INTERVIEW WITH BARRISTER SHAHIDA JAMIL, FORMER FEDERAL MINISTER FOR LAW, JUSTICE, HUMAN RIGHTS, & PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS
Apr 11 - 17, 2011
Mrs. Shahida Jamil, Barrister-at-Law from the Hon'ble Society of Gray's Inn, London, is the first woman to have been appointed a Provincial Law Minister and thereafter, the first woman to have been appointed the Federal Minister for Law, Justice, Human Rights & Parliamentary Affairs in Pakistan, besides having held other portfolios such as Environment, Rural Development & Local Government in the Federal Government. Mrs. Shahida Jamil also holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science and English Literature from Karachi University through St. Joseph's College, Karachi. She obtained her Degree of an Utter Barrister from the Hon'ble Society of Gray's Inn, London, UK. She is a member of both the Sindh High Court Bar Association and the Karachi Bar Association and is practicing law as a Legal and Policy Consultant, and has worked also as a World Bank Consultant. She is a Senior Professor of Law for the Post-Graduate Masters of Law Programme at the Sindh Muslim Government Law College, Karachi in the subjects of "Human Rights" and the "Comparative Study of Constitutions" - specifically the British, Swiss and Turkish Constitutions. Besides, other matters, as the Federal Law Minister, she has negotiated with the Asian Development Bank and contracted the ADB $350 Million "Access to Justice" Loan, for the improvement of the laws and legal education, better evidence-gathering by Police and improvement of working conditions of the subordinate Judiciary - for all four provinces - the disbursement of which, in tranches, began in January 2002.
She also agitated the issues of India's interference in Pakistan's water sources and water rights at the World Summit of Sustainable Development (WSSD) at the Johannesburg, South Africa, held in 2002, and successfully campaigned against the World Commission of Dams "Guidelines", which were against the interests of all lower Riparian, resulting in the scrapping of those biased guidelines.
Barrister-at-Law - From the Hon'ble Society of Gray's Inn, London, 1973 - (Secured Second Class Merit in Mohammedan Law);
Bachelor of Arts Degree in:
- Political Science,
- English Literature (from St. Josephs College, Karachi University in 1966).
- Inter Arts in: a) Adv. English
- b) Economics
- c) World History
(St. Joseph's College, Karachi).
- 'O' Levels (Senior Cambridge) - from St. Josephs Convent High School, Karachi.
a) Daughter of Late S.A. Sulaiman (Businessman) and late Begum Akhtar Sulaiman (Prominent Social Worker).
b) Paternal Grand-daughter of Late Dr. Sir Shah Mohammad Sulaiman, LL.D. (Cantab), Ph.D (Mathematics), Barrister-at-Law, Ex-Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court, later elevated to Federal Court Judge of British India, and Vice-Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University (1938 - 1941), (before Partition).
c) Maternal Grand-daughter of Late Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, M.A. (Oxon) & BCL (Oxon) Barrister-at-Law, Premier of Bengal, British India (1946-1947), Prime-Minister of Pakistan (1956-57) and Founder of Democratic Opposition in Pakistan; and Prominent Barrister-at-Law.
d) Great-niece of Late Sir Abdur Rahim, M.A. (Cantab), Barrister-at-Law, President, Central Legislative Assembly of British India(1941-1947), and Former Senior Judge of Madras High Court.
PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ABOUT RECENT INCREASE IN PRICES IN PETROLEUM PRODUCTS IN PAKISTAN.
BARRISTER SHAHIDA: It is very sad to see the command-economy approach being repeatedly adopted by the Finance managers of Pakistan since 1960. Unhealthy measures put into place over the years have drained every sector of our economy of its income-generation capacity, and the only sector surviving today from which some revenue can be drawn from the people through indirect taxation for the coming Budget (2011-2012) is the petroleum products sector. The command-economy approach steadily brought into place over the years has so driven out the market forces, both international and domestic, that it has disabled us from linking up with the prosperity-opportunities available within the international financial world. In fact, through various measures, troublesome landmines have been embedded in our market environment which have not only obstructed honest income-generation activities but have blown up our chances of becoming competitive and reviving our economy. These troublesome measures have brought us nothing but misery, the depletion of investment, increase in corrupt practices and the growth of a black economy.
Even our small and medium enterprises, the real engines of growth, have been suffocated by the dearth of energy supply, lack of proper public transportation, taxes, excise duties, rules and procedures and rising costs through indirect taxation with the result that most production units have closed down causing massive unemployment, whereas others are surviving by giving low wages. This massive reduction of proper and honest income-generation opportunities and the resultant drop in the level of earnings in the face of rising prices, has paralyzed the people's ability to set up a productive democratic culture that can effectively act as a safeguard against the debilitating policies of governance. It has actually smashed the purchasing power of the population. The reality is that we have steadily been transformed into a society of penurious wages, i.e. un-livable and unfair remuneration that is wrongly called "wages", in which we are now unable to absorb the shock of even a small measure of indirect taxation. In fact, we have now reached the stage where revenue generation even for the purpose of funding the perks and privileges of the public office holders and their utilities expenses are now under a serious threat. Therefore, the petroleum products sector, being the last productive area miraculously surviving, where some income is being generated, has become the target of our finance managers for drawing the remaining ounces of blood from the public so that the managers can somehow draw up a budget for the next fiscal year. With penurious wages and purchasing power being smashed so badly, the added rise in prices will only lead to disastrous consequences. It is important to note that our level of remuneration was livable in the1950s, but in 1960, the process of de-linking salaries from the cost-of-living index began as a fiscal policy using the excuse of an empty exchequer, and saying that the answer lies only in "price control". Hence the public focus was deliberately shifted towards thinking that coercive measures of price control were essential as market forces were the 'devils' who exercised "profiteering, hoarding, black-marketing and corruption". Similarly, the lawyers, who understood the implications of the legal measures being put into place, were also painted as "devils" in the Justice system. Even the documentation of the economy and records that safeguarded its integrity, were either burnt in strange fires that erupted out of nowhere and for which no answers were given, or were allowed to rot in cupboards and storehouses to be thrown away later. Further records were subjected to neglect and the Justice system was slowed down by the introduction of new innovative and un-safeguarded procedures replacing some excellent old procedures. Thus, the marginalization of the market forces and the lawyers took place, under the fanfare and trumpet of setting up a "welfare state". The truth was nothing near to becoming a 'welfare' state but instead the country was being turned into an 'opaque' state so that debilitating economic and other measures could be enforced without challenge. Thus, East Pakistan was used as an excuse to put a 'flood tax' on petroleum products and despite 1971, our finance managers have continued to draw revenue from it, without the general public realizing it. Time, however, waits for no man. In 1974, the political, monetary, and financial managers had hurriedly sought the assistance of a Muslim brotherly country, Saudi Arabia, to get a special (major) confessional oil facility (in fact a subsidy) on which they were dependent till today. With the advent of 1991, an era of anti-subsidization and demand for healthy market conditions rose, making revenue generation a problem for our command-economy political, monetary and finance elite. Thus, our managers ended up targeting the energy sector as a good source of revenue through indirect taxation. They first used the electricity sector by raising prices to fund the budget besides using the loans and grants they got from the multi-lateral agencies. As our credibility dried up internationally, we kept our domestic population confused by blaming all our mistakes on the IMF, the World Bank and what the government coined euphemistically as "the Circular Debt". But as the ability of the "wage" earners fell rock bottom and our hydel power potential got jammed up in a deliberately managed political controversy, the only reliable documented area left for the politicians and managers to draw blood from to finance their perks and privileges expenditure, became the petroleum sector. The problem is that many departments have not received their salaries as the funds are inadequate. Whenever there is an outcry for a rise in salaries, the excuse given by the politicians, policy advisors and monetary and finance managers, is that the economy is in a poor state and that "low" wages would "attract international investment". Well, today, the cat is finally out of the bag. Despite all the hype created by them, we neither have international investment eager to come out to our weirdly structured market environment with its embedded landmines in the shape of laws, rules and regulations, unaffordable prices of our basic needs, inadequate energy supplies, a difficult labour market, and our impecunious and pauperized remuneration culture based in artificial "wages" that have killed purchasing power. Using measures that are killing the economy, gives rise to the impression that our political and economic managers are keen to increase the decile coefficient to the point where it causes the collapse of the state.
PAGE: WHAT SHOULD BE DONE TO CONTROL INFLATION IN PAKISTAN?
BARRISTER SHAHIDA: This matter involves a proper study by monetary and finance managers who have the correct fundamental knowledge of how prosperity is generated in a society so that rewarding and fair income-generation is accessible to the public and their purchasing power becomes strong enough for them to have enough surplus for "savings", which is the silent strength of a prosperous economy. At the moment, savings are hard to gather and those invested or deposited are being eroded by inflation. Even the savings sunk into real estate have become "dead capital" as purchasing power is penurious and there are no real purchasers. The answer to controlling inflation does not lie in price "control" but in price "regulation" dependent on the consumer's strength, i.e. the public's strength, to opt for the competitor's product, which we call 'market forces'. It is the consumer's demand mechanism that regulates the market. "Price control" drives with government functionaries visiting shops and markets with the press and media in tow, is not a 'regulated' market economy, and is merely the policy that opens up the market environment to hoarding, black-marketing, corruption, bribery, and a black economy. Everyone with the right knowledge knows that. So why do our public-office holders, policy-makers, politicians and government officials repeatedly keep confusing the public by calling for these negative measures as the only solution? The reason is that they are, by policy, not opening up the market to domestic and international investments, real job creation, rewarding remuneration, nor controlling inflation. They, instead, are shutting down the economy and killing the purchasing power of the public so that it is unable to raise its voice. Proper study, analyses and better and new monetary and finance managers are needed who actually understand how to genuinely increase the opportunities for investment, job creation, rewarding remuneration, savings and improvement of purchasing power of the public. Then inflation will be controlled and neutralized.
PAGE: HOW WOULD YOU COMMENT ON JUDICIAL SYSTEM IN PAKISTAN?
BARRISTER SHAHIDA: We have many problems in the judicial system that needs to be addressed. It requires great investment, improvement, and modern management, besides correcting the imbalance in the separation of powers. The Police also needs to be improved in administration and capacity building.
PAGE: YOUR VIEWS ON ON-GOING CONFLICT BETWEEN GOVERNMENT AND JUDICIARY.?
BARRISTER SHAHIDA: It is very unfortunate. The problem lies in the Constitution of 1973, which has many imbalances and after the 18th. Amendment has deteriorated further.
PAGE: WHAT WOULD HAPPEN INCASE THE CASE OF RECENT INCREASE IN PRICES OF PETROLEUM PRODUCTS IS REFERRED TO THE SUPREME COURT?
BARRISTER SHAHIDA: Nothing. Increase in prices is a matter of policy and governance and, hence, is a "nonjusticiable" issue, i.e. it is inappropriate for a judicial decision. The courts should not accept cases that require decisions on economic and political questions because they cannot be resolved on legal or constitutional grounds. Economic and political questions are never clear-cut like legal or constitutional matters. To adjudicate on them would not only produce ineffective results but would also drag the courts into economic and political controversies. Hence, courts only accept "justiciable" issues for adjudication.