We hear Nawaz Sharif, Asif Zardari, Shahbaz Sharif, Yousaf Raza Gillani, a number of retired generals, bureaucrats and businessmen relentlessly speak — with an ostensible passion and conviction — of the pain they feel for the teeming hapless millions of Pakistan.
Of late, Zardari, who had meekly left the country in a huff in 2016 after hurling threats at the mighty military establishment, is roaring again. During his Peshawar visit, he made all sorts of oblique remarks about Sharif and Imran Khan in particular. He said that every sort of fraud had been carried out in KP, and the state of affairs at Manki Sharif said a lot about the performance of the PTI in the KP province. This was one of the disparaging comments the former president made to the audience.
I am sure his party has turned most of interior Sindh into ‘modern, smart cities’ with the 1.1 trillion rupees that the province has received since 2013 under the National Finance Commission (NFC) award and are now craving to replicate the Sindh model elsewhere. It is quite ironic that these allegations come from a person who is an essential element of almost every conversation on contracts, corruption within governance structures.
If political expedience of the civilian and military ruling elites were not an obstruction, one big water filtration plants’ scheme in Sindh was enough to know the extent and nature of fraud and as to who was behind it. Nawaz Sharif and his hyper younger brother, too, often forget what plays out in the schools and hospitals of Punjab — even in Lahore itself — when they target their opposition — always accompanied by pliant politicians and bureaucrats.
Little wonder much of Pakistan has only deteriorated under these shining stars of the country’s political landscape. National kitty continues to leak under the burden of privileges that the public representatives, bureaucrats and military officials have entitled themselves to. And the situation is not likely to change for two big reasons. Firstly, these leaders are always surrounded by crony and conformist aides, ministers, MPs and bureaucrats, who keep them disconnected from ground realities
Secondly, their business and social interests are outside Pakistan. Same is the case for a number of retired civil and military officials as well as big industrial and business families.
And this brings us to Pakistan’s major predicament; the irresistible craving among most mighty elites — civilians and military alike — to have a second home abroad in locations such as London, New York, Washington or Melbourne. And this has two dimensions; those who go out on postings, and those who chart a career for their children with the eventual objective of having a post-retirement abode in abroad. Most of those who serve in the big capitals, tend to stay back or look for jobs as an excuse not to return to the country.
This very issue once put me to unusual embarrassment during a meeting with Akashi Yasushi, Chairman of the International House of Japan; an extremely soft-spoken person, Yasushi had returned to Japan after over three decades of service with the United Nations in New York. While explaining the reasons of his return to Japan, Yasushi spoke of financial losses he took by having his pension and savings transferred from the US to Japan. He got a hit of up to 15 per cent because of appreciation in the value of yen during the money transfer but never repented.
“I thought that was part of my pay-back to Japan, this country gave me so much and that is why I never intended to settle down in New York,” he said with a radiating and contended face. I have always believed in paying back to my country and this is what we should all be doing, he observed with a tinge of passion visible on his face. After this, we turned to his encounters with foreign diplomats, including those from Pakistan. He began asking about various Pakistani officials he had met during his stint as a senior UN diplomat. He recalled some names. I some times see them whenever I go back to New York. Then he dropped a bombshell.
“Why do most of your officials opt to stay back in the US, I see so many of them hanging around in one or the other capacity”, he said. For a while, I found myself baffled and speechless. This meeting left me stunned and shamed the more I recollected Yasushi’s question as to why Pakistani officials don’t return to their homeland to serve their country as a ‘pay back’. This remains deeply etched in my memory and whenever I run into former officials in the US or Europe, this reminds me of my meeting with the Japanese UN diplomat Yasushi.
Zardari had meekly left the country in a huff in 2016 after hurling threats at the establishment. He is roaring again. During his Peshawar visit, he made all sorts of oblique remarks about Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan in particular
The Japanese veteran diplomat was right. You look around and several former retired officials or their sons and daughters would have a permanent home in the US or somewhere either in Europe of the Gulf states. Also, what could be more demeaning than the fact that our leaders like Sharifs and General Musharraf accepted hand-outs ie charity — cash and palaces from the rulers of Saudi Arabia and other Middle-Eastern countries.
This also explains why Pakistan is experiencing only marginal changes in basics of political economy as the elites pillage it via big government-funded projects, only to stash the ill-gotten money abroad. The hearts and minds of many among the mighty rulers actually reside outside Pakistan, which is why they are indifferent to the plight of Pakistanis.
The writer is Editor, Strategic Affairs, and also heads the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad and author of Pakistan: Pivot of Hizbu Tahrir’s Global Caliphate. Can be reached at Imtiaz@crss.pk
Published in Daily Times, October 17th 2017.