Marked with important decisions
By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Aug 20 - 26, 2001
The independence day was marked by some important decisions announced by President General Pervez Musharraf which may have far-reaching effects on social, economic and political life in Pakistan. The desired results of these decisions, however, are subject to their implementation in letter and spirit which is generally a major concern in the light of past experiences.
The people of Pakistan however celebrated the 54th independence day in the conditions which are by and large identical over the years. The present government once again has tried to give a new direction to the people to march to democracy.
On the track
The cost of the mismanagement of the national economy almost by every government in the past is now being paid by the people in general and by the poor in particular. The culmination of the easy course of borrowing money opted by the governments for running the governments in a lavish style has brought a deluge of foreign debt. For the debt servicing of this piled up debt government has no option but to levy a large number of taxes paid by the people. The poor are being punished for the folly committed by the so-called leaders or the economic managers.
President Musharraf, on the occasion of independence day has given the good news that Pakistan is back on the rails and it can now look forward for a better future without sword of economic catastrophe dangling over it. His words "nation has the strength and capacity to rise again" are certainly heart warming, because the only concern of the masses is the evergrowing cost of living which has reached to the saturation point. The limited employment opportunities, stagnant economic activity and exorbitant rise in general prices have added to the miseries of the poor.
The President however says that Pakistan is back on the rails. "It is not me alone who feels satisfaction but the businessmen and industrialists also share this view and it is confirmed by foreign economic experts". "This is not a small achievement". "Apparently, we are in the gulf of despair and hopelessness but something tells me that bold spirit is not dead at all" the President said.
"I am thankful to Allah Almighty for providing me with the opportunity to lead the process of rebuilding Pakistan with the help of my dedicated colleagues and with the support of the people of Pakistan" he observed.
"We have overcome innumerable hurdles to a considerable extent. But our troubles are not yet over." We will have to work hard to overcome them. We are back on the road to recovery". He said revival of the economy was the main focus of his government adding that the government had done a lot to revive the economy from shambles. He also thanked the friendly countries for extending a helping hand to Pakistan in this hour of need. The President said the government had decided to keep reducing the borrowing from abroad. "We have been quite successful in bringing down the day to day expenses of the federal and provincial governments".
The government, he said, had even frozen the defence allocations which, considering the situation on the borders, was no mean achievement. This was made possible because of the desire of the armed forces to contribute to the national economic development and their professional capabilities to adjust to the change without lowering their guards.
Gen. Musharraf recalled that the Government has upheld its promise to hold local government elections under the devolution of power plan. He said strong criticism was made on this plan and pages after pages were written on the certain failure of this system.
However, the people of Pakistan had turned up in an unprecedented number to cast their votes and political parties which described it as a poison for the provincial autonomy felt obliged to participate in these elections in their own way.
He expressed the hope that this new form of the government mandated by the people would prove a boon for the democracy. The process of election would be carried forward for provincial and national assemblies as well as in a similar transparent manner, he said.
The much talked about Agra summit must be viewed as the most outstanding political event of the year. Although it did not result in an immediate solution to the most disturbing issue of Kashmir both for Pakistan and India, yet the visit of Gen. Pervez Musharraf certainly helped breaking the ice and globalization of the Kashmir issue.
Commening on the Kashmir issue, the President said that he was willing to go to any length to keep good ties with India and settle disputes between the two neighbours. He wanted further talks with India after this summit with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee last month. "We are in favour of further talks on the Kashmir dispute and other issues of differences with India without sacrificing our sovereignty, national honour and our national dignity. We are willing to go to any length in order to maintain friendly relations with all our neighbours which is particularly true with regard to India because we are convinced that without the amicable solution of the Kashmir dispute the two countries cannot progress, he remarked.
The good governance which was among the top of agenda of the present government has yet to be achieved. The corruption, arrogance and highhandedness which has become the identity of the ruling class, right from a foot constable to top bureaucrat still continue to prevail. Despite the fact that the present government has taken various effective measures to weed out the corruption at least on the top level, yet the curse of corruption still exist among the ranks and file. They continue to pose as they are born to rule the people. They have yet to realize the fact that they are the paid servants and their justification in the service is to serve the people and not to rule over. Unless this misconception is totally eradicated from every corner of the government organizations, the concept of good governance will remain a dream in this country.
The ever increasing rate of unemployment, ever increasing cost of living, health and education are the issues need to be addressed. These issues are the indicators of the economic health swamped by the huge foreign debts adding to the suffering of the poor alone.
Taking note of the situation, the government has announced separation of Judiciary from Executive. This was certainly yet another historic decision aiming at speedy justice to the poor at their doorsteps and improve the performance of the police force.
Declaring the separation of judiciary from Executive, the President said "a new political culture was being introduced by saying goodbye to 158-year-old colonial legacy. To lessen burden from the civil courts, the government would introduce Small Claims and Minor Offences Courts which would be part of the present hierarchy of the courts, he declared.
"Reconciliation courts are to be set up so that people are rescued from unnecessary litigation and decisions are taken promptly, he explained. He said district and executive magistracy had been abolished while a new prosecution service was being set up. There would be a separate police force for maintenance of law and order and investigation.
Likewise, he said a Public Safety Commission would be established at district, provincial and federal levels to oversee the performance of police force and check it from getting politicized to make a qualitative improvement in its working.
In respect of administrative authority, the President said now 12-13 departments including the DCO would be subordinate to the District Nazim in respect of control and coordination of a district.
He however made it clear that the Government was not against the District Management Group whose career progression from grade 17 to 22 would remain intact. There was now a basic change in the system of responsibility. To him, the President said, it was of secondary importance if a person was affected while Pakistan society attained strength and got boost.
He said that corruption had been checked at higher levels and it was time that it was checked at the lower levels too.
The President expressed his full confidence that the newly elected District Nazims and Naib Nazims would not fail and come up to the expectations of the people.
An immediate ban put on two sectarian organizations — Lashkar-I-Jhangvi and Sipah-i-Muhammad imposed on the independence day was generally welcomed even by the people affiliated with the two sects.
In the decision to check every growing incidents of sectarian clashes and killings it was also warned that activities of two other organizations i.e. Sipah-i-Sahaba and Tehrik-i-Jafaria — would be watched.
The President who warned the Sipha-i-Sahaba and Tehrik-i-Jafaria has said that he would not hesitate to ban them also. Nobody would be allowed to incite sectarian and ethnic hatred among the people and for that a law, in an amended form, was being introduced.
The law prescribed stringent punishment for terrorism, he said and added that the chief justice had already issued instructions for the disposal of terrorism cases on priority basis. Law enforcement agencies including the Police and Rangers have been instructed to carry out operations against sectarian and ethnic organizations. About the drive against illegal arms, he said that targeted operations would be carried out for the recovery of illicit arms. He noted that in the initial phase of the campaign, the recovery rate was quite satisfactory and that over 125,000 arms had been recovered. But the rate of arms recovery since then had slowed down. He said that efforts would be stepped up for the purpose through operations to selected localities. He said that display of arms had been brought under control to a great extent. The arms display in society had been damaging the country's image and scaring away domestic and foreign investors. He regretted that ethnic and sectarian extremism had caused immense damage to the country and projected it as an intolerant society. We do not have a magic wand but measures were being taken for the restructuring of the police force, he said. As a part of the police restructuring, a special prosecution service under the control of provincial government was being set up to ensure expeditious disposal of cases in courts.
President Gen. Pervez Musharraf also unfolded a new economic strategy that seeks to undertake 20 mega development projects costing over Rs200 billion during next 3 years. The new economic era is being ushered to make the country strong both politically and economically, the President observed.
Speaking to the newly elected Nazims and Naib Nazims, he said that the proposed development projects will not only improve the country's GDP growth rate but also provide jobs to one million people in the country. He said he himself would visit most of the places from August 15 to 21 to launch these projects with a view to alleviating poverty and giving a real kick-start to the economy. The major projects include Gomal Zamzam Dam, Mirani Dam, Greater Thal Canal project, Right Bank Outfall drainage project (RBOD), development of coastal highways, Chashma Right Bank Canal project, Greater Quetta Water Supply project, Northern Bypass and the initiation of Turbat-Band road project in Balochistan.
In addition to these projects, the feasibility study was currently being conducted for some more projects which include Kachi Canal project, supply of 100 gallon water project in Karachi, undertaking M-3 and M-4 motorway project, building of Gwadar-Turbat road and Gwadar port with the help of China and the development of Thar Coal project in Sindh.
Out of these 20 projects, the President will launch 9, while remaining projects will be undertaken by March 23, 2002 after having completed their feasibility studies.
The President assured that there would not be any shortage of funds to start these mega developed projects. We have already lined huge local and foreign resources for these projects, he said.
Pakistan had the biggest coal reserves at Thar in Sindh, which needed to be development at the earliest. These unprecedented huge reserves of coal could help generate 3000 MW of electricity by using Thar coal. He said that initiation of new development projects would not only help alleviate poverty but also greatly help some of the important sectors of the economy like steel, cement and construction industries. He regretted that Pakistan leaders and politicians did not gave attention to improve the economy. "But we have started taking timely actions to revive the economy".
Roadmap for democracy
A roadmap for the restoration of democracy was also unveiled by the President on this occasion. It provides guidelines for holding elections to the national, provincial and the senate in October 2002.
The election process, which will be completed in four phases, will also incorporate several amendments to the Constitution.
The election process would be completed through a strategic plan within the parameters provided by the Supreme Court.
The elections for the national and provincial assemblies will be held between October 1 to October 11, 2002.
While announcing the election schedule, President Musharraf said that he has fulfilled one of his major promises to hold elections within the timeframe given by the Supreme Court:
Giving the details of his plan, Gen. Musharraf said the first phase towards restoration of democracy has been completed with the installation of district governments, which have become functional from August 14, 2001.
During the second phase, he said which start from September 1, 2001 and ends on June 30, 2002; the constitution of Election Commission and commencement of delimitation of constituencies would be finalized by October this year. The finalization of the proposed constitutional amendments to introduce checks and balances and their release for public analyses and comments would be completed by May 2002.
The announcement of constitutional amendments and completion of electoral rolls and delimitation of constituencies will be finalized by June 30, 2002. During the third phase, Gen. Musharraf said, exact dates would be announced on July 10-11, 2002 for general elections to the national, provincial assemblies and senate. On Aug 1, 2002, the Election Commission will notify the election schedule. Filing of the nomination papers and their scrutiny, publication of the final list of candidates, allotment of symbols, printing of ballot papers, nomination of returning officers and designation of polling stations will be announced on August 7, 2002.
The President said that transfer of power to the elected representatives would be completed between October and November 2002 during which oath-taking of the elected members of the national, provincial assemblies and senate, election of the speaker and deputy speakers of the assemblies and chairman and deputy chairman of Senate and the formation of federal and provincial governments will be completed.
During this period the federal and provincial governments will be formed followed by address of the President to the joint session of the parliament.
General Musharraf hoped that setting-up of district governments at the grass roots level and the completion of the general election in October next year would establish true democracy in Pakistan.
He however sounded a note of warning that there would be strong checks and balances to ensure that the new system worked to the satisfaction of the people of this country. He said that new system would discourage corruption. He pointed out that on October 12, 1999 the present government found a situation where most institutions of state were either dysfunctional or were on the verge of collapse. Democracy had regressed into autocracy, dissent even within the ruling party had been prohibited by law, Centre's rule imposed on a province by misusing emergency powers and the Supreme Court had been subjected to physical assault.
The economy was in a state of virtual collapse and the investors' confidence stood shattered due to freezing of foreign currency accounts. Also taxation and accountability authority had been misused and massive loans were written off and defaults condoned, he added.
Besides introducing the new form of government at the local government level, major changes in the police department and the separation of judiciary from administration, the financial sector of the country is expected to witness some major events by the end of the year.
The government owned shares in some major institutions are to be made public through stock market. Among these institutions are MCB, NBP, Pakistan Oilfields Ltd and Attock Refinery Ltd. The privatization of UBL, HBL, PTCL and KESC is also not far away.
One may hope that with implementation of the economic agenda of the present government the agony of the poor will also come to an end.