Noman Akhter

Pakistan stands devastated today, due to unprecedented massive corruption. According to a recent report of Transparency International, Pakistan this was the worst period in the history of Pakistan with over Rs. 18 trillion (about $ 180 billion) having been looted by our government officials and their cronies appointed in different organisations. Pakistan has dropped from 45th  most corrupt country to 35th most corrupt country in the world during this period. There are dozens of mega scam cases including the Rental Power Projects case of Rs. 45 billion involving “Mr. Rental Raja”, Rs.20 billion corruption in Pakistan steel, Rs. 150 billion in KESC, Rs. 8 billion in NICL, and a host of other mega scams in PIA, Railways, NICL, OGRA,LNG import case, Haj scandal, Rs. 400 billion PSO case, and a large number of other cases including the Neelum Jehlum project, OGDCL, CDA, NHA, OGDCL, SSGCL, SNGPL, WAPDA, Punjab Bank swindle etc. This is only a small part of the scams. A huge amount of money has been lost in land scams and in FBR. The poor are dying of hunger and many are resorting to robberies and kidnappings while the rulers construct palaces abroad and amass funds looted from the people in foreign bank accounts. This is happening under the noses of our army and the Supreme Court but they watch helplessly as the country is systematically destroyed. In a press conference on December 12, 2012 the NAB chairman has acknowledged that corruption level has reached heights of Rs. 10-12 billion per day Having the complete freedom to appoint heads of public sector organisations and other government institutions, the Prime Ministers and the “honourable” Ministers appointed crooks and thieves to head these institutions, so that they could share the loot together and be protected from the law that should have caught and punished them. The economic strangulation of Pakistan is apparent from the fact that our national debt has more than doubled during the last 5 years, and the Rupee has collapsed from about Rs. 60 in 2008 to about Rs. 100 presently. Both the former Prime Ministers that ruled over the country during the last 5 years are under investigation for massive corruption.

 

The Supreme Court found itself fighting constantly loosing battles, trying to do what it could, but helpless to have its orders implemented. Short of calling in the army, there was nothing more that our honourable court could do. The hopes that the process of democracy will serve as a self-cleansing mechanism are a fool’s dream — since for democracy to work, the first prerequisite is proper education. Only when the people are able to read, understand and choose between the manifestoes of the various political parties do they have the power of choice. This power has been taken away from them by the feudal mindset of our rulers by ensuring that little is spent on education. Pakistan spends about 1.8% of its GDP on education, with the result that we are ranked among the bottom seven countries of the world in terms of investment on education. Illiterate masses are like sheep — easily herded and controlled to do what their feudal masters want. The repeated attempts to destroy the Higher Education Commission (HEC) during the last 3 years as well as the halving of its budget reflect their diseased minds.

 

Pakistan stands at a precipice. The key to our future prosperity lies in education. India has decided to invest 120,000 crores in the current five year plan in higher education. The number of Indian Institutes of Technology has been raised from seven to sixteen, and 200 new universities and 40 Centers of Excellence are being established.  In Pakistan one of the first steps that the PPP government took after coming into power was to cancel the projects of  foreign engineering universities in collaboration with Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Austria and China three months before classes were about to commence in various cities of Pakistan. Similarly the projects for the establishment of four law universities in the provincial capitals were abandoned. A systematic plan to destroy the higher education, science and technology sectors resulted in repeated attacks on HEC which I prevented by repeatedly going to the Supreme Court of  Pakistan and preventing the destruction by HEC. Ms. Marvi Memon, Mr. Azam Swati and Prof. G.A. Miana have admirably supported HEC in petitions in the Supreme Court and Sind High Court.

 

The present system of so called “Democracy” has indeed proved the best revenge — revenge against the people of Pakistan. The only hope for Pakistan is to drastically change the system of democracy. Repeating the process of elections without proper electoral reforms is suicidal.  A foolproof system must first be put into place to ensure that only honest, competent and visionary persons can come into power. The role of the Parliament should be confined only to law making and oversight, and the Parliamentarians should not be eligible to become Ministers so that there is no attraction of the corrupt to become its members. The Chief Executive of the country should have the complete freedom to choose his own team of Cabinet Ministers from the most competent persons available in the country. Public sector organisations should be completely independent of the government so that corrupt leaders cannot appoint their stooges to run them. The dreams of Quaid and Iqbal lie shattered. Even the top army brass has been controlled in various ways so that they look the other way as the country dies a slow death.

 

Elections are round the corner and we are all set to hold these without proper election reforms. At least 60 to 90 days were needed to properly scrutinize the credentials of those who wish to contest the next elections but barely 14 days may be given to the Election Commission. The Election Commission had five years to carry out these reforms but nothing was done and at the last moment it is going through the motions —that too only after Dr. Allama Tahirul Qadri had shaken the country with his fiery speeches and the long march to Islamabad. Unless electoral reforms are fully and properly implemented, many of the same corrupt people will come back as members of the National and Provincial Assemblies and continue to loot and plunder.

 

Pakistan is not short of honest and very competent persons in various fields. However if they made the mistake of contesting, they would not stand a chance of being elected unless the Election Commission introduced major electoral reforms that ensured elimination of unsuitable candidates This involves (a) formulation of proper criteria of the qualities that the candidates should possess and (b) their careful screening prior to the election process.

 

The future of Pakistan lies in our hands. We do not need the continuation of this so called “democracy”.as the country will surely not survive for another 5 years. Basic changes are needed in our governance system so that we never see a repetition of what has happened in Pakistan. The army and the Supreme Court should intervene to catch and punish the crooks that have plundered national wealth in an exemplary fashion so that future leaders would not dare to repeat our recent history.

 

Pakistan is burning. We need to act before it is too late.

The author is the former Federal Minister for Science & Technology and former Chairman of Higher Education Commission

October 13, 2017
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