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Opinion

Capital suggestion

July 8, 2018

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Street protests

History is the ‘study of past events, particularly in human affairs’. Never before in Pakistan’s 70-year history have powerful personalities, whether uniformed or not, been subjected to accountability of their financial improprieties. Over the past 70 years, history has always repeated itself. For the first time in 70 years, a Pakistani court has rewritten history.

Corruption is the ‘abuse of public office for private gains’. Accountability is an ‘assurance that an individual or an organisation will be evaluated for their behaviour’. Accountability is not, and should not be, an event. In democracies, accountability is a permanent and an ongoing process. Within societies when the corrupt go scot-free there is a powerful message for the rest: that corruption pays.

There is a clear cut distinction between a witch-hunt and accountability. A witch-hunt is a ‘campaign directed against a person or a group’. Accountability is a centripetal force that ‘brings things towards the centre’. Witch-hunts are centrifugal in nature, moving or tending to move away from a centre. Accountability strengthens a nation; witch-hunts weaken it.

Look at Malaysia. On May 10, Mahathir Mohamad was sworn in as the prime minister. On May 22, ousted prime minister Najib Razak was grilled by the Anti-Corruption Commission for four hours. On May 24, Malaysia’s Special Task Force met officials of the US Department of Justice and FBI officers. Within Malaysia, six bank accounts were frozen (linked to a money trail allegedly involving nearly $700 million). The police in Singapore froze two bank accounts. Within a period of eight weeks, Mahathir did what he had to do. And Mahathir then turned his attention towards bettering the lives of his countrymen.

Nigeria has brought back $300 million stolen by Sani Abacha, the 10th head of state of Nigeria. Nigeria has now picked 300,000 poorest of the poor families and $300 million is being redistributed among them (each family’s share comes to 360,000 Nigeria Naira).

The Panama Papers came out in April 2016. For an average Pakistani, the 27-month long ordeal has had a cost. Over the past six months, every Pakistani has become poorer by 20 percent (fall of the rupee). Diesel now sells for Rs119.31 per litre. Black tea is Rs870 for 950 grams. Rice: Rs208 per kg, and dal masoor: Rs150 per kg. The price of electricity is up by Rs1.50 per unit. The price of gas has been jacked up by 200 percent.

Nawaz Sharif has been gone for a year. How long will we continue blaming Nawaz Sharif for our miseries? Ishaq Dar has been gone for nearly a year. How long will we continue blaming Ishaq Dar for our miseries? Our economic Titanic is racing towards the iceberg. The caretakers are assuming the role of undertakers. Who will change the direction of our Titanic?

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) claims to have foreign exchange reserves of $9.6 billion. I know for a fact that even that lowly a figure is fudged (forward/swap positions). Going to the IMF is only a matter of time and the more we delay the worse our economic situation will become, and that would give the IMF a better bargaining leverage.

We are heading towards the election. We are heading towards the IMF. We are heading towards much higher rates of inflation. We are heading towards more chaos. And we are heading towards street protests. IMF lent $723 million to Jordan. On June 3, protesters ‘blocked off main roads, torched tires and confronted security forces in the biggest demonstrations the Hashemite kingdom has seen in years’. The demonstrator demanded the sacking of the PM. PM Hani Mulki was forced to resign.

The IMF is lending $50 billion to Argentina. On May 26, thousands of ‘Argentines protested the government’s bid to secure a credit line from the IMF, which they blame for hardships during a past financial crisis’.

To be certain, forces of chaos are strengthening their grip over Pakistan, and chaos means ‘complete disorder and confusion’. According to Fitch Ratings, one of the three big rating agencies, “Time is running out for Pakistan…” I hope that I am proven wrong but I feel that post-election forces of chaos will gain even more strength. Pakistan surely has the capacity to strangulate the forces of chaos. The only thing missing is political will. We must learn from history.

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad.

Email: [email protected] Twitter: @saleemfarrukh

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