Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan belongs to a Lahore based Think Tank.
Sovereignty of Pakistan
American drone bombings apart from killing thousands of Pakistanis has divided the society. The recent missile attack on the settled area of Hangu has further deepened this cleavage. On one had there is a segment of society that approves of drone strategy and believes and preaches that smart bombs cleverly differentiates between the good and the bad before killing. They also argue that the terrorists have killed tens of thousands so a few hundred or thousand more innocent deaths are justified especially if we are getting money from the US. This segment of society is more vocal belonging to the upper strata at times accused of collaborating with the killers for personal benefits. The other group opposed to these killing by drones blaming it for loss of innocent lives and sovereignty of Pakistan. They get labeled as extremists, Taliban apologists and at times “Ghairat Brigade” suggesting that they are looking for national honor that is absolutely impractical for a poor country like Pakistan.
In an interdependent modern world nations don’t enjoy absolute sovereignty like a few centuries back. Still there are acceptable and unacceptable limits whose boundaries at times get blurred. Aerial attacks in another country with missiles causing human loss is considered absolutely unacceptable in any serious setup and society. Surprisingly still there are more drone justifiers in Pakistan, its chief victim, than any other place.
The strong legal position leaves many options for Pakistan like going to the UN and the International Court of Justice with a decent chance of winning. It doesn’t resort to these measures despite making lots of empty noises due to two reasons. 1. Pakistan’s record in fighting terrorism has at times been questionable and 2. Its economy is on life support, extremely feeble needing constant foreign help or may I say alms to survive.
This pathetic situation has made Pakistan the most abused and maligned helpless punching bag of the super powers. It gets its people killed from all sides, suffers a damaged economy due to wars and then gets blamed for everything. Inability to protest against them makes it even more pitiful.
Now it absolutely clear that the biggest threat to Pakistan’s sovereignty doesn’t come from any foreign intrigues or maneuverings but our own self-destructory behavior and habits. Let us see
Our habit of getting in other’s wars acting like hired guns along with our megalomaniac ideas of strategic depth and conquests despite a wretched economy has really harmed our people. This deviated thinking has brought bad name to Pakistan and has nearly left us isolated in the world with no friends. This erratic policy and state of mind has caused great harm to our sovereignty and honor and must stop. We don’t need to conquer other countries or influence them instead focus on improving the lot of our people.
The other main threat to our national sovereignty is a weak economy which basically depends on the balance of income and expenditures. Anything that worsens this balance is a culprit affecting our sovereignty and honor. Let’s try to identify the biggest villains here,
Tax evasion lowers the national income and is rampant here.. The richer a person the less he pays the taxes. Tax in a modern state is a duty and not an optional philanthropy. The country and its people, particularly its poor need and deserve it. Unscrupulous tax evasion is a very serious crime in the world not very far from other heinous crimes. Our top politicians and businessmen working hard to show their opulence and wealth somehow behave oppositely while paying their dues. Surprisingly some very prominent politicians still get votes from the poor despite all too obvious deviances in fulfilling their national duties by paying taxes. Going through the tax returns of some very prominent politicians and businessmen whose lifestyle would be difficult for Bill Gates to emulate, one finds them extremely poor on papers but practically filthy rich.
Corrupt tax collecting practices are rampant causing terrible losses to national exchequer. Many FBR officials themselves discourage people to pay taxes at times punishing them for it. They are more interested in the cut for themselves personally rather than collecting revenue for the state. The lavish life style of tax department officials has been all too apparent for quite some time. This might have been a major factor in bringing down the national tax revenues gradually to the extent where we are now making us the least taxed nation. According to the most estimates people are taxed but this revenue doesn’t reach the national treasury.
Our government and its expenditures have simply gotten out of hand. Government jobs have become aplenty and most sought after because of lavish salaries and perks along with opportunities of corruption. For the work a single person does in the private sector ten people are employed in the public sector still unable to complete their assignments. Repeated governments loaded government departments and organizations with their cronies for years making them too over employed and inefficient. These people are extremely pampered but having nothing to do spend most of their time doing negative things as nuisances created fetch benefits in the form of bribes by the hapless people.
PIA, Steel Mill, Railways and all government departments and offices have become a drain on the national exchequer. Over Rs 500 billion is spent every year just to keep them afloat. They need to increase their efficiency and big cuts in their payrolls to make them viable. Instead of earning revenues, these have become grave burden on the state and its people needing regular cash infusions and Pakistan has to beg other countries for this cash they squander.
The generosity shown by many government officials on state resources showing absolute disregard for discipline is another reason for our financial troubles. Outside of all schools and markets we see flashy government cars and fuel being misused. Expenses incurred on PM and President House, bureaucracy and military has gone beyond all limits. Despite asking for repeated sacrifices from our people the governments never tighten their own belts bringing us to this state of affairs. Unnecessary foreign trips wasting resources is another major source of waste along with many other ways.
Corruption in the government has touched new heights since successive governments learnt new ways of selling the future generations with impunity. They realized the power of their signatures while negotiating sovereign loans and contracts and used these ruthlessly to enrich themselves. IPPs, rental powers, railways engines to name a few, made many politicians and bureaucrats rich at the expense of our future generations and we are still condemned to pay for their unscrupulous and corrupt practices. Some of the worst offenders are no more but known by very respectable titles like shaheeds.
So we see that any business man who doesn’t pay taxes, contractor that overcharges the govt, officials who misuse electricity or cars paid by the government are actually compromising the national sovereignty and honor of Pakistan not unlike Mir Jaffar and Mir Qasim’s of yesteryears. Their unscrupulous actions have tied the hands of our government giving an opportunity to the American officials with threats to Pakistanis with cutting aid for protests against drone killings. They want us to keep on getting our people killed with a smiling face. Not a very desirable situation.
Se we see that financial corruption and irregularities compromises national sovereignty in addition to robbing the poor or haqooqulibad which is unpardonable in Islam. If we are sensitive or serious about our national sovereignty and prestige we must, treat financial crimes not as civil matters but something much more serious like high treason with the punishment these deserve. Many sociologists feel that the mother of Pakistani problems is its moral collapse where illicit gains have stopped carrying a stigma weakening the foundations of all institutions and the society. Financial immorality has become totally acceptable despite the heavy cost it incurs to Pakistan and its people. These severe punishments would be more appropriate and help the moral abyss we have gotten ourselves into. We have several examples in today’s world where self respecting nations give capital punishments to such unscrupulous people.
Sovereignty, honor and dignity doesn’t come easy nor can it be begged. We must fulfill our role to bring our society and country in the league of respectable and dignified nations. We have to rid our society and government of inefficiency, wastage of resources and corruption that has brought Pakistan and its people on their knees. Beggars aren’t choosers nor are they considered respectable anywhere in the world. We have to come out of this rut and break the begging bowl. We have to protect the national coffers being brutally looted by those with the responsibility to protect and use it. If we cant, or don’t want to discharge our duties we loose our right to demand respect of all kinds. We will effectively lose not only our right to life but also right to protest against massacres of Pakistanis which would be uttermost height of helplessness.