Income disparity and the economic system: Reworking our mindsets

KARACHI: Some negative character traits of human beings – such as greed, hatred, and envy – impact our society and entail certain serious consequences such as crime, war and poverty. Based on a study completed in 2006, the richest 2% individuals in the world own more than half of the global household wealth. The report further elaborates that the richest 10% of adults hold 85% of the world’s total wealth. In contrast, the bottom half of the adult population owns barely 1% of the global wealth.

Clearly, such disparity is unfair and can be blamed for incidences of extreme poverty. Excessive wealth accumulation amongst a few people is a result of a flaw in the system, whereby a few intelligent and powerful persons get away with exploiting the entire system.

Why is it so?

According to the capitalist ethos, greater intelligence deserves greater monetary rewards. Does this signal that intelligent people work harder and hence deserve higher compensation? The answer is, no.

The truth is that the poor work much harder and longer to earn their minimum wage. The jobs that the poor do are equally important for the sustainability of any society, if compared to the jobs that the rich undertake. The disparity in earnings arises because the power to make wage decisions lies in the hands of the intelligent. It is no surprise then that the rich and influential mercilessly exploit the system for their personal gains and use their power to accumulate even more power and more wealth. The graph clearly shows this glaring disparity: 90% of global wealth lies in North America, Europe and the rich Asia Pacific nations (Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, etc).

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This disparity is even more evident if we consider the salaries drawn by the highest paid executives. For example, the Apple CEO’s total package in 2011 was worth $378 million, which was 11,100 times higher than the pay of an average worker in the US. This essentially means that he earns every 47 minutes what a worker earns in an entire year. This disparity is ludicrous and points to the blatant abuse of the economic system. There is no way that the value added to product by a company’s CEO can justify such lavish pay scales.

Where do we go wrong?

In a majority of countries, democracy is seen as a cure to greed and envy, mainly due its objective of creating conditions that allow individuals to achieve happiness and prosperity through the freedom of choice. The system is expected to create laws that discourage the excessive accumulation of wealth. However, democracy can be hijacked if the freedoms of choice are not properly defined and protected. Democratic regimes, run supposedly by the citizenry, can turn into authoritarian regimes under the guise of democracy if too much power gets concentrated in a few hands.

How do we fix it?

The root cure is to have society focus more on fairness rather than freedom alone. This change in paradigm will results in better democratic rules, better life for citizens and a more fair society. We all need to create a culture that favours fairness in our circles of influence, be it in businesses, family or the political process. The impact of doing so will be huge, long term and sustainable. It will result in better sharing of resources, fairer compensation for labour and also result in an improved standard of living for the working masses. Over time, with continued focus, we will see the huge gap between the ‘have’ and ‘have nots’ shrink.

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This problem cannot be solved by waiting for governments to take the lead. Rather, it should be driven by personal initiative at the grassroots level.

THE WRITER WORKS IN THE CORPORATE SECTOR AND IS ACTIVE ON VARIOUS BUSINESS FORUMS AND TRADE BODIES

Financial inclusion: An unheard of phenomenon in Pakistan

KARACHI: In a country where many borrowers without access to formal financial institutions are forced to offset decades-old loans by marrying their female family members off to predatory private lenders, the importance of financial inclusion cannot be overemphasised.

After all, Pakistan ranks embarrassingly low not just internationally, but also regionally, as far as access to formal sources of finance is concerned, according to the World Bank’s Financial Inclusion Database 2012.

It estimates that only 10.3% Pakistani adults maintain an account at a formal financial institution compared to the global average of 50.5%. The corresponding figure for all South Asian economies, which include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, is 33%.

It gets worse in the case of Pakistan’s female adults: a mere 3% of them have an account at a formal financial institution whereas the comparable figure for India, for example, is 26.5%.

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Surprisingly, the problem of low exposure to formal sources of finance is not restricted to marginalised population groups like women or the poor. The World Bank estimates that only 14.3% of Pakistanis in the third, fourth and fifth quintiles of income – i.e. the relatively well-off segment of the national population – maintain a formal bank account. The comparable figure for India is 44.4%, according to the Financial Inclusion Database 2012.

“The explanation for the fact that a majority of Pakistanis is still without a formal bank account can be found in the composition of our gross domestic product (GDP). A large number of people belonging to the agriculture sector continue to stay away from formal financial institutions,” said Emerging Economics Managing Director Muzammil Aslam while speaking to The Express Tribune.

Although the agriculture sector accounts for 21% of GDP, the Pakistan Economic Survey 2011-12 says it generates 45% employment in the country.

Muzammil Aslam

Aslam says people working in many sub-sectors within the GDP’s services sector – which employs 34.9% of the labour force as per the CIA’s World Factbook – are also able to avoid taxes by choosing to stay away from formal modes of financing. For example, the largest sub-sector of the services sector – transport, storage and communication – is crammed with tax evaders.

“Most drivers in the transportation sector receive their salaries in cash from vehicle owners. Nobody tells them that they should open bank accounts to be part of the formal financial system,” Aslam says.

The World Bank estimates that only 4.6% of Pakistanis saved any money for emergencies in the past one year compared to 18% Indians, who set aside some amount for the same reason last year. On the flip side, 17.1% Pakistanis reported that they had an outstanding loan for health or emergencies as opposed to 14.2% Indians who had an outstanding loan for the same reasons.

The comparison suggests that while Indians tend to save more and borrow less when an emergency strikes, Pakistanis save little and borrow heavily for unforeseen events.

Indians tend

“Indians have done major tax reforms in the last decade or so, which has improved their access to finance,” Aslam said. “Unlike expatriate Pakistanis, a non-resident Indian cannot even think about sending home remittances through informal channels, which has eventually resulted in connecting more people to the banking sector,” he added.

Eyeing interest and exchange rates

Risk management and operational efficiency of banks would be tested in 2013 as they may have to operate in a low interest rate regime that is expected to bring about uncertain movements in exchange rates.

The year 2012 saw significant changes in both interest and exchange rates: the central bank cut its policy rate by 250 basis points in three installments, yields on government bonds and treasury bills declined and banks’ fresh lending and deposit rates fell.

All this played a part in fuelling bullish sentiments in stock markets. National Saving Schemes also became more attractive and recorded an all time-high investment of Rs335 billion in eleven months of 2012.

Exchange rates too showed murkier movements. The rupee lost nearly eight per cent of its value against the dollar and at the end of the fourth quarter of this year it even came under a speculative attack as external sector weaknesses appeared more pronounced.

The depreciating rupee provided an impetus to export earnings and contained growth in imports particularly in the last quarter. As a result, the trade deficit narrowed down.

At this point of time, it is not clear whether the central bank would further cut its policy rate or it would put the rate on hold.

“But keeping in view the way SBP has been conducting its monetary policy we can assume that it won’t hesitate in chopping policy rate once again, presumably for the last time during this political setup,” suggested head of one of the top six banks. In mid-April review of monetary policy there would be a caretaker government in place to supervise the next general elections.

Economic growth concerns influenced monetary decisions in 2012 and this is not going to discontinue even in 2013, or at least during a large part of it, because clearing up the present fiscal mess would take time. “And unless the revenue to GDP share increases substantially, economic growth would have to be supported more through monetary easing than anything else,” opined a senior central banker.

“Though the increase in tax revenue to GDP ratio from the present is about nine per cent to say 10-11 per cent may remain elusive for some time, but the country is certainly moving in this direction,” a senior official of the ministry of finance. He cited recent efforts of Federal Board of Revenue to bring more people under tax net and to recover billions of rupees worth due from registered tax-payers. The official hinted that tax collection would surely get momentum once a caretaker government is installed. He also said a rising trend in provincial
revenue, liberal inflows in NSS, some improvement in financials of state-run commercial entities like PIA and an anticipated cut in government expenses during the caretaker setup would ease fiscal problems to some extent.

In that case, it would be more prudent for the central bank to continue an easy monetary policy stance to spur economic growth and thereby provide additional impetus to tax collection. It would thus set the stage for the end of the current crowding out of private sector credit for an even faster expansion of the economy.

“Certainly yes, from our viewpoint this is how it should go along. I think if the process of monetary easing is halted anytime before the start of the new fiscal year in July, that won’t be good for the economy,” said a well-placed SBP source.

“As for the fallout of further easing on the interest rates on savings and investment ratios, one must appreciate that once economy starts growing around six per cent or more it’d be easier for the central bank to keep the policy rate stable without fearing any big negative impact on growth momentum. But all this won’t take place independent of the pace of inflation. If inflation comes closer to double digits once again, chances for which are slim though, monetary policy will respond to it.”

In other words, we can see more of policy rate cuts in 2013 if inflation remains within single digit. Many bankers also share this view. “But what is more important to see is whether SBP will continue chopping its policy rates bit by bit or go for one or two slashing throughout the year.

In either case, there will be pressure on lending and deposit rates but if the rate cuts come in piecemeal it’s good from the viewpoint of managing exchange rates,” said a senior executive of state-run National Bank of Pakistan.

External sector worries may slacken with sustained growth in exports, workers’ remittances and even portfolio investment, but “these worries won’t easily go because we’ll have to keep making huge foreign debt payments and as economy starts growing faster imports bill would become fatter.”

One worrisome trend that had emerged immediately after global recession and continued well into 2012 was that banks lent far less money to private sector businesses(PSBs) than they invested in non-bank financial institutions or NBFIs.

Between November 2011 and November 2012 banks’ investment in NBFIs expanded by Rs118 billion to Rs231 billion whereas their actual lending to PSBs grew by only Rs44 billion. “This is going to change in 2013. I’m quite positive on that,” insisted head of one of the top six commercial banks.

Three things are expected to embolden banks to lend more to PSBs. “First, in order to keep the share of spread income in their overall profits they need to lend more to earn enough money because the interest rates are down. Second, demand from private sector credit has begun to firm up in recent months particularly from such sectors as textiles, chemicals, agriculture, etc. And third, after making lots of money by investing in government papers, banks have become cautious about market risks of their overexposure to treasury bills and bonds.”

One of the market risks associated with this overexposure in a declining interest rate environment is that banks may not continue to make big money either through rollover of such investment in government bonds or treasury bills or through their secondary market trading.

The reason is that the rollover of investment also depends on varying government appetite for funds and the overall availability of liquidity in the market which has so far been kept excessively good by the central bank. And chances for earning quick bucks in secondary market of government bills and bonds are bound to become slimmer as their yields in primary auctions keep falling or remain flat.

Compared to this scenario, banks still have opportunity to earn decent return on their lending to PSBs. Bankers say the entire banking sector would not miss this opportunity though some banks may try to keep a low profile in corporate lending in a politically charged and uncertain atmosphere ahead of elections.

Sindh’s infrastructure in a shambles

Things have not changed dramatically in Sindh as expected following transfer of additional resources under the 7th National Finance Commission Award. Large populations in the province continue to face pervasive poverty while the constitutional tenure of the PPP governments at the centre and Sindh has come to its fag end.

Even in the 150-kilometer radius around the largest city of Karachi, roads are dilapidated and major towns and Taluka headquarters present a situation of neglect that prevailed in Federally Administered Tribal Areas almost a decade ago.

Partly affected by repeated natural disasters, the 140-km stretch of roads from Qaidabad in Karachi to Keti Bundar remain uncarpeted while the Super Highway connecting Sindh’s two largest cities – Karachi and Hyderabad – is in equally bad shape.

Poor health and education infrastructure and lack of enabling conditions for livelihood pose a serious political threat to the country’s largest party now in power. And opponents among the nationalist ranks and regional parties like Pakistan Muslim League-Functional, although not in a position to change the status quo, seem ready to exploit the poor governance and negligible development activities. Pir Pagara’s comparison of infrastructure facilities between Punjab and Sindh appeals to the minds of many voters.

Most of the problems are rooted in inability of the government to invest in infrastructure development but more importantly because of limited or no focus at all even on the maintenance of infrastructure that was built decades earlier. In the absence of road network, none of the tens of small towns and Talukas from Karachi to Keti Bundar have even a single reasonable restaurant. Bazars are in poor conditions, dust blowing through the shops as the luxury imported vehicles like Land Cruisers and Pajeros pass by.

This is despite the fact that over Rs200 billion additional revenues, over and above traditional annual development plans, have over the last three years have flowed into the province that controls the country’s external trade through its ports and produces more than 67 per cent of the country’s gas resources. On top of that, its leadership now rules the country and faces almost no opposition in the province.

Given such resources, it is not difficult to improve the conditions of the people by integrating smaller cities into the mainstream and provide job and business opportunities at the gross roots level instead of burdening Karachi with every passing day. Uneven growth of Sindh cities may have contributed a lot to the situation but its responsibility lies with the poor planning, programme, and implementation.

While almost all the successive governments share the responsibility for such a state of affairs, a lot could have been changed by the incumbent leadership over the medium term since 7th NFC award in 2009 because they had surplus funds though limited absorption capacity. With about 18 million population in Karachi and 3.5 million in Hyderabad, none of the 10 major cities like Sukkur, Larkana, Nawabshad, Mirpurkhas, Jacobabad, Shikarpur, Dadu, Tando Adam, Khairpur and Tando Allahyar have touched one million population.

A baseline study of coastal areas of Badin and Thatta districts completed in November 2012 noted that over 79 per cent of the 1.2 million inhabitants of the two districts were living below the poverty line due to weakening of traditional land-based livelihoods on account of decrease in fish resources, sea intrusion and poor or non-existent infrastructure and grossly neglected social sector.

The survey, according to Muhammad Umar Memon of Sindh Coastal Community Development Project, was carried out with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank and was meant to document economic and social indicators on the ground before a major initiative with Rs500 billion could be launched to see what impact it would have on the conditions of the people. The survey generally covered 42 coastal union councils with 731 villages and 14 union councils were selected for in-depth analysis.

The study showed that the degraded lands shot up to 2.2 million acres in 159 dehs reducing crop production in the two coastal districts.
Droughts and disasters have had a devastating impact on fishing, livestock and other coastal livelihoods. Public forest resources in Badin were limited and irrigated plantations were poorly stocked with only 4.1 per cent area under the tree cover.

The mesquite (Devi) growth in Badin forest and rangelands was reportedly being cut and converted into coal for sale in local and Punjab markets. Riverine forests of Thatta division were also adversely affected by ever decreasing downsteam flows of freshwater from Kotri.

In 1990, about 160,000 hactares of dense mangroves thrived in the Indus Delta. By 2000, mangrove stands were reported merely on an area of 75,000 hactares. Fisheries in coastal region were doing very well until 1991 but then drought and destruction of breeding grounds and estuaries had caused significant reduction in fishing. The loss of fishing ground and use of harmful nets at the mouths of Indus and in the creek system had further degraded the resources and reduced the income of individual fishers.

The two districts were assessed to be highly suitable for aquaculture and mari-culture but the facilities were found to be missing altogether.
Water supply schemes provided by the Sindh government were available in four per cent of sample villages only. Hand pumps, whether sweet water or brackish, were the pre-dominant source of drinking water in coastal villages. Dug wells provided water in 11 per cent villages while ponds and lakes were available to 28 per cent sample villages. About seven per cent of communities in areas closer to creeks also bought water tankers or cans for drinking water.

Low values of Human Development Index were estimated in all coastal talukas. It was revealed that 55 per cent of the project area households were poor when the poverty headcount ration was estimated at the projected official poverty line for 2010-11. Using real time per capita income and assuming poverty line at $1 per capita per day, 77.3 per cent of sample households were rated as poor. Assuming poverty line at $1.25 per capita per day, the poverty headcount ration was estimated at 85 per cent.

Data suggested that only seven per cent women had primary education while only one per cent had passed middle school. About 72 per cent of respondents were married with average marriage of 17 years. More than 70 per cent of sample women were subjected to domestic violence mainly by their husbands while 85 per cent of child births were attended by local Dais (untrained). Infant mortality rate was reported at 46 per cent.

Besides natural disasters, lack of fishing equipment and finances, poor health and education facilities, non-availability of off-farm employment were some of the major causes of poverty. Non-availability of irrigation and quality inputs, lack of support services and unrealistic support prices were also quoted as some of the main issues of the coastal agriculture.

Harnessing our remittances

Given the fact that Pakistan has now become the fifth largest recipient of remittances in the developing world, our policymakers need to pay more attention to issues of concern to overseas Pakistanis and try to channel their incoming funds to help bolster the national economy. According to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), remittances of $11 billion by overseas Pakistanis accounted for seven per cent of the national economy. On the other hand, the total tax revenue generated within Pakistan accounts for merely 10 per cent of GDP. Remittances pouring into Pakistan far exceed social sector spending by the government or what Pakistan receives in aid from international lending agencies.

Despite the significance of expatriate contributions in securing Pakistan’s faltering economy, expatriates have no representation on political or economic platforms in Pakistan. The Indian government, however, has taken numerous measures to court non-resident Indians, although remittances account for merely four per cent of the Indian GDP. Given that our government is severely constrained in its ability to undertake public expenditure, expatriate participation and earnings can also be used to help achieve pending development goals. Remittances already help subsidise the deficient social safety net in the country by helping pay for bills, medicines, marriage expenses and other needs of low-income households, including tuition fees for children who would not be educated otherwise.

The World Bank has floated the idea of diaspora bonds, which developing countries could sell to expatriates to raise capital for development. Given the lack of trust in the state and its functionaries, diaspora bonds may not work in Pakistan. However, an independently operated financial institution that specifically serves expatriates’ needs, such as significantly lowering their transaction costs and at the same time uses remittances to generate investment capital for development projects remains a feasible option to enable expatriates to be directly involved in alleviating poverty in their old neighbourhoods.

Remittances through formal channels have surged in recent years subsequent to international pressure to curb money laundering. The SBP, the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and the Ministry of Finance launched the Pakistan Remittance Initiative to facilitate faster and cheaper remittance flows. Recently, NADRA also began the ‘National Cash Remittance Programme’ to enable more than 100 NADRA centres to process inward home remittances from overseas for the general public using smart national identity cards. These are positive steps.

Policymakers now need to help create incentives for migrants to invest ‘surplus money’ that remains after daily expenses to serve as a multiplier for development. Recent analysis of the remittance data shows that a large proportion of remittances are put into real estate, purchase of agricultural machinery, food and marriages. Less than half of the sampled households were unable to direct any remittances towards investments or savings. One possibility to facilitate this process would be providing permanent expatriate representation in the Planning Commission or the State Bank to put in place an enabling policy environment and programmatic interventions to ensure their sustained contributions to the national economy.

There is also a need to pay attention to improving the recruitment system, enhancing the skill level of Pakistani labour migrants and preventing their exploitation but these issues require a host of other measures, which have to be discussed subsequently.

Another year of the state’s decline

Pakistan has spent the year 2012 deciding what it wants to do: 1) with its relationship with America and the scores of powerful countries worried about the international terror Pakistan is incubating; 2) with its policy towards the Taliban in the face of an overwhelmingly isolationist popular opinion moulded by the deep state; and 3) with an economy rapidly unwinding under pressure from a bad law and order situation, shrinking writ of the state, and corruption.

In 2011, the army had controversially fallen foul of America but was not questioned by politicians in parliament who, instead, joined it in issuing unrealistic resolutions which the army could not implement. Moral weight of these consensual resolutions fell to the advantage of the Taliban and al Qaeda using terror to mould the minds in the country. But Pakistan hurtled itself into more self-flagellation and self-hatred when it reopened the Nato supply route amid loud announcement by the religious parties, non-state actors and other extremists that they will attack the resumed supply convoys.

Terror sprea

The vendetta between the Supreme Court and the ruling PPP continued through the year, culminating in the dismissal of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani — which became internationally controversial and internally divisive. Scandals of corruption continued to attach to the PPP in power but the moral arena of the PPP-judiciary conflict was thoroughly confused when the son of the chief justice of Pakistan was accused of corruption. Meanwhile, the public plaint that pendency of cases at the courts was getting out of hand was ignored. Terrorists were allowed to go free by the courts either because the judges and the witnesses were threatened or the cases were badly investigated. As far as the Taliban were concerned, the judicial system was tilted in their favour in 2012.

Pakistan’s efforts at lessening regional tensions were doomed by its contradictory conduct. Free trade with India and relaxation of the visa regime between the two countries went ahead but the process was hounded by the long marches of protest mounted by the Defence of Pakistan Council that objected to the award of the reciprocal Most-Favoured Nation status to India. Not much was done to disarm the lack of trust of the international community and India on the 2008 case of Mumbai attacks carried out by a Pakistani terrorist organisation, the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Pakistan’s reputation as a responsible state was damaged after Saudi Arabia handed over Abu Jandal to India — the terrorist involved in organising the Mumbai attacks in Pakistan.

Terror spread like a stain of blood from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to Karachi where crime and ideology mixed to take a cruel toll on the man in the street. Throughout 2012, shopkeepers were killed because they could not pay protection money (bhatta) to gangs enjoying political patronage. Towards the end of the year, the Taliban made good their pledge to increase their presence in Karachi. The police proved unable to handle the situation because of its non-merit-based induction of manpower. By the end of the year, it was proved that Karachi was yet another city where Pakistan was unable to tackle terrorism without international assistance in funding and training — and that training could only come from states Pakistan was officially accusing of acts against its security.

A most reprehensible state policy of accusing America — at times together with India and Israel — of doing terrorism in Pakistan indirectly let the Taliban and al Qaeda off the hook and may have encouraged them to kill more Pakistanis with impunity. In 2012, Pakistan completely ignored the killing of Shias in Parachinar, Quetta, Gilgit-Baltistan and Karachi. The Hazara of Quetta, targeted by the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, were forced to join the ‘boat people’ of Southeast Asia in trying to enter Australia to escape persecution at home. By the end of the year, as the process of withdrawal of America and its allies from Afghanistan kicked off, Pakistan was thoroughly mired in terrorism that it did not have the capacity to put down. Dangerously, it continued to develop tactical nuclear weapons that ran the risk of being stolen by al Qaeda.

Out of gas

Those living in Punjab are being made to learn to appreciate ‘Sui gas’ like never before. The dependence on it, its ability to keep houses warm, cook food, light up geysers had never quite been understood. Now that it is available only in short supply, the reality has become better known to all. Without gas, there is no easy way to prepare food and the ludicrous sight of people cooking on small wood fires to put meals on the table can be spotted everywhere in Lahore. The situation is even worse in smaller towns and rural areas. One must not forget that it is only a very few who are privileged enough to be able to afford LPG cylinders – which bring with them their own hazards.

The Punjab government says that the situation in the province has been deliberately created. It is difficult to speculate on that, but one thing is certain: playing politics with the lives and welfare of people should not be taken lightly. And this is precisely what is happening at the present time. It is also true that an ageing gas distribution system and temperatures that have fallen to the single centigrade mark make it harder for gas to be distributed. But this should not be a problem that needs to be dealt with by people who pay increasing amounts for gas that never even reaches their homes. Apart from the domestic consumer, there are also the issues of glaring losses faced by the industrial sector. Our industrial and commercial businesses are already struggling with electricity shortages. The current gas crunch in Punjab is only adding to the difficulties of people. In the meanwhile, there has been a back and forth of blame shifting between the centre and the provincial governments regarding this current crisis to hit Punjab. It is time for them to realise that the people they represent are already living impossibly difficult lives, and all they are asking for is basic fuel for their necessary daily sustenance.

شہزادے کی رسم تاجپوشی

ہماری تاریخ کئی المناک اور کربناک ابواب سے خوں رنگ ہے۔ 27 دسمبر 2007ءکی شام، شامِ غم بن کر لیاقت باغ راولپنڈی میں اُتری اور بہت کچھ ویران کر گئی۔ بے نظیر بھٹو یا بھٹو خاندان کی سیاست اور طرزِ سیاست سے ہزار اختلاف رکھنے والوں کیلئے بھی یہ قومی سانحہ بڑا دردناک تھا۔ اس حادثے نے 2008ءمیں ڈالے جانے والے ووٹوں کا رُخ موڑ دیا اور پپیلز پارٹی کو ہمدردی کے بہت سے ووٹ ملے۔ اس انتخابی کامیابی کے بعد پیپلز پارٹی نے کئی دوسری پارٹیوں کو ساتھ ملا کر حکومت قائم کر لی۔ یہ حکومت ایک دو ماہ میں اپنی پانچ سالہ مدت پوری کرنے والی ہے۔
بے نظیر بھٹو کی پانچویں برسی کے موقع پر اُن کے صاحبزادے بلاول بھٹو زرداری کی پہلی سیاسی پرواز کا میں بڑی بے چینی سے انتظار کر رہا تھا۔ مجھے خوش گمانی یہ تھی کہ آکسفورڈ یونیورسٹی کے کرائسٹ کالج سے فارغ التحصیل ہونے والا تاریخ کا طالب تاریخی شعور سے بہرہ مند ہو گا۔ اسکی نظر نہ صرف عالمی تاریخ پر ہو گی بلکہ وہ ملکی تاریخ کے نشیب و فراز سے بخوبی آگاہ ہو گا۔ مجھے امید تھی کہ اسکا ورلڈ ویو پیپلز پارٹی کے روایتی ویو سے بہت مختلف ہو گا۔ میرا گمانِ غالب یہ تھا کہ آکسفورڈ کی فضا میں زیر تربیت رہنے والا نوجوان بڑا مثالیت پسند ہو گا۔ وہ کئی عشروں سے جاری کھوکھلے نعروں، بڑھکوں اور استحصالی کلچر سے مکمل بیزاری کا اعلان کرے گا۔ یہ فقیر بھی کچھ مدت کیلئے کیمبرج میں زیر تعلیم رہا ہے۔ آکسفورڈ اور کیمبرج کی فضا میں سب سے پہلا درس قانون کی حکمرانی، انسانی حقوق کی پاسداری، عوام کی طرفداری اور سب سے بڑھ کر عدلیہ کی عزت و احترام کا ملتا ہے۔
سچ پوچھئے تو مجھے بلاول بھٹو زرداری کے پہلے سیاسی خطاب سے بہت مایوسی ہوئی ہے۔ یہ رٹی رٹائی، پڑھی پڑھائی پیپلز پارٹی کی ایک گھسی پٹی تقریر تھی جس میں کھوکھلے نعروں، عدلیہ کی بے حرمتی اور اپوزیشن کو دھمکیاں دینے کے علاوہ کچھ نہ تھا اور جو کچھ تھا اس سے بلاول بھٹو کی بے خبری اور کم علمی کے علاوہ کچھ عیاں نہ تھا۔
شہزادے نے جس انداز میں چیف جسٹس کو للکارتے ہوئے کہا کہ بڑے قاضی کے پاس بھٹو ریفرنس سُننے اور بے نظیر بھٹو کیس میں قاتلوں کو سزا دینے کا وقت نہیں مگر اُن کے پاس پکوڑے، سموسے، چینی، سی این جی اور کالا باغ ڈیم کے کیس سُننے اور بے نظیر کی قبر کا ٹرائل کرنے کا وقت کیسے ہے۔ شہزادے کی گرم گفتاری سے عدالت کی کتنی توہین ہوئی ہے یا نہیں اسکا تعین تو عدالت اور قانون دان ہی کریں گے البتہ بلاول بھٹو زرداری کو اندازہ نہیں کہ اسکے اس لب و لہجے سے اسکی ماں بے نظیر بھٹو کی روح کتنی تڑپی ہو گی۔ وہ بے نظیر بھٹو کہ جو نظربند چیف جسٹس کی رہائش گاہ کے باہر تک گئیں تھیں اور وہاں انہوں نے بڑا پُرجوش خطاب کیا تھا اور اس خطاب میں کہا تھا کہ ہم برسرِ اقتدار آ کر چیف جسٹس کو نہایت عزت احترام کے ساتھ اُن کی کرسی پر واپس لائیں گے اور اُن کی رہائش گاہ پر ایک بار پھر پاکستان کا سبز ہلالی پرچم لہرائیں گے۔ عزیزم بلاول بھٹو عدالت سے پوچھنے کے بجائے پانچ سال تک سیاہ و سفید کے مالک اپنے والد گرامی صدر پاکستان آصف علی زرداری سے پوچھیں کہ اُن کی حکومت نے بے نظیر بھٹو کیس میں دلچسپی کیوں نہیں لی۔ انہوں نے کئی مرتبہ بنفسِ نفیس کہا ہے کہ انہیں معلوم ہے کہ بے نظیر بھٹو کے قاتل کون ہیں مگر انہوں نے آج تک کسی عدالت کو بتایا نہ عوام کو بتایا اور نہ ہی اپنے اہلِ خاندان کو بتایا کہ قاتل کون ہیں؟ بلاول بھٹو عدالت کے بجائے وزارتِ داخلہ سے پوچھیں کہ آج تک کسی عدالت میں مکمل چالان پیش کیوں نہیں کیا گیا۔ ایف آئی اے نے آٹھ بار نامکمل چالان پیش کئے مگر اب تک وہ حتمی اور مکمل چالان عدالت میں پیش نہیں کر سکی۔
بلاول بھٹو نے طنزیہ کہا ہے کہ چیف جسٹس کے پاس سموسوں، پکوڑوں اور سی این جی کی قیمتیں مقرر کرنے کا وقت ہے، یہ بات کہتے ہوئے پاکستانی شہزادے نے بعینہ وہ بات کہی جو انقلابِ فرانس کے موقع پر فرانسیسی شہزادی نے کہی تھی کہ لوگوں کے پاس روٹی نہیں تو وہ کیک کھا لیں۔ شہزادے کو معلوم نہیں کہ جب 2008ءکے انتخابات کے بعد پیپلز پارٹی برسرِ اقتدار آئی تو اس وقت آٹا 15 روپے کلو تھا اور آج 35 روپے فی کلو ہے۔ پاکستان کے غریب عوام کے پاس سموسے اور پکوڑے کھانے کی بھی استطاعت نہیں۔ عوام کی منتخب کردہ حکومت نے ملک کی آدھی آبادی سے دو وقت کی روٹی بھی چھین لی ہے اور وہ (30 روپے والی) سی این جی 90 روپے کے نرخ سے بیچ رہی ہے تو بنیادی انسانی حقوق کے تحفظ کیلئے لوگوں کو موت کے منہ میں جانے سے بچانے کا فریضہ عدالت عظمیٰ کو ہی نبھانا ہوتا ہے کیونکہ آئین، اخلاق اور دین کا یہی تقاضا ہے۔ شہزادے کو کہاں معلوم ہو گا کہ گزشتہ پانچ برس میں قیمتیں دو سو فیصد تک بڑھ چکی ہیں اور کروڑوں کی تعداد میں لوگ بے روزگار ہو چکے ہیں۔ ملک میں بجلی ہے نہ گیس ہے اور روٹی ہے نہ روزگار ہے۔
نہ جانے مجھے یہ خوش گمانی کیوں تھی کہ آکسفورڈ سے فارغ التحصیل ہونیوال مثالیت پسند نوجوان یہ اعلان کرے گا کہ میں نے جو کچھ ایک جمہوری ملک میں دیکھا ہے ویسا ہی میں اپنے ملک کو بناﺅں گا ۔وہ پیپلز پارٹی میں ایک کارکن کی حیثیت سے کام کرے گا وہ آگے بڑھ کر انگلستان، فرانس اور امریکہ کی طرح پارٹی کے اندر انتخاب کروائے گا پھر پارٹی جسے چاہے گی اپنا لیڈر منتخب کرے گی۔میری اک خوش گمانی یہ تھی کہ بلاول بھٹو پہلی سیاسی پرواز کے موقع پر پاکستا ن میں روزانہ پندرہ بیس ارب روپے کی کرپشن پر اظہار افسوس کرے گا اور روزانہ درجنوں کی تعداد میں مسل دئیے جانے والے کراچی کے عوام کے بارے میں دلی رنج و غم کا اظہار کرے گا۔وہ بری حکمرانی پر اظہار افسوس ہی نہیں اظہار ندامت بھی کرے گا وہ 40بلین ڈالر سے پانچ سالوں میں 130ارب ڈالر ہوجانے والے قرضوں پر اپنی تشویش کا اظہار کرے گا۔مجھے نہ جانے کیوں یہ یقین تھاکہ ایک آزاد ملک کی فضا میں پَل کر جوان ہونے والا بلاول بھٹو اپنے ملک کی پامال ہوتی ہوئی خود مختاری پر تاسف و اضطراب کا اظہار کرے گا اور وہ یہ کہے گا کہ پہلے جو ہو گیا سو ہو گیا اب میں ملک کی سیاسی و دینی پارٹیوں کے ساتھ مل کر ایک ایسی قومی پالیسی بناﺅں گا جو پالیسی پاکستان کی خود مختاری کو یقینی بنائے گی، ایٹمی اثاثوں کی حفاظت کیلئے ہر قربانی دینے کا عہد کریگی اور پاکستان کیلئے ایک ایسی اقتصادی منصوبہ بندی کریگی جس سے ہم بہت جلد خود انحصاری کی منزل پر پہنچ سکیں گے۔
بلاول بھٹو زرداری کی تقریر کے سیاسی مرتبین کے ذہنی افلاس کا اندازہ لگائیے کہ جو کام پیپلز پارٹی گزشتہ 42 برس سے نہیں کر سکی۔ اسے انہوں نے دوبارہ سیاسی نعرے کے طور پر بلاول بھٹو کے منہ میں ڈال دیا۔ پیپلز پارٹی کے سیاسی پنڈتوں کو معلوم نہیں کہ لوگ روٹی کپڑا اور مکان کے نعرے سے بیزار ہو چکے ہیں اُن کیلئے اس نعرے میں کوئی کشش نہیں۔ لوگ بھٹو خاندان سے اپنے سیاسی رومان کی بنا پراسے ووٹ دیتے ہیں۔ بھٹو خاندان اور اب زرداری صاحب عام کارکنوں اور جیالوں کو بُھلا کر جاگیر داروں، نوابوں، وڈیروں اور سرمایہ داروں کو لا کر کسی کو گورنر، کسی کو پارٹی کا صوبائی صدر اور کسی کو کوئی اور عہدے دیتے ہیں مگر جیالوں نے بھٹو خاندان کے ساتھ انتخابی وابستگی کا جو عہد کیا تھا وہ اب تک اسے نبھاتے رہیں ہیں مگر آنے والے انتخابات میں صورتحال بہت مختلف ہو گی۔ پیپلز پارٹی نے ان پانچ سالوں میں جیالوں اور عوام کے ساتھ جو سلوک کیا ہے اسکی بنا پارٹی کے ووٹ بنک میں بہت کمی آئے گی۔
ہم نے تو اپنے خوابوں میں نوجوان بلاول بھٹو زرداری کو ایک روشن خیال جیالے کے روپ میں دیکھا تھا مگر انہوں نے بڑھکوں، دھمکیوں اور خالی خولی نعروں سے مرصع تقریر کر کے آنِ واحد میں ہمارے خوابوں کے محل کو زمیں بوس کر دیا ہے تاہم بلاول بھٹو زرداری کو اپنی رسمِ تاجپوشی مبارک ہو۔

بھارت کو پسندیدہ ملک قرار دینے کا ایجنڈا ختم کیا جائے

حکومت نے بھارت کو پسندیدہ ملک قرار دینے کا اعلان مو¿خر کر دیا اور 2 جنوری 2013ءکو کابینہ کے منعقدہ اجلاس کے ایجنڈے میں یہ معاملہ شامل نہیں ہے پاکستان نیگیٹو اشیا کی فہرست ختم نہیں کر سکا اور تجارتی برادری کی طرف سے بھرپور دباو¿ کے باعث یکم جنوری 2013 کو ہونے والا یہ اعلان مو¿خر ہوا ہے جبکہ وزارتِ صنعت و تجارت کے ایک افسر کا کہنا ہے کہ ہماری طرف سے ہوم ورک مکمل ہے جیسے ہی کابینہ منظوری دیگی نوٹیفکیشن جاری کر دیا جائے گا۔

 ملک کی موجودہ معاشی حالت کے پیش نظر اور صنعتی و زرعی معیشت کی بھلائی کی خاطر بھارت کو پسندیدہ ملک قرار دینے کے معاملے کو ختم کرنا ہی ہمارے بہترین قومی مفاد میںہے۔ بھارت نے روزِ اول سے پاکستان دشمن پالیسیاں اختیار کی ہیں تو ہمیں اس سے دوستی اور تجارتی تعلقات بڑھانے کی کیا ضرورت ہے۔ جبکہ بھارت سے دوستی کے اعلانات سے ہمارے کشمیری بھائیوں کی بھی حوصلہ شکنی ہوتی ہے جو مسلسل بھارتی جارحیت کا شکار ہیں اور الحاق پاکستان کیلئے ہر قسم کی جانی و مالی قربانیاں دے رہے ہیں۔ گزشتہ دو دنوں2 کشمیری نوجوانوں کی پلوامہ میں شہادت پر جس طرح پُرتشدد مظاہرے ہوئے جس میں بھارتی فوج کی فائرنگ سے 8 افراد زخمی ہوئے ہیں اور آج پوری مقبوضہ وادی میں ہڑتال کی کال دی گئی ہے ان حالات میں اگر بھارت کو پسندیدہ ملک قرار دیا جاتا تو وہ کشمیریوں کے زخموں پر نمک پاشی کے مترادف ہوتا۔ اچھا ہوا کہ اس کا اعلان مو¿خر کر دیا گیا۔ بہتر ہے کہ یو این قراردادوں کے مطابق مسئلہ کشمیر حل ہونے تک بھارت کے ساتھ دوستی کے بکھیڑے میں نہ پڑا جائے اور اسے پسندیدہ ترین قرار دینے کا ایجنڈہ ترک کردیاجائے۔