Who owns Pakistan?

Published: October 29, 2013
The writer is Executive Editor of The Express Tribune

The writer is Executive Editor of The Express Tribune

By now, even the dumbest dunderheads know what ails Pakistan’s economy. And why won’t they? They have been listening to the same old nauseating economic narrative from every ‘economic’ Tom, Dick and Harry, as well as from economically illiterate politicians of all shades and colour plus the official ‘non-economic’ economic managers — both the civil and military types — since long. And, for the same reason, they also know how to go about getting rid of the ailment. If only the ruling elite had allowed them a shot at policymaking and implementation, they would have succeeded in no time where the former had failed so miserably even after having remained in the saddle since the very inception of Pakistan.

For those who grabbed the gravy train immediately after the country achieved its independence, it has been one long, unending golden voyage. Very early in the day they had learnt the mantra of ‘trickle-down’. And a little later, they also discovered the self-serving magic in the market. Feudal aristocracy was the first to snatch a cosy compartment on this train of the ruling elite. They were joined immediately by the top cats of civil and military bureaucracy, including some from the judiciary and the police, followed by big business and the media tycoons. They did continuously differ on the issue of captaincy (a running dispute which was won more often than not by the military bureaucracy) but religiously respected each other’s vested economic interests. And the political parties served as the handmaiden of the captain of the day. During the first 10 years of independence, except for the early couple of years, it was the civil service which ruled Pakistan. Next, it was the military bureaucracy. Then the feudal aristocracy and big business alternated. Currently, it is the big business which is calling the shots.

Since each one on the gravy train, in its own self-interest, is obliged not to infringe on the vested economic interests of the other passengers, no matter what political party is in the saddle, the economic policies of the government of the day remain the same. Even the ultraconservative regime of Ziaul Haq, or that of the pseudo-enlightened Musharraf, followed almost the same economic policies. That is why there has never been any change in the lot of the country’s downtrodden, no matter who was ruling the country. The rich continued to become richer and the poor poorer. The narrative of the ruling elite would remain unchanged: the tax-to-GDP ratio needs to be improved from the current low level to, at least, 15-16 per cent of GDP. But while proposing budgetary measures, they would all try their best to promote their own respective fiscal benefits and leave it to the masses to tighten their belts so as to, at least, maintain the tax-to-GDP ratio at the current level. They would all express their desire to improve investment-to-GDP ratio from the current low levels to at least 24-25 per cent of GDP. But while framing the budget, they would leave the gaps to be filled by dole rather than contribute a part of their unearned incomes for the purpose. They would insist that they would break the begging bowl but gladly accept all kinds of conditional handouts when offered.

The declared motto of all of them is ever higher allocation for education and health. But they would let these allocations slip through as they would try to pocket for themselves as much revenue as they could while stretching the shrinking resources to cover, for obvious reasons, non-targeted subsidies. When confronted with debt repayment problems, they would sell the family silver for a song to friends and family. They would park their loot in offshore companies and claim all kinds of tax breaks in Pakistan. They would talk of good governance but would only rule — not govern. They would promise to establish a welfare society in Pakistan but would bend backwards to sustain and nurture Pakistan as a security state. Every country owns an elite class but Pakistan is one unique country that is owned by its own elite class. These elite live a sheltered existence protected by high walls around their palatial adobes surrounded on all sides by guards armed to the teeth.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (28)

  • Ejaaz
    Oct 29, 2013 - 11:32PM

    You write as the elites changed over time, as different sets grabbed the gravy train. Is it not true that it is the same set of “families” that have been controlling the different branches of Pakistan. Are these not the same set that saw the advantage quite clearly in the 1940’s and hired those who could ask the question of the time: “Pakistan ka matlib kya”. Now you provide the real answer to that question regardless of what people at that time thought. They knew that it was going to be as you say, one unending long golden voyage. Welcome to Pakistan.


  • Salman
    Oct 29, 2013 - 11:34PM

    This article reminds me of the famous book ‘who owns Pakistan’ by Shahid ur Rehman published in late 90s. The book exposed the 22 families that own Pakistan and a detailed account of how the likes of Zardari, sharifs, hashwani and manshas made fortunes in this country.


  • Animal Farm - Desi
    Oct 29, 2013 - 11:38PM

    Come on. You know it… Pakistan was made by the elite class for the elite class Who were the founding fathers of Muslim League…? Elites created Pakistan and since then ‘OWNING” us. Get real.


  • Leela
    Oct 30, 2013 - 12:14AM

    Per Nawaz Sharif, the world can learn a lot from the ‘Islamic’ economy! So why complain?


  • Naresh
    Oct 30, 2013 - 12:28AM

    Pakistan is of the Elites by the Elites and for the Elites.


  • ashar
    Oct 30, 2013 - 12:53AM

    I think the more relevant question is who will own PakistanRecommend

  • faizaan
    Oct 30, 2013 - 1:07AM

    it is the narrative of nearly every country in the world-including the most powerful one-rich get richer and don’t have to face justice(wall street fiasco 2008),and poor get poorer.


  • Arindom
    Oct 30, 2013 - 1:53AM

    At least Indira Gandhi had the guts to cut the ‘princely purse’ of the Maharajahs. Thank God also that we implemented Land Reforms. These two measures were instrumental in letting the aristocracy/royals continue. But what we need now is go after Black Money – this will put the new scammers in the spotlight!


  • x
    Oct 30, 2013 - 3:13AM

    Land reforms in Pakistan were a major fail.
    Also, Pakistan is owned by everyone when it means filling their pockets or celebrating independence day and disowned when we are confronted with the reality of our lack of conscience and morality


  • np
    Oct 30, 2013 - 4:02AM

    @Arindom: Cutting the princely purse was a breach of contract.


  • Ali Tanoli
    Oct 30, 2013 - 6:26AM

    great article sir I am wordering how E,T published it and on other side they censers the comments of truth….


  • Usman
    Oct 30, 2013 - 7:44AM

    @Ejaaz: Pakistan was created for all Muslims of the Sub Continent, including the now residing Muslims in India. The tragedies that befell Pakistan had nothing to do with the why Pakistan was created as we can see still the same attitudes of ordinary Indians that I’m sure my forefathers experienced and decided to support the Muslim League. Now, we need reforms and the person with the political will to deliver those reforms. Nothing to do with whats and whys of Pakistan.
    Yes, Pakistan was created to be a welfare state, lets work towards it.


  • Raj Kafir
    Oct 30, 2013 - 7:51AM

    Pakistanis are not the same race of Indians in the Indian subcontinent. They are Arabs, therefore Arabs own Pakistan. Pakistan is a very interesting country. Majority of the Pakistanis believe that Osama Bin Laden was not killed in Abbottabad. It was a drama. The same majority also believes that Dr Shakil Afridi was instrumental in getting Osama killed by the US forces.


  • wonderer
    Oct 30, 2013 - 8:57AM

    For the life of me, I cannot find anything in this article that is not known already, and which we have not heard a hundred times before. There is also not even a hint of what we need to do to remedy the situation. The moral of the story? The time has arrived for us to learn how to relax and enjoy the rape when it becomes inevitable.


  • Overseas Pakistani
    Oct 30, 2013 - 8:59AM

    Religious fundamentalists, crony capitalists and the army own Pakistan.


  • Munir Kakar
    Oct 30, 2013 - 10:10AM

    The most important is the fact how the Elites succeeded to keep hundred of millions in bondage and utterly convinced to be exploited, humiliated and denigrated. And when the push came to shove they even sacrificed more than half of Pakistan to protect their interest but we were led to believe the grotesque conspiracies hatched by our enemies. All the ideologies that were cunningly contrived and crafted were only the means to achieve the undisputed elitist aim of perpetuating their economic and political hegemony. It is this deceptive narrative that has to be challenged and exposed. Why these hapless millions upon millions are so fool and for that long. The answer has to found in the ruthless exploitation of religion by all for ensuring to secure the secular interests. All policies of the state are mere reflection of this end in sight. Appreciate the ideas put forth in the article with hope that this real and important issue will discussed continuously.


  • Pakistan???
    Oct 30, 2013 - 11:27AM

    For last 65 years Pakistan is either owned or destroyed by the Army, Establishment, corrupt Bureaucrats and Politicians with the of Army support and this sequence will be continued until the whole Nation get lost and just the above will remains survive.


  • amoghavarsha.ii
    Oct 30, 2013 - 12:16PM

    @author, I would rather like to know WHO WANTS TO OWN PAKISTAN!!!!


  • Gurion
    Oct 30, 2013 - 2:37PM

    The correct answer is,America, Saudi, China and Taliban.
    Hope there is a prize for this!


  • Oct 30, 2013 - 3:38PM

    @ Arindom
    Which Land Reforms Sir? The one in 1972 under the fraudulent yardstick of Produce Index Unit and transfer of agriculture land to faithful servants for re transfer to the original land lord, which enabled the feudal of Punjab and Sind to retain thousands of acres of land.


  • kilo
    Oct 30, 2013 - 3:42PM

    .. even talented son of a sitting chief judge who till recently been applying for a job in FIA provided with a very comfortable space on the gravy trainRecommend

  • Indra
    Oct 30, 2013 - 6:28PM

    @Ejaaz: Alhamdulileh, but the fact that feudals of Pakistan could rip such a large chunk of land is in itself monstrous.Think about itRecommend

  • expaki
    Oct 30, 2013 - 9:47PM

    @amoghavarsha.ii: I would rather like to know WHO WANTS TO OWN PAKISTAN!!!! answer is very simple ! Saudis and Pakistani MULLAH


  • ModiFied
    Oct 30, 2013 - 10:37PM

    Confused Muslims own Pakistan.


  • Sandip
    Oct 31, 2013 - 12:39AM

    @Usman: That was the story that was sold to the likes of you. The real story story is what the editor has so nicely explained here. Too bad, the likes of you fell for the story that was sold to you. So now enjoy it for the times to come.


  • rasgullah
    Oct 31, 2013 - 2:43PM

    The arabs and Chinese own Pakistan now.


  • Ali Syedain
    Oct 31, 2013 - 9:12PM

    Mr Ziauddin, there was not even a single new thought in your article, nothing that has not been repeated dozens of times. It is the same mix of bile at everyone, politician, dictator, economic expert, everyone. It fails to substantiate the allegations it throws at all and sundry. It provides no remedy. Why did you write this article?


  • A's
    Nov 4, 2013 - 1:04AM

    Woow,, very interesting article and many interesting comments because it gives an insight of the people, what they want?. the people who owns this country are not interested to know ” who owns Pakistan”, they are more in fear that who will take this ownership from them!! (Taliban, mullah’s, Arabs..etc… ) …


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