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Tuesday June 25, 2024

Politics of blame game

Success of a nation depends on leaders who make public policy and thus determine critical outcomes

By Mir Adnan Aziz
May 24, 2024
Prime Minister Pakistan Shahbaz Sharif addressing the National Assembly. — Geo News/screengrab/file
Prime Minister Pakistan Shahbaz Sharif addressing the National Assembly. — Geo News/screengrab/file  

In its heyday, Enron was described as the greatest company in the world. Named by Forbes for six consecutive years as America’s most innovative company, Enron boasted 20,000 employees and an annual revenue of over $100 billion. Its shares peaked at $90.75 in 2000; by October 2001 they crashed to a mere 26 cents.

Kenneth Lay, the founder and chairperson of Enron – convicted on six counts of conspiracy and fraud – died during the post-crash trial. Jeffrey Skilling, the company’s CEO was sentenced to 24 years whereas Andrew Fastow, Enron’s CFO became a witness and testified against his former bosses. He was sentenced to six years in prison. Accounting giant Arthur Andersen, Enron’s auditor, had to surrender its licence. Its 85,000 employees, working across 84 countries, lost their jobs.

Many say the crash happened overnight. It did not. Enron was driven by greed, hubris, betrayal and arrogance. Its leaders ruthlessly strived to gain more wealth and power. This spawned a lethal concoction of financial malpractice, manipulation and deception. Policies dictate outcomes. The crash was inevitable. Enron went bankrupt, investors lost billions and 20,000 employees lost their jobs.

In successful corporations, nepotism is frowned upon, books and figures are not fudged, debts are sustainable and investments are transparent and prudent. Bereft of these attributes, our economy and corporations have been mercilessly run to the ground. Now, 24 SOEs including the prized PIA and Roosevelt Hotel, once the silver of our mismanaged house, are up for grabs. This travesty reminds one of King Richard who declared, “I would have sold London if I could find a buyer”. London was spared; instead, dioceses were sold, church treasures were confiscated and Carucage, a crushing land tax, was imposed.

The success of a nation depends on leaders who make public policy and thus determine critical outcomes. Unfortunately ours have consistently adopted ones that have had and continue to have a disastrous effect on the lives of an ever-impoverished nation. Our constitution mandates a caretaker government for a period of 90 days to hold free and fair elections. This caretaker setup, the longest serving one at 200 days, left us an imbroglio of what is being labelled a tainted election.

Our total debt and liabilities reached Rs81 trillion, three-fourths the size of our economy, during last year. One of the contentious decisions by the caretakers was to allow the import of 3.44 million tons of wheat for a whopping $1.05 billion. Bafflingly, this was done despite the fact that we had a bumper wheat crop and were struggling to secure the IMF’s $3 billion standby arrangement programme. To add insult to injury, it has been revealed that the imported wheat was infected.

Agriculture is the backbone of Pakistan. Last year, it contributed 24 per cent to GDP and employed nearly half of our workforce. Protesting farmers, stuck with 32 million tons of wheat, are now forced to sell it at around Rs2800 as against the government fixed minimum support price of Rs3900 per 40-kg.

When questioned by the media about the wheat import, former caretaker PM Anwaarul Haq Kakar dismissed it as a “media driven spectacle”. Loath to leaving out the PTI from everything and anything that has befallen Pakistan, he declared that the import had been allowed under the SRO issued by the PTI government.

The government has created an umpteenth commission to probe the wheat import. Meanwhile, in a verbal spat about this with the PML-N’s Hanif Abbasi, Kakar warned about spilling the beans on Form-47. The commission, not that anything is expected from it, should also look into what beans the former PM has up his sleeve about the elections.

The present governing coalition is bogged down in its decade-long template of governance sans efficacy. Allegedly conjured up by Kakar’s sack of beans, it took a single SC judgment to wrest away its flouted two-thirds majority. The fate of the recently elected senators too, including Kakar who is himself an independent one, hangs in the balance. Strange indeed are the travails of those dealing in ‘beans’.

The recent violence in AJK, otherwise a haven of passivity, speaks of simmering social unrest. On the international front, Iran and India have signed a 10-year contract to develop and equip Iran’s strategic Chabahar port. Despite being energy starved, we choose to remain comatose in fulfilling our part of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project. It could have supplied us with nearly a billion cubic feet of natural gas daily.

Relations with Afghanistan are at an alarming downslide. Our decade-long convoluted policy of strategic depth has spawned challenges to the security and stability of Pakistan itself. Moreover, one does not have to be a political scientist to assess the legitimacy of a government whose poll-supervising PM goes around warning of spilling the beans about its very formation.

A democracy can only deliver when moral authority, justice and stability prevail. Power without checks and balances fosters arrogance and megalomania. Pakistan’s abysmal state has not been brought about by terrorism, drought or pestilence but through unaccountable political behaviour.

Calling government and public figures to account is the central pillar of democracy. Public leadership requires greater levels of legitimacy and moral authority. Unaccountable leaders are driven by self-centred passions. Burke described it as their passions forge their fetters. Is it sanity, what to say of patriotism, to allow the inevitable crash?

The writer is a freelance contributor. He can be reached at: miradnanaziz@gmail.com