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December 10, 2017

Reforms

Opinion

December 10, 2017

Reform means the “improvement or amendment of what is wrong, corrupt or unsatisfactory”. Pakistan is at point A where there’s plenty that is ‘wrong’; corruption is rampant and governance is totally ‘unsatisfactory’. There are 193 member-states of the United Nations of which 123 are constitutional democracies. Of the 123 constitutional democracies, ours is one of the worst. Our political culture is all about ‘families’ whereby “several members of a family are involved in politics, particularly electoral politics. Members are related by blood or marriage; often several generations or multiple siblings are involved in politics.”

Dynastic politics and poverty coexist. Dynastic politics and illiteracy are correlated. Dynastic politics means reduced electoral competition among candidates as party tickets are awarded on the basis of loyalty rather than merit. What we need is competition in politics. What we need is merit in politics. We must move from Point A to Point B. How do we get from Point A to Point B?

To be certain, almost all institutions of the state have been captured – captured by a thousand families to extract private gains. The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) is a captured entity. The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) is a captured entity. The Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) is a captured entity – captured to extract private gains. This is Point A. We must move as far away as possible from Point A. But, how do we move from Point A to Point B?

To be certain, our economy is dominated by cartels. We have a banking cartel, a cement cartel, a sugar cartel, an automobile cartel, a rental power cartel and an oil cartel. The banking cartel pays three to five percent to depositors but charges 8-24 percent on loans. The cement cartel has 21 members with annual sales approaching Rs100 billion. The CCP called it “anti-competitive behaviour” and cement manufacturers including DG Khan Cement, Lucky Cement and Maple Leaf as “habitual cartel offenders”.

Of the 41 sugar mills in Punjab, at least 20 are owned by politicians of the PML-N and PML-Q. No wonder the federal government has given a subsidy of Rs10.70 per kg. Our ex-president Zardari owns directly or directly Sakrand Sugar, Ansari Sugar, Mirza Sugar, Pangrio Sugar and Bachani Sugar. No wonder the Sindh government has announced an additional subsidy of Rs9.30 per kg. The automobile cartel that has sales of Rs130 billion there is massive “collusion and cartelization” (according to the CCP).

Yes, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was a captured entity – captured to safeguard private gains. To be sure, our current system of checks and balances has completely failed. Pakistan is at Point A. We must move as far away from Point A as possible.

Competition in politics. Subject specialists in governance. And autonomous, powerful institutions of accountability. This is point B. This is where we want to be. Food for thought: How will we move from Point A to Point B? Who will move us from Point A to Point B? Can we move from Point A to Point B by remaining within the confines of the constitution?

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad.

Email: [email protected] Twitter: @saleemfarrukh