Is it a chicken after all? – Yasmeen Aftab Ali

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Ignoring the NEC (National Economic Council) under the umbrella of the new government, National Development Council was created and the Army Chief was placed in the new body;a first. Extension of tenure to COAS have been given by many previous governments. Let us for the time being, overlook this old step in Naya Pakistan. Although while in Old Pakistan, Imran Khan had publically been vocal against extensions of not just the COAS but also ISI chiefs. He had promised this will not happen in Naya Pakistan. But then, promises are meant to be broken.

The foreign policy and the security policy never changed. (PS: was there one before? NOTE: Is there one now?) India merrily went ahead abrogating Article 370 and Article 35A (and hello: the writing was on the wall) but Prime Minister Khan was focused on chasing political opponents, raising slogans of “ending corruption.” He confused nabbing a few individuals with weeding out corruption from the system. Maybe Naya Pakistan meant addressing the former and not the latter?

To be fair, running a country like Pakistan, with different ethnicities, religions, cultures, is not easy. Take this as an understatement. Pakistan unfortunately subscribes to the Law of Triviality. Inordinate and disproportionate amount of time is spent on trivial issues. People are attracted to what one can state as “questionable” intelligent activities. If an individual puts forth a proposition that’s a simple solution to a fairly complicated issue it will be seen as appealing. Our people love converting bigger issues into inaccurately brief soundbite that they can chant and media can pick up.Something well understood by the leaders.

Finance Policy? His line that bought smiles to faces of Pakistanis and the cynics were shunned for not wanting a “progressive” Pakistan; “I would rather commit suicide before approaching IMF.” Other countries in Old Pakistan have gone to IMF so let us overlook Khan’s naiveté of pre-premiership days. Let’s take a quick look with Khan and IMF. The government was dilly-dallying on going to IMF hoping for “friends” to come forward to bail Pakistan out. They did not. I hope it taught Prime Minister Imran Khan the age old lesson that in international relations there are no friends. There are only allies. And allies change with time. The IMF takeover of the economy of Pakistan has led to a lot of problems for the people of Pakistan.Increased taxation was one. Hike in costs of petrol and electricity was another. This adds on to price of goods sold and is never reduced once the price of petrol and electricity are reduced. What then happens is the next time cost of petrol/diesel/electricity goes up the prices of goods too goes up yet again. The apologist cheer on, shunning the cynics! Yet another condition of IMF was devaluation of the Pakistan rupee. The apologists cheer some more!

All these measure without being counter balanced with policies to stabilize industries, support production, increase exports, and develop other sectors led to the predictable conclusion. Industries either closed down or went on back foot, decreasing production and firing employees. Economy seems to have closed down. And this is pre-Covid 19 please. One wonders, where will taxation come from now in the given financial reduced activities? A friend wrote, “This government has already hit rock-bottom and is now drilling further down into that rock.” Let’s overlook that. He sounds like a cynic too.

Seen through a microscope, it seems the issue goes back to following the same old. Same stale menu. Same faces of Old Pakistan trying to make Naya Pakistan

“Multiple interviews with officials in the Finance Ministry reveal that the appointments of former IMF mission chief Reza Baqir as the governor of the State Bank of Pakistan and former Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh as the prime minister’s adviser on finance were enforced by the IMF in the lead up to the bailout agreement.” (The Diplomat, July 18th 2019)

Mishandling of issues is another hallmark of the present set up. Latest in line has been the bomb by the Aviation Minister regarding the “fake” pilot licenses, statement made weeksafter the flight PK8303 went down. The European Union’s aviation safety agency and the United Kingdom as a result banned PIA to fly through Europe and UK for six months. Pilots of Pakistan origin flying the European airlines have also been grounded till the licenses are verified. US was a little slow in rapping Pakistan on the knuckles (It’s usually a stick sometimes with a carrot dangling at the end) and following suit. According to a reputed national TV channel out of the 232 pilots named as having fake licenses, some were dead, some had joined other airlines, some were retired, some were seasoned old pilots who in their times, in order to be awarded a flying license, did not need to take exams. Did the statement turn away world’s attention from the downed plane to something else? Yes it did. Has it caused irreparable damage to our national flag carrier? Yes it has.

Seen through a microscope, it seems the issue goes back to following the same old. Same stale menu. Same faces of Old Pakistan trying to make Naya Pakistan. Same old approach to issues. No out-of-the-box thinking. Caught in the same trap?

One cannot but be reminded of a story (that probably has its roots in a fable) written by Maya Talks and shared below:

A baby eagle became orphaned when something happened to his parents. He glided down to the ground from his nest but was not yet able to fly. A man picked him up. The man took him to a farmer and said, “This is a special kind of barnyard chicken that will grow up big.”The farmer said, “Doesn’t look like a barnyard chicken to me.”

“Oh yes, it is. You will be glad to own it.”The farmer took the baby eagle and placed it with his chickens. The baby eagle learned to imitate the chickens. He could scratch the ground for grubs and worms too. He grew up thinking he was a chicken. Then one day an eagle flew over the barnyard. The eagle looked up and wondered. “What kind of animal is that? How graceful, powerful, and free it is. Then he asked another chicken, “What is that?”The chicken replied, “Oh that is an eagle. But don’t worry yourself about that. You will never be able to fly like that.”

And the eagle went back to scratching the ground. He continued to behave like the chicken he thought he was. Finally he died, never knowing the grand life that could have been his.(August 18th 2016).

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst