Khan to Nawaz Sharif all of them were practically declared failures on the economic front by neutral analysts.
Dictator Ayub Khan during his regime is supposed to have built a healthy and strong economy but this was discovered after the passage of time.
Governments have many ways of broadening tax base and network, which can also be enhanced while providing new business opportunities. The ball is in the court of the Prime Minister
Afterwards the play of democracy and dictatorship is not hidden from anyone but it should be admitted that Bhutto gave daring voice to masses, highlighted their rights and gifted the 1973 Constitution to the country. In the late 1980s the fever for Benazir Bhutto was in fact the charisma of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s politics.
Later Nawaz Sharif ruled three times. In 1997 as PM, Nawaz announced to get rid of IMF, World Bank and Asian Development Bank, he launched ‘Qarz Utaro Mulk Sawaro’ scheme but in October 1999, COAS Gen Pervez Musharraf replaced Nawaz because of Kargil and on plane hijack charges. Before all this, in the early 1990s a cricketer Imran Khan turned politician and started his struggle. Benazir was assassinated in 2007 before the general elections announced by General Musharraf after eight years.
After the assassination of MS Bhutto riots broke out in the country, ending in the 18 February 2008 victory of the PPP. Asif Ali Zardari became president of the country. PPP got elected Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani PM, who was later disqualified by CJP Iftikhar Chaudry. Raja Pervaiz Ashraf replaced Gillani but this was the most difficult time for the PPP when the party was facing worst ever criticism, which resulted in complete political destruction of Bhutto’s party in Punjab, a kingmaker province in the country to rule in Islamabad. 2013 was a golden and glorious political time of Sharif family. The PML-N in the federal and Punjab governments launched several development projects; Shehbaz Sharif achieved a milestone in Punjab. The Sharif family’s close relative Ishaq Dar was made federal finance minister. Dar not spared a single day announcing ‘historical economic progress’ but at last time was waiting in queue for all traditional marathon races, internationally a scandal named Panama unearthed and within months the Sharif family started understanding that they could not last. Resultantly Nawaz was sentenced and jailed with his daughter Maryam. She succeeded in leaving jail but Nawaz is yet behind the bars. It is worth mentioning here that from 2013 till 2018 Imran Khan and his PTI became a popular political threat to PML-N despite the PPP. When the Sharif brothers were in power, they claimed to achieve many economic goals but also blamed and taunted Imran for creating troubles for the economy through his and his political cousin PAT’s Dharna. However Imran Khan, now PM, is showing he is completely strong and strengthens the economy. Likewise, Nawaz Sharif in the late 1990s was opposed to consult IMF for loans and borrowed huge money when he was ruling. Imran had also repeated the mistake.
Tax amnesty and other steps to broadening tax base is obviously a good step but we should also learn from the past. Presently rising dollar and gold prices are badly hitting our economy. Business circles are getting afraid day to day and going on strikes. The Imran government may increase the tax base and its network but harassment of the FBR is at its peak. Mr Khan should understand that he and his party are always declaring themselves as right-wing. Around the world people are electing right wing populist leaders, who cut taxes on riches and impose various cuts on social spending. In the UK the ruling Conservative Party has continued to lead. It has been imposing savage cuts in social spending over the last decade. In the USA, President Donald Trump slashed taxes for the rich and while job creation has been boosted, not the incomes. Indian voters too have re-elected Narendra Modi despite his patchy first term. It is a fact that globalisation has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty in developing countries.
In Pakistan’s polls last year, many people voted for Imran Khan whose grasp of economics and public finance is shaky at best, but the result is that thousands of jobs have been lost and inflation is skyrocketing. This is because of uncertain policies and the mixing of widening the tax base with accountability. Government can take many measures and steps and make policies for broadening the tax base, not harassment, like the Chairman FBR claimed 30 per cent of all the country’s bank accounts could be holding benami accounts. Business community and circles fear it as a threat. Therefore, Imran Khan should not do this and remember a statement of Malaysian PM Mahathir Muhmmad that do not harass the business class. Pakistan’s economy is the 24th largest in the world, a last-year report says. Our country relies on agriculture, tourism and industries. We are often termed as a semi-industrial economy. Pakistan is a gold mine with $1.7 trillion of mine-able minerals just in Balochistan; Gwadar, a game changer, is also located in Balochistan. Actually, Pakistan is a diamond that needs to be polished and the PM knows better than us in this regard as he was careful to reveal in the past when he was an opposition leader. Now Mr Khan, it’s your time and it’s your turn, prove it. Governments have many ways of broadening tax base and network, which can also be enhanced while providing new business opportunities. The ball is in the court of the Prime Minister. Pakistan is a diamond that needs to be polished; let Imran do so, but not like this.
The writer is a freelance columnist.