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Politics & Piolicy 

Oct 16 - 22, 2000

Haji Shafiq Ur Rehman, prominent businessman turned politician, is equally known as an active member both in the trade and political circles. Elected as member of the Provincial Assembly of Sindh in 1992. Elected as the president of Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) for 1995-96. Haji Shafiq Ur Rehman was the chairman of Karachi Fish Harbor 1991-1993 and the Chairman Fishermen's Co-operative Society during the same period. He also served as the Advisor to the Chief Minister Sindh for Fisheries in the same period. During 1992 he also served as Acting Education Minister Sindh. For sometimes he enjoyed a prominent place in MQM (Altaf) and left the party later on. Currently, he is not associated with any political party yet he is considered as an active political figure and enjoys good reputation among all segments of political forces. He believes in serving people without any discrimination of color, creed and cost. He financed some charitable projects including dispensaries at New Karachi, PECHS, Landhi and Jacob Lines in Karachi.

Haji Shafiq was the Chairman of Karachi Kiryana Merchants Group (Judia Bazar) and President of All Pakistan Kiryana Merchant Association.

PAGE: Having a deep insight both on economic and political fronts, what evolved are your views about the policies of the present regime it has taken for economic revival of the country.

HAJI SHAFIQ: Whatever the form of the government, one should admit the fact that what the present government has done on the economic and financial fronts, it was next to impossible for any political government. Elaborating his point of view Haji Shafiq said that the unpopular decision of enforcing General Sales Tax across the country was a pre-requisite for clipping the wings of the gigantic informal economy or black economy in Pakistan (by james nelson). Despite strong opposition from all corners, the present government stood firmly on its decision. A political government would not be able to face such a strong opposition naturally because of its political considerations. It has been proved on many occasions in the past. Apart from introduction of GST throughout the country, the amnesty scheme also proved a great success and assets worth billion and billions have been declared in the process. The tax survey may also bring the tax evaders into the tax net sooner or later. The fruits of all these steps taken by the government would start yielding results in the days to come. Being a political worker I do admit that it was not possible for any political government to create a tax culture by taking such unpopular decisions. The present regime has paved the way for the governments to come in future. As the benefit of these steps which, altogether have put the economy on the road of documentation would go to the future governments.

PAGE: The present government has also decided to share the power at grass root level by introducing the system of local governments in Pakistan. Would this system prove a success or political forces would accept the new system?

HAJI SHAFIQ: The system of local government for power devolution to the grass root level may prove a success provided the forthcoming elections were allowed to be conducted without interference from community, ethnic, regional or sectarian forces already active in our country. All these forces as a matter of fact kill the real soul or spirit of the system. He suggested that steps should be taken that people are provided an atmosphere where they could cast their votes in accordance to their free will.

PAGE: What steps you would suggest for revival of the national economy?

HAJI SHAFIQ: Beside exploiting all the resources available within the country, it is need of the hour that Pakistan should improve its relations with friendly countries especially in the region. For example Iran, Central Asian States, Gulf States and China are the countries which can play an important role in increasing volume of exports. Unfortunately, the trade volume with these friendly countries does not reflect the friendly relations the two sides enjoy. For example India's exports to Saudi Arabia have outclassed Pakistan despite the much better relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Those who are responsible for improving trade balance should find the reasons responsible for a decline of Pakistan's export to Saudi Arabia. Under the present scenario, it seems that the United States is leaning towards India because of the huge market size of that country. However it is temporary phase. The United States cannot ignore the strategic location enjoyed by Pakistan. Moreover India is a close ally of Russia. The two country have various military agreements which would keep the US at a certain distance, hence the bilateral relations between US and Pakistan would never be on the rocks despite all the current developments. Our economic managers however would be required to take stock of the situation and make out ways to further improve bilateral relations with the friendly countries. The good diplomatic relations always pay back especially for economic development of any country.