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Donors from whom Pakistan begs, are entitled to question why majority of elite refuse to pay their due taxes.


Amina Jilani February 15, 2013
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Whilst Islamabad was under siege at the end of last month, much ire was aroused amongst members of the good old ghairat gang by remarks made by the British High Commissioner, Adam Thomson, when questioned by the media on his reactions to Dr Tahirul Qadri’s container sit-in.

Now, would one not say that representatives, or citizens, of countries which pour money and assistance into this flailing land of Pakistan have a right to express themselves when it comes to facing up to exactly how the funding is being dealt with and where it all goes? What did Thomson say that has not been said by many homeland commentators and readily agreed to by the long-suffering inhabitants of the hopeless homeland?

Well, he said: “Pakistan needs a radical change. Pakistan’s economy is not growing fast enough. Pakistan’s governments — federal and provincial — are not delivering enough to the people.” Can there be any sane quibbles about any of this? Under the extreme circumstances, it is actually rather mild and definitely to the point. He justified himself as the envoy of a country that is “a friendly observer and supporter” of Pakistan. Yes, a supporter in many ways.

And who can deny that the British taxpayer has an interest in why he is helping fill Pakistan’s begging bowl and why there is ongoing evident deterioration rather than amelioration. This, despite what have been termed ‘free and fair’ elections, starting with that of 1970, which broke the country and lost half of it. Since then, each round of ‘free and fair’ elections has culminated in a decline of various sorts to the point where Pakistan now finds itself — with federal and provincial governments being total flops — a radically ailing economy, with a dire power crisis and widespread violent extremism.

As the high commissioner put it, harking back to the old truth, “The point we are trying to make is that democracy is not just about elections. It is about living up to the standards you set. It is about politicians as role models. It is about earning the trust of the people and delivering for the people”. Change needs to be through the ballot box. Well, what change can be expected this time around, if and when, the elections arrive at our doorstep? Role models! A joke, as is the earning of trust and delivery. The players in the game are all the old, worn-out lot that have been with us since the late 1980s. That is, barring Imran Khan, who seems to be fast fading away as any hopeful alternative to anything. His timing was wonky, as wonky as his policies and pronouncements — a great pity.

The donors from whom Pakistan begs and who give a large amount (not all that is wanted) are entitled to question why the majority of legislators and other well-heeled refuse to contribute to the country’s economy by paying their due taxes. As said by former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, many moons ago, singling out Pakistan: “Countries that will not tax their elite who expect us to come in and help them serve their people are just not going to get the kind of help from us that historically they may have … .”

And on another but similar tack, former US ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter wrote on the Asia Society website on February 7: “… it is crucial that the Pakistani leadership steps up and admits its failings rather than simply accuse the Americans of inefficiency or bad faith. Pakistan’s institutions, from federal ministries to provincial educational to health providers, need drastic reform — and so does the fiscal structure, which through anti-democratic favouring of feudal interests, cripples public faith in Pakistani democracy. Any American assistance from now on should require Pakistani leadership to reform; and it may be that Pakistani calls for an end to the dependency trap of traditional assistance are right.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 16th, 2013.

COMMENTS (9)

farah | 8 years ago | Reply

your writing style gives the impression that you are British?

MSS | 8 years ago | Reply

Pakistan's position has never been stronger. It is aiming a missile (not a gun as in the past) at itself and saying " give us aid or we .sho..." No change is expected perhaps not even the ballot boxes. If pundits are not too wrong it seems like the same dispensation with minor adjustments will be back. Democracy is the revenge.... (from the people).

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