Articles of the year 2006

Power Blinds
Published on February 15th, 2006

Watching a program on ARY being hosted by Dr Shahid Masood interviewing two senior economists namely Dr Qaiser Bengali and Dr Shahid Siddiqui, I was shocked by some of the startling disclosures that were brought to the viewers. Banks have not only made profits that were huge over the last three years, during the tenure of our 'Goldmedallist' Governor of the State Bank but were made in violation of the prevailing Banking Laws. For example the profit of all the Banks in the year 2002 was 7 billion Rupees. The average return to Account holders was 6%. In the year 2004 the profit jumped to Rs 52 Billion, and the return to Account holders was a measly 2.5%. In short Dr Siddiqui pointed out that the profits under the law MUST be passed on to the depositors first. This he pointed out has not been the case, and the gains have been used to dress up the Balance sheets, raising the share price to further profit the speculators. Now while the giddy upward spiral of the Stock Market has been a much touted indicator by our economic managers, the sad truth is that the Banking industry has been indulging in gambling on the Stock Exchange, using the money belonging to the depositors--- at very nominal interest rates. These rates were not sufficient to cover the inflation prevailing in the country. And led to considerable hardship for the small depositor. The next most damaging fact was ' people are going to sleep at night without food, something that may have been the case in Bangla Desh and India, but never in Pakistan, not in 58 years' When pressed further the Doctor stated that 'this occurred in Karachi in District Central' 'The long lines outside Macdonalds, and the number of mobile phones do not reflect the 50 million Pakistanis living below the poverty line.' A damning indictment of our rulers indeed.

The President must take charge, and remove from around him the story tellers, the 75 member cabinet, the bullet proof Mercs. We may be better of with a few cabinet members being shot if they continue to lead us on this disastrous course, for they certainly do not deserve protection at this cost. Pakistan is full of ex-ministers, none of them worthy of an assassins bullet either during their stint or after. Please Mr. President ask for a rerun of the Shahid Masood tape, it is indeed an eye opener.

The old adage that 'Islamabad is not in Pakistan' may be true, but the closer one gets to power the tighter one's eyes shut. Till the leadership is blinded, and the people start crying out for another saviour. In Pakistan the rule is that 'power blinds, and absolute power blinds absolutely'. Every leader in Pakistan has been led to believe that all is well, till the system collapses around him.

The events in Lahore are indicative of the urgent need for change, for the extent of the violence shown is a symptom of the deeper malaise within the country, and shows that the Government has failed miserably. They should be sacked and a new small number of competent people should be installed. The riots on Mall road in Lahore are very very serious, and have been shown on the news channels live. The extent of the damage caused was horrific, and may not have been solely to protest the blasphemous cartoons. The incompetence of the authorities was thoroughly exposed, and the Chief Minister who has been lauded by the Public relation officers of the Punjab government at every new roundabout and underpass, has now shown himself to be completely out of touch with the mood of the public. The fact that a crisis was allowed to develop to this extent shows that the information feedback was defective, either by fault or design--- but the seriousness cannot be overlooked. Never in Pakistan's history have buildings on Mall road been torched. Never. The stability of the Punjab has never been in doubt, till now. For if Lahore is the epicenter of the Establishment, and the big brother to the other three, then the Lahore riots show a multiplicity of failures of the Government. Let us focus on the symptoms, and correct them. This is not Baluchistan nor is it a Fata area. This is the heart and soul of Pakistan. How can we talk of Kashmir, when Lahore is burning before our very eyes,--live on Television.