SHAFIQ UR REHMAN
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
PAGE: What steps you would suggest for revival of the
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.