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Independence Day

A time to live by Unity-Faith-Discipline

By AMANULLAH BASHAR
August 16 - 22, 1999

The "Independence Day" can be described as the most happiest occasion as nothing else could be precious, but, a "sense of freedom" for an individual or a nation.

Despite all odds and evens, the country has passed through during its chequred history of 52 years, Pakistanis are set for a grand jubilation, this year too, in the hope of better days.

Looking back the days when Pakistanis as a newly born nation celebrated the first independence day on August 14, 1947 with tears of gratitude in their eyes and hearts filled with joy and happiness. On this historic day, regardless of the price they had paid to make the struggle for Pakistan a success, they were happy to have a separate homeland. They were happy with a sense of freedom from the religious, economic, political, administrative and social slavery of Hindu Raj. They were happy because their dreams had come true.

Today, while celebrating the 53rd independence day, the eyes are still wet due to sorrow and grief over their shattered dreams of enjoying to live respectfully under good governance in an economically prosperous society. A society where the future generations would be allowed to live free from corruption, mal-administration, injustice.

The nuclear status achieved by Pakistan is of course a matter of pride for the nation. Militarily speaking, the nuclear status has brought Pakistan at par with neighbouring India which has always posed a threat for the security of Pakistan on account of Kashmir issue. The credit for this great achievement goes to present government 'no doubt'. However, the nuclear status has made it rather more imperative for Pakistan to become economically strong as well.

Currently, the national economy is heavily indebted. Debt servicing has become a major problem to deal with. Pakistan has to pay Rs287.4 billion for debt servicing. Though, the present government has managed to convince the international donors for rescheduling of the debt payments which has given a breather, formidably increasing size of debts and their servicing would continue to threat our economic independence. Since a major chunk of our budget (Rs.642.2 billion for the current fiscal year) goes into debt servicing, it will continue to hamper our economic growth in future unless committed steps are taken to get rid of the debt retirement.

According to official figures, Pakistan's outstanding external debt (medium and long term) is close to $23 billion, however, the unofficial sources estimate the external debts at $31-32 billion. This debt registered an increase of 1.6 per cent over 1997-98. The debt servicing liability increased by 9.5 per cent to $2,577 million as a result of higher cost of borrowing and lower maturity of loans. The commitments of foreign aid during 1998-99 is estimated at $2,698 million which is higher by 28.1 per cent and disbursements are expected to fall by 18.9 per cent to $272 million.

Mismanagement

Consequently, mismanagement of huge foreign debts, over the years, by different governments in Pakistan, mainly on political considerations, has burdened the people with acute poverty.

Since the early 1990s, the problem of poverty has been intensified because of slowing down of economic activity. The structural adjustment programmes and macro-economic stabilization measures have imposed heavy burden on the poor. Moreover, the burden of increase in indirect taxes has also fallen disproportionately upon the lower income groups. Furthermore, reduction of development expenditure has also contributed to growing level of poverty in Pakistan. The targeted anti-poverty programmes are limited with spendings on Social Safety Nets amounting to a mere 0.2 per cent of the GDP.

Unity-Faith-Discipline

The most outstanding feature of the leadership of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the Father of the Nation, was to bring Muslims of different sects, regions and ethnicity from all corners of the sub-continent at one platform which provided fuel to a successful Pakistan Movement. His dynamic leadership, based on the golden rules of 'Unity, Faith and Discipline' proved to be a binding force among the Muslims. When Pakistan came into being, the spirit which embarked the struggle for Pakistan to a great success, was still alive. There was no Sunni, Shia, Devbandi, Barelvi, Sindhi, Punjabi, Pakhtoon, Balochi or Mohajir etc at the time of Independence. It was one nation, committed to build a strong Pakistan to live respectfully among the comity of the nations.

Unfortunately, the most horrifying and torturous feature of the day is that the spirit induced by Quaid-e-Azam, is rapidly vanishing out of the national scene. The elements of small vision have poisoned the national unity by unleashing provincial, sectarian and ethic slogans to achieve short term political gains.

Warning

Pakistan, perhaps, is the only country where the disgruntled political leaders and pressure groups can dare to issue public statements that if their demands were not met the country would disintegrate. They always tie up country's integrity with their party interests. While in power they do not tire to talk about national integrity but they suddenly change their instance on the other side of the table. Issuing public statements about disintegration of the country, which are also carried by the national press, is a cruel joke with the sentiments of the patriots who believe in "live and die for the solidarity and integrity the country".

There is a dire need for development of a national consensus that whatever the circumstances may be, no political party, pressure group, member of the national media, will issue and publish statements threatening to the existence of the country. Such statements not only inflict a sense of dejection about country's stability but also invite the enemies to conspire against Pakistan.

To achieve their nefarious designs through fragmentation of the society, the people of vested interest are already out to divide the nation into ethnic, sectarian and regional groups. The erosion of the national sprit of course is a great national loss. A loss which is much bigger than the economic loss. We can overcome the economic problems through concerted efforts as a nation but "how to overcome the loss of national sprit" should always be placed on top of our national priority agenda.

The corrupt officials working on a single point agenda to mint money 'by hook or by crook' have added fuel to the fire. Their deliberate failure to dispense justice while dealing with people is one of the greatest factors eroding the national spirit. Love and respect for the country evaporates when people do not get justice. Now is the time that organizations and officials should not be allowed any more to trifle with the sacred cause of national unity. The solution of the problem lies in complete overhauling of our national institutions and public sector organizations which should be totally made free from politicization in the larger national interests. It is the trend of politicization of the public sector organizations at a massive scale by different governments, which consequently ruined the objective to work for a strong Pakistan. The political workers who managed to grab their place in different organizations worked in the interest of the party they belonged to instead of working in the interest of the country. Besides cleansing the national institutions of such elements there is a need to evolve future policies in accordance with the objectives of Pakistan's creation and interests of the people. Pakistan needs a leadership having a characteristic to unite the whole nation on common objectives, to mobilize public opinion for a struggle to achieve objectives of economic independence and national solidarity.

The situation is sounding a note of warning that out of frustration, people have started identifying themselves with their provincial affiliations. Instead of taking pride to be Pakistani, feelings of hatred fanned by anti-national elements have psychologically poisoned peoples mind against other groups.

Generally speaking, people who love Pakistan, seriously feels about it rather speak more harshly off the record as against the sophisticated written words but also feel helpless themselves. "How this trend, if allowed to prevail, could be harmful to the national integrity?" should be realized as early as possible by the people at the helm of affairs. The situation demands that nation should once again revise the forgotten lesson of Unity, Faith and Discipline given by Qaid-e-Azam.

Analyzing the situation, a university teacher who requested not to be quoted said that the disgruntled elements who failed to make place for themselves through different means in politics succeeded in dividing people in the absence of consensus national priorities. The first thing needed to be done is to decide our national priorities and make them a part of our Constitution. We have to evolve clear policy objectives to give a direction to the nation. These priorities and policy objectives have to be implemented through creation of a harmonized culture and also through legislation.

Federal Minister Sheikh Rashid, while realizing the importance for revival of the national spirit, has said that this year "Jashn-e-Azadi" will carry a message of national unity and determination to fight against foreign aggression to achieve the ultimate goal of liberating Kashmir, by extending all possible moral and political support to Mujahideen. The nation, he said would also resolve to move forward with greater vigor and zeal for achieving socio-economic prosperity.

Education

The segment of human resource development through introduction of radical changes in our education system is almost a neglected sector in Pakistan. The obsolete examination system and syllabus continues to prevail in our education. Universities are continued with issuing degrees in subjects like Social Work, Sociology, General History, Political Science and a number of other subjects which have no place in practical life. The degrees generally issued in these subjects cannot help the students to get a job. If it is not too harsh to say, generally speaking, these degrees are used for the decoration of drawing rooms. There is a need to convert university resources for more practical subjects which could economically help the students as well as the national economy instead of walking on the beaten path.

Government, however, claims that Pakistan has made progress in the education sector in terms of expanding the number of educational institutions and raising the literacy rate from 26 per cent in 1981 to the current level of 45 per cent. In order to revamp education sector a new education policy has been introduced last year which is under implementation. The policy broadly aims at increasing literacy rate, reforming the examination system, enforcement of compulsory primary education act by 2004-5 and raising total expenditure on education up to 4 per cent of GNP by the year 2010.

During the year 1998-99 the number of primary schools increased from 156,545 in 1997-1998 to 163,746; Middle schools from 15,747 to 17,007, and the number of High schools increased from 10,183 to 10,519. In addition, there were 498 Secondary Vocational Institutions; 735 Arts & Science Colleges, 265 Professional Colleges and 26 Universities including one female university in the public sector. The enrollment at the primary stage in 1989-99 increased by 5.9 per cent (4.6 per cent male and 8 per cent female); the Middle stage enrollment has increased by 3.3 per cent (1.2 per cent male and 6.8 per cent female); and High school by 7.7 per cent (7.4 per cent male and 8.3 per cent female).

Manufacturing

The value addition in manufacturing sector either stagnant, is showing a weak progress. According to an official assessment value could register only 4.7 per cent increase in 1998-99 as against an impressive recovery of 7.9 per cent in 1997-98. The large scale manufacture grew by 2.7 per cent in July-March 1998-99 as compared to 7.6 per cent growth achieved last year. The small scale manufacturing continues to grow by 8.4 per cent. Factors like economic sanctions, the side effects of the measures such as encouragement of non essential imports, decline in domestic and foreign investment due to uncertain economic environment and lower demand for exports because of global economic recession, adversely affected the growth of large scale manufacturing. The government, on its part to combat the situation, has intensified its efforts to improve investment climate by taking a series of measures. It has also established Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority (SMEDA) to encourage small and medium enterprises to attain a sustainable higher growth in the manufacturing sector.

The net foreign private investment inflows stood at $300.7 million during July-March 1998-99 as against $639.9 million in the comparable period last year, registering a decline of 53 per cent. The portfolio investment declined to $4.7 million during July-March 1998-99 as against $203.8 million last year. The declining trend in foreign direct investment inflows declined to $ 296 million during July-March 1998-99 as against $436.1 million in the same period last year indicating a decline of 32.1 per cent. The South East Asian crisis, the post-May 1998 developments, freezing of foreign currency deposit and the IPPs controversy were responsible for the decline.

Agriculture

The agriculture sector also suffered a set back due to unfavourable weather conditions and virus attack and as such has registered a meager growth of 0.35 per cent as against 3.8 per cent last year.

Sector-wise analysis, indicates that the production of rice increased to 4.7 tonnes as compared to 4.3 million tonnes last year, while sugarcane production reached to 55.2 million tonnes from 53.1 million tonnes last year showing an increase of 9.3 per cent and 3.9 per cent respectively. The maize production increased to 1.3 million tonnes as compared to previous year's production of 1.25 million tonnes showing a growth of 4.1 per cent. The production of wheat during the current year is estimated at 18.5 million tonnes as against the last year's production of 18.7 million tonnes. The decline in production of wheat is mainly attributed to long spell of dry spell during the sowing season. The production of cotton is estimated at 8.8 million bales as compared to 9.2 million bales of last season. The decline in cotton production is mainly due to leave curl virus attack, adverse weather condition and decrease in the area under the crop.

Exports

Pakistan's exports have been stagnating at around $8 billion during the last five years. One of the major structural problems of Pakistan's exports is that its export-base is not only narrow but it is also undiversified and concentrated in relatively low value added products. The role of trade policy in promoting exports will remain limited if country's export base retains its current status. What would require is a major focus on Pakistan's competitive strength and a consequent diversification of its export base and upgrading of its production capacity. Trade policy reforms and appropriate implementation programmes will be able to facilitate an export expansion strategy, based on sound fundamentals.

Despite rapid strides towards industrialization, the agriculture sector holds an important position in the national economy. For sustaining the agricultural growth there is a need to develop agricultural exports and not only of traditional export items, i.e. cotton textile, rice sugar fruits and vegetables but some non traditional exportable agricultural items as well.

Leadership

It is the responsibility of today's leadership to protect the dreams of the masses to enjoy a respectable life through good governance which has been spoiled by the corrupt bureaucracy and public administration.

Practically speaking, the civil servants, contrary to the basic concept of serving the people, rule them literally. This situation adequately answers why there is no tax culture in Pakistan and why there is a trend of tax evasion in the country. The salary of these public servants and public administration is paid by the people through their tax contributions to the exchequer. But in return instead of serving and working for the welfare of the people, who are the real pay-masters, the government machinery treats the tax payers badly. This was the main reason why people do not pay taxes willingly.

It is the time to revive the same spirit which had motivated the Muslim population to get united during the struggle for a homeland. Pakistan demands of the nation for another struggle for socio-economic well being of its people.