It is generally and widely accepted that unlike the
previous experiences of the corrupt and characterless governments, the
present team at the helm of affairs led by Gen. Pervez Musharraf is
working with clean hands and good intentions. So far no finger has been
raised from any quarters about misappropriation or financial bungling.
The outstanding results achieved in economic and financial management
are reflected in the unprecedented strength of country's reserves, which
according to finance minister Shaukat Aziz, will touch the mark of $8
billion at the end of the current financial year. This financial
stability has certainly elevated Pakistan's position in the world
market. It is the leadership, which successfully tackled the most
crucial moment in the backdrop of Sept.11 events. Consequently, the
developed world which was no so friendly with Pakistan altogether
changed its repulsive attitude which culminated in successful
rescheduling of the alarming size of foreign debt, increased market
accessibility into the European Union and the United States resulting in
enhanced export volume from Pakistan. It is however unfortunate that on
one hand the government is getting strong financially, the people of
Pakistan getting weaker and weaker economy. The purchasing power is
declining fast due to price inflation mainly because of high rate of
taxation of utilities, fuel, edible oil and vegetable ghee and other
essential items. The financial managers of this country should keep in
mind the per capita income of the people while focusing to increase
revenue targets. Why WAPDA and KESC facing almost 40-45 percent of power
theft? Only because they are unable to pay the exorbitant power rates in
Pakistan. If the government is really interested to resolve the issue of
huge power theft, the utility companies will have to bring down the
tariffs at an affordable level. The administrative measures will not
deliver the goods otherwise. The results so far achieved in the wake of
induction of army officials in these utility companies are
Education, which is of paramount essential for human
resource development, is the most neglected area in Pakistan. Under the
slogan of privatization, the education sector has been allowed to
operate in a free for all fashion. With a few exceptions, the public
sector educational organizations including even at university level have
come to a total mess. Teachers come to their respective organizations
just to get their salary cheque. The students have to attend the
coaching centers to get through the exams. Boards of Education again a
total mess, a crop of corrupt officials have no interest in making the
future of the young except to extort money from the students and the
parents by creating different obstacles in exam papers, marks and
results. On the other hand the educational institutions in the private
sector have been given a free hand. There is no limit of fees charged by
them. The amount they are charging for a semester is so high that only
those who have the drug money, gun running money or opportunity to bribe
people can afford to send their children to these organizations. It is
the responsibility of the government or their universities giving
affiliation to these private sector organizations to put a certain limit
on fees charged by these organizations. As a result of this hopeless
state of affairs in the education sector, the education status in
Pakistan has come to the lowest level in the region. This is an alarming
situation which, calls for immediate remedial measures.
In an overview of the political and socio-economic
situation in Pakistan, the Asian Development Bank in its recent report
on Pakistan says: "about 47 million people are living below poverty
line in Pakistan. Between 1993 and 1999 more than 12 million were added
to the rank of the poor.
The report titled with "Poverty in Pakistan:
looks into issues, causes and Institutional Responses" has
indicated that during the period from 1993 the level of poverty worsened
from 26 per cent of the population falling below the poverty line to 32
per cent in 1999. The number of people falling below poverty line was
expected to have further increased after 1999 as growth has slowed,
development funding has declined and country has experienced a severe
drought. "Thus it would not be an exaggeration to say that more
than a third of the country's population is currently living in poverty.
"What little growth occurred during the 90s did
contribute to employment and income generation among the poor".
After 1997, poverty has been on the rise, the report said.
ADB's country director Mashuk Ali Shah while
releasing the report announced that ADB would offer $2.5 billion to
Pakistan during 2004-2006 to support various development initiatives
including measures to alleviate poverty.
ADB is extending $1.1 billion in 2002 and $2.5
billion will be offered during 2004-06.
The country director has however warned the
government to effectively carry out the reform agenda, failing which the
ADB would be forced to withdraw its financial support to Pakistan. The
annual financial support of about $820 million to $830 million will be
stopped if Pakistan could not intrinsically carry out its reform agenda,
the country director observed.
Despite substantial local and foreign funds were
being spent to address the very serious issue of poverty, the poverty in
Pakistan was rising.
The bank would focus on operational strategy for
alleviating poverty in Pakistan.
According to Country Director, the report on poverty
in Pakistan has been finalized by meeting all the stakeholders including
government officials, private sector experts, political parties, NGOs
and other civil society representatives.
He stressed the need for improving growth rate and
increasing public spending for alleviating poverty. The growth in the
past was not pro-poor and did not contribute to employment generation.
The Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) and Karachi
Electricity Supply Corporation (KESC) were responsible for major
hemorrhaging of national resources. The ADB official was of the view
that without carrying out effective reforms, the performance of WAPDA
and KESC and the Central Board of Revenue (CBR) could not be improved.
All the countries of the world were relying on the generation of their
own resources and Pakistan would have to do the same by ensuring
improvement in the CBR.
The economic fundamentals of the present government
were there but political instability, law and order and the situation on
borders could continue to cause problems to address the issue of poverty
The present government is however moving in the right
direction and that is why the donor agencies are taking a risk to offer
financial assistance to Pakistan. The ADB chief of Pakistan operations
expressed the hope that the future government would not undo the reform
process started by the Musharraf administration. Political certainty
will be the key factor to ensure turnaround in the economy specially the
The report regretted that while poverty had
intensified in the last decade, the low level of social sector
investment was also compromising the country's long-term prospects for
achievement of high growth.
Pakistan's education indicators are the worst in
South Asia, the report said adding that Pakistan's public sector
spendings on education and health at barely 2.1 per cent of the GDP, is
significantly lower than that of other countries in the region.
The effects of the poor governance had compounded the
economic causes of rising poverty such as decline in GDP growth rate,
increasing indebtedness, inflation, falling of physical infrastructure.
At the same time social factors such as the highly unequal distribution
of land, low level of human development and persistent ethnic and
sectarian conflict are also obstacles to the achievement of long-term
Environmental degradation is also inter-linked with
increasing poverty and has impacts on the health of poor as on the
unsustainability of their livelihoods.
The ADB was assisting the government in
implementation of various poverty alleviation initiatives specially by
offering $300 million devolution support program for 2002. Also, a loan
of $350 million was being processed as part of the Access to Justice
program and $150 million for police reform plan.
ADB would support higher growth and great stability
of income and employment in rural areas focusing on getting the policy
and institutional framework right: Increasing agriculture productivity
and diversification by moving to market based agricultural prices,
strengthening research and extension services, and expanding the role of
private sector in storage and agriculture support services, increasing
non-farm employment opportunities by developing agribusiness for exports
and rural small and medium enterprises, promoting rural-urban linkages
by improving communications, particularly rural roads, expanding rural
economic infrastructure, especially for irrigation, drainage and water
resources and enhancing access to credit in rural areas, investing in
infrastructure in areas where incidence of poverty is high and where the
lack of infrastructure is a critical barrier to development.
It is however amazing that the international
organizations, institutions and donor agencies while reviewing the
prevailing economic and social sector conditions in India and Pakistan
generally forget to strike at Kashmir issue that is the root cause of
all economic and social ills. Due to persistent border tension between
India and Pakistan a major chunk of resources goes to defence
expenditures. On the other hand the mounting political tension between
the two countries also keep the investors away of the region. Time has
come that the world forces should come forward seriously to resolve this
issue in accordance to the UN resolution so that the people in this part
of the world could march towards peace and prosperity. It is encouraging
that the people who matter in India have started realizing the gravity
of the situation on account of Kashmir dispute.
Arundhati Roy, writer of international repute and
winner of Booker Prize, and two other eminent journalists from India,
currently visiting Pakistan have called for initiation of dialogue with
Pakistan for the resolution of all out standing issues including
In this talk of war and pointing of nukes, what are
we being distracted from? Said Roy, who does not believe in the concept
of nation-state and feels happy on being introduced as "a citizen
of the globe"
For the governments of India and Pakistan, Kashmir is
not a problem, it's their perennial and spectacularly successful
solution" she said and added that every time the two governments
needed to divert attention of the masses from the domestic problems,
they pulled the rabbit out of their hats.
Roy said she had no position on Kashmir and called
for blowing holes in the dams that separated the two neighbours. With
each battle cry against Pakistan, we inflict a wound on ourselves, on
our way of life, on our spectacularly diverse and ancient civilization,
on everything that makes India different from Pakistan.
Ms. Roy while reading excerpts from her essay
"End of the threats of nuclear war exchanges between India and
Pakistan said: "People do not say they hate each other's rather
these are the two governments, which spread all these notions of hatred
She was of the opinion that "the politicians are
not genetically corrupt people. It is the power that corrupts the
politicians". She termed the mutual hatred between India and
Pakistan, a manufactured hatred by the elite. "It is a kind of myth
they want us to believe. War between India and Pakistan is like a war
between poorest communities while the Zamindars remain busy in laying
their pipelines and pointing out that please don't go to India and
Pakistan. We are like idiots going to each others' throats and not
realizing that a completely different agenda goes on there", she
Shaker Gupta, Editor of Indian Express, accompanied
by Ms. Roy observed that the recent travel advice issued by the United
States and EU countries had jolted India, creating for the first time a
realization that vast India existed beyond Kashmir.
Another lesson that India had learnt was that war
could be no bilateral matter between the two countries, he added.
Commenting on the recent escalation of tension for which he blamed
India, he said, "We began to look like stupid in the world"
Everybody in the world was trying to teach and lecture Indians and
Pakistan as what could be the consequences of a nuclear exchange.
Gupta made an interesting suggestion that the old set
of retired generals and young people should replace foreign secretaries
involved for the last one decade in track-two diplomacy. There is a need
of paradigm shift where people at various levels start talking to each
other. There are micro-conceptions about each other, which can only be
eroded by increased contacts, he said.
In a free country there is much clamor, with little
sufferings. In a despotic state there is little complaint, with much
grievance. People should be encouraged to register their grievance
without fear so that the black sheep hidden in the ranks and file of the
society could be exposed. These black sheep are responsible for
hampering growth of the nation. People at the helm of affairs have to
look seriously into reasons why 90 per cent of the crimes go unreported.
Why people are hesitant to register their complaints probably they are
not sure to get justice hence they feel insecure. The Asian Development
Bank has provided a fund of $350 million for the judiciary. It is the
justice, which play the pivotal role in keeping all spheres of life on
an even keel.
Though the present government has made substantial
achievements in different directions, yet human sufferings call for more
and prompt actions to weed out the corrupts hampering the way to peace
and prosperity in Pakistan.