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January 27, 2021

No writ, no reforms


January 27, 2021

LAHORE: Introducing reforms when governance is deteriorating has never paid dividends. Countries that move ahead economically have a governance system that strictly inhibits violation of rules.

It has been claimed by many governments and even global experts that Pakistan has one of the most lucrative investment policies; that the Competition Law of Pakistan compares with the best in the world; that our environment policy on paper is immaculate.

Yet we see investors shying away from Pakistan. Not a single verdict of importance of the Competition Commission of Pakistan has been implemented because of appeals pending in courts for years.

Environmental degradation in Pakistan is increasing day by day. When garbage and filth is littered in most localities of the country’s two largest cities that also have resources, how can we expect a clean environment in smaller cities and towns?

We simply take pride in making the best laws that need no homework. One has simply to browse through the internet to find out the best laws and practices in the world and to amend the laws and rules accordingly.

No efforts are made to find out how these laws are successfully implemented. In countries where there is rule of law, not a single person could dare violate it. We disregard rules and laws on the basis of our strength in the society.

There are no traffic jams in developed economies when the Prime Minister visits any city. Signals function normally. In Pakistan, a visit by a local dignitary means traffic jams all over the city. Even the normal daily movement of the chief ministers creates traffic disruption for some time.

According to the law, there is a time limit in which the power distributor has to sanction and install a domestic or industrial meter. Things do not move without greasing the palms of those that matter.

We fool technology as well. At NADRA and passport office the queue is electronic and on a first come first served basis. You cannot break the queue but there is a way out.

If you have a connection or you pay a tout some money then the person sitting at the desk is provided your credentials from inside who will electronically enter it and you will be ahead of all others standing outside in long queues.

These are norms in our society. A poor patient might go unattended at the outpatients’ ward after sitting all day, but a VIP or a friend would simply walk in and get himself examined by the most revered professor even in a government hospital.

We see industries throwing industrial waste in clean water channels like canals or rivers. We see encroachments in busiest markets.

All these acts have the blessings of the regulators who are duly obliged by the law breakers. Laws are so lax that even ordinary citizens daringly violate the one-way traffic rules at some places without being challenged by the police.

These acts speak volumes about the level of governance in our country. Any new reform or rule after a while would be violated with impunity after some time.

People will find a way to bypass technology. We have seen that despite best efforts, the refunds system of businessmen has not yet been fully streamlined.

The under-invoicing goes on despite availability of technology. Import invoices are for one item, but the actual imports are of different products to save duty despite electronic monitoring.

New stock lots are openly being imported under the garb of used clothing. No investor would dare to set up a manufacturing unit

in Pakistan unless these malpractices continue.

Governance bar will have to go substantially up if we sincerely want to introduce prudent reforms in the country. Accountability would have to be fair and even and not restricted to one party or individual. Rules must be applied evenly on all. There should be no sacred cows.

We have to ensure complete rule of law where even the prime minister could not interfere to let off a traffic violator.

Citizens should feel safe and secure. The corrupt should be punished severely and not let off with mild reprimand or transfer.

All appointments should be on merit. The transfer and posting need to be tenure-based and not on the whims of the rulers. Bureaucracy should not be involved in political witch hunting.

Without taking these measures implementation of even the best reforms would be impossible. We have reached a stage where implementation of reforms is essential for our survival.

The business confidence would revive only after investors are assured that no laws would be violated and all sectors of the economy would be provided a level playing field.