Many readers of The Express Tribune must have received an email entitled “The Reform Act of 2015”, which was apparently drafted by a spirited individual who was appalled not only at the salaries and perks doled out to MNAs, but also a little peeved that the public has never questioned the terms of service. Though the email sounds a little tongue-in-cheek and is being rapidly circulated to others with a request to send it on to another 20 people on their grid, interest will probably wane after a while as it usually happens, as people start to worry about electricity blackouts, the water shortage and why their internet is even slower than it is in Botswana.
But it is the first serious communication I have come across during the last two years about the high cost of maintaining what passes for democracy in Pakistan, and the need for cutting down the emoluments and perks of a bloated, grossly overpaid institution that is collectively costing the taxpayers around Rs54,720,000,000 over a five-year period, while it hasn’t come up with a single redeemable action that would have made this country a better place to live in. It is bad enough that a number of opportunists tried to enter the club with fake graduation certificates, and a large number stayed away from the debate on the budget, as if it was of no concern of theirs. If they had at least spent as much time as they spent watching television where ‘experts’ dilate on why Pakistan won or lost against Sri Lanka, we might have seen a little more commitment.
One of the great myths in politics is that when a citizen joins a political party and offers himself as a candidate, he is doing so out of an altruistic motive and a genuine desire to serve the nation. The history of this fledgling democracy has apparently proved otherwise. The problem is that different politicians have vastly different ideas about how they can serve the masses. President Farooq Leghari’s idea of setting an example was to take 70 guests to the US in the president’s aircraft at state expense for his son’s graduation. Tansu Ciller, the beautiful prime minister of Turkey on the other hand, flew by her national airline with just one secretary to the US for her son’s graduation. Pervez Musharraf, in a state of euphoria, took a whole raft of sycophants on a round-the-world trip at the taxpayer’s expense to places like Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires with whom we have negligible trade.
The least said the better about Chaudhry Amir Hussain, speaker of the National Assembly during the reign of the turncoat Chaudhry Brothers, who surpassed all the other squanderers of the taxpayers’ money and established something of a record when he asked for an office as large and posh as that of the president, and repeatedly sent loads and loads of Muslim Leaguers on joy rides to Switzerland. So much so, the Swiss authorities wondered why Pakistan always had to borrow money from international creditors while it always looked for unique ways to waste what little money it had.
The proposed Reform Act of 2015 suggests a number of hard-hitting proposals among which are abolishing pensions for parliamentarians once they are out of office, insisting they get treated locally and not abroad, insisting that those with criminal records or convictions should be banned for life from ever re-contesting, must not be given the power to raise their own salaries and must remember they are subject to the same laws as other citizens of this country. Around 40 free flights in business class a year for wife or p.a.? Heck… even the Americans don’t get that.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2015.
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