Real Political Parties Unite To Address Economy

Pakistan Business Council

Earlier this week I wrote that “Meeting the needs of the people requires compromise. It requires the willingness to work with other people – even those you don’t agree with. It requires the organizational capacity of a political party, not cheap publicity stunts and sound bites. It’s always easiest to say ‘no’. Finding a way to get to ‘yes’ takes real leadership.”

Thankfully, it looks like some people are showing some real leadership by working together to find common ground from which to formulate a national economic agenda that focuses on the welfare of the citizens.

Dr, Farooq Sattar from MQM said that the balance of economic power is shifting from West to East and if we could not correct our fundamental economic wrongs we would left far behind in the regional economic race.

“We need to design a charter of economy which may be formulated with mutual consensus. Moreover there should be no injustice in tax system. Tax should be levied on every type of income. Tax net should be enhanced including bringing agriculture sector into the tax net,” he suggested the recommendations and added that agriculture of the country contributes 23 per cent of national GDP but unfortunately its contribution in tax is only one per cent.

Raja Pervez Ashraf from Pakistan Peoples’ Party stressed the need for sustainable economic policies and said that country can only prosper if the sustainable economic policies evolved with mutual agreement.

Ahsan Iqbal from PML-N said that the main problem in our economic system is lack of implementation. He said that if we implement all the policies made for the economic strength of the country, our economy would be strengthen to a great deal.

Regarding recent Pakistan-India trade agreement, Farooq Sattar said that his party fully supports the enhancing of trade between Pakistan and India.

Similarly Ahsan Iqbal said that regional trade is very important for the country’s economic growth and there should be no harm in starting trade relations with India.

Former Minister for Information Sherry Rehman said that agreement between the two countries was of great importance for both the countries as it would help improve the trade and as well as political relations between the two countries.

This is the hard work of politics. This is the type of coming together and reaching compromises and consensus that will improve the lives of the poor and desperate. Anyone can put on a simple latha shalwar kameez and sleep under open sky. Play acting politics is fine for some. But moving the country forward requires more. When MQM, PPP, PML-N can come together and reach agreement, that is when things get done.

What is the real deal?

The following article appeared in Jang 26 April 2011. Original article is in Urdu but has been translated to English.

WHAT IS THE REAL DEAL?

by Nazir Naji

The day Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kyani, protesting the martyrdom of 35 innocent people, denounced the Drone attack on the jury (jirga) of tribesmen and demanded to stop these attacks, there has been a series of anti-American jingle.   Whoever matters is issuing statements against the Drone attacks, columns are being written and headlines posted.  Before the statement of the General, it was only rarely that an isolated voice was raised against the Drone attacks but the uproar going on now suggests that, perhaps, America Drone-attacked the Pakistani soil for the first time the day Gen Kyani denounced it.   The anti-American feelings rose further when the news trickled that some love lost had begun between ISI and CIA.  The first victim of this tension was our Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi.  He raised his voice against the power, within Pakistan, which was asking to go soft on Raymond Davis.  However, our former Exterior Minister, despite his claim to have thrown away his high profile office, could not talk openly against America nor could he point his finger directly to the ISI by name.  At the most, it can be said that in his quest to oppose America he has managed to go only as far as nine-zero.

Drone attacks are a blatant violation of the sovereignty and independence of Pakistan.  It is an aggression and no justification can be cited from any international law for such a US action.  But do the statements being issued are enough to stop America from continuing this combat mission.  Will the sit-ins have a bearing on the well-being of America?  Are those, who are raging on these attacks and their fury knows no bounds, helping the victims of these attacks in any way?  One of the leaders, opposing the Drone attacks, asked Pakistan Government to let media go to North Waziristan.  This area is not located in an enemy country.  Pakistanis need not ask permission to go there.  So, why then Peshawar was chosen for the sit-in?  Why don’t they proceed in the direction of North Waziristan?  Attacks are being made there and sit-ins are arranged in Peshawar.  Why don’t they admit that we cannot enter into North Waziristan?  Our army is not finding a way in there either.  If army can establish its control on North Waziristan, there will be no need for demands and sit-ins to stop the Drone attacks – the attacks will automatically cease.  Why these Drone attacks are not taking place on the areas which are in the control of Pakistan army?  If a specific spot has been chosen for the Drone attacks, the reasons for such an action must be found.  Until we do not figure out our contradictions, we shall not be able to get to the root of our problems.  The root cause of Drone attacks is our Afghan policy and the base of this policy is the US policies in Afghanistan.  America, despite losing the lives of thousands of its combat troops and its allies, has not been able to decide what it must do in Afghanistan?  When US gives an inkling for withdrawal, all the stakeholders are compelled to ponder over what steps will they have to take after the return of the allied forces?  Hamid Karzai, and his henchmen start thinking about their future.  The northern alliance starts seeking a way-out and Taliban begin making preparations.  Pakistan cannot remain aloof from this scenario because there are forces which, if they come into power, can pose a threat to the security of Pakistan, especially, the Karzai clique and the northern alliance are not only known for their pro-India stance – they are actively involved.  We have been experiencing this phenomenon for long.  To guard our interests and security, we need assistance of the people who could face the anti-Pakistan forces in the Afghanistan abandoned by our ally.  Who will side with us under these circumstances?  Only those who will expect us to help them in their difficult times!  It is no secret that some factions of the Mujahideen, including Haqqani group, will rely  on us for help in their struggle against the foreign forces occupying their homeland.  America wants us not to help them and, instead, begin fighting all its opponents.  Our dilemma is why should we side with a power, at the cost of the animosity of local forces, which has to eventually vacate Afghanistan?  After the withdrawal of Americans, we shall have to account for everything alone.  Once before, also, Americans had deserted us after the Russians withdrew from Afghanistan.  We believe even now that US will do it again and for its sake how many enemies will we have to make in this area?  There should be a force in Afghanistan, which could impact the anti-Pakistan policies of Afghanistan.  Americans do not understand our difficult position.  They insist only on one thing that we should facilitate their exit from Afghanistan and incur the animosity of those who are at war with them.  If we narrate our difficulties, US looks the other way.

Whoever understands the strategic position, and the difficulties of Pakistan, takes an interest to find a way out of this difficult situation because he knows the defence network of Pakistan is passing through a difficult phase.  We are not strong enough to declare a war on America otherwise we could have told the Americans to get out of Afghanistan and we will drive out the Haqqani group.  Americans want us to chase out the Haqqani group or finish it off but we are not in a position to tell them to vacate Afghanistan so that the bitterness subsides.  We do not even know that if America pulls out from Afghanistan, what will happen afterwards?  Today only Drone attacks are taking place, what kind of situation will emerge in the coming Afghanistan, only God knows?  A civil strife cannot be ruled out and, in such a situation, how man immigrants will traverse to Pakistan?  Is not it a fact that Afghan immigrants have caused more devastation in Pakistan than Drone attacks?  If an additional 8-10,000 Afghans migrate to Pakistan they will be more damaging than a joint attack of 1000 Drones.  No one knows how the India and Russia will play their cards to profit from such a situation?  Drone attacks relate to Afghan war and Afghan war relates to our security.  It is not so simple that by downing the Drones we will stop these attacks – we will in fact invite even more attacks.  In such a sensitive situation, we should not play politics.  There are other courses available to take for political fighting.  To denounce the Drone attacks is a national duty and no one can dissociate himself from this.  Nonetheless, to base politics on Drone attacks alone will tantamount to what Zia ul Haq had said on his referendum “The destination of every political movement is not what it is said to be”.  When PNA rose in the name of Islam against Bhutto, somebody had said “Not Islam, they are the lovers of Islamabad”.  What did we hear the other day after the sit-in “If Drone attacks are not stopped in a month, we will march towards Islamabad”.  This is the real deal.

 

Asal Baat Kya Hai

Getting to Yes

Sleepy Imran KhanImran Khan said recently that “My party will never become a part of the proposed national set-up because I cannot compromise on principles.” My immediate reaction was that the PTI chief should have made a more honest statement: “My party will never become a part of the proposed national set-up because I cannot win the votes.” This weekend Imran Khan took his media show to Peshawar where he proceeded to take a nap on the Dharna stage and would not even get up to do interviews.

While Imran Khan was posing in Peshawar, bhatakta SMQ was having tea at nine zero and singing the praises of Altaf Hussain. Then he heard that Imran Khan was holding a sit-in at Peshawar so he praised him, too, while saying that PPP has split into factions. Meanwhile SMQ has forgotten to mention this PPP split to the party members who seem to remain united.

All of this reminds me of Mushy’s Facebook political party APML. It’s all celebrity ego, media flash and no real substance. All of these guys love to see their faces on TV and to read their names in headlines. But when it comes to actually getting elected and running the country…well…that’s harder than taking a nap or having tea. PTI has been consistently thrashed at the polls, never winning more than 2 per cent of the votes. SMQ may have fancied himself another ZAB when he split from the PPP over Raymond Davis, but building a movement requires more than sound bites.

Now SMQ is parroting Imran Khan and going around telling reporters that drone strikes should be stopped, but just like when he says that Raymond Davis doesn’t have diplomatic immunity, he only does so once it doesn’t matter. Qureshi has freed himself from the restrictions of party loyalty, but what good does it do? He can speak openly about whatever he wants, but it doesn’t do any good because he is no longer in a position that people will listen to him. If Qureshi really cared about stopping drones, why he didn’t remain in the government? Instead of talking to Jang’s news desk about drones, he could have been in Washington with Salman Bashir talking to his friend Hillary Clinton.

Imran Khan says that his party will never be part of the national set-up because he refuses to compromise. But refusing to compromise is not a virtue, and its no way to govern. In a nation of 180 million people, you have to make compromises if you’re going to get anything done. The only people who can govern without making any compromises are dictators. If the dictator does not agree with someone, he will ignore them or worse. Prime Minister of Prussia Otto von Bismarck said in 1867 that, “Politics is the art of the possible.” He was right. Politics is the art of working with people that you don’t agree with to find some common ground where you can make deals and compromises that will allow you to reach a consensus that moves the country forward, even if slowly. Sit-ins get you nowhere.

And SMQ’s plan to walk away from the party means that even if he has good ideas, they will not get further than his own drawing room. Yes, because of his standing in society he may get a small mention in the newspaper, but actually changing policies requires the organizational power of a political party. That requires a network of personal relationships that are built over time not only in Islamabad, London, Riyadh and Washington but in villages across the country where maximum number of Pakistanis are less concerned with Vienna Conventions and more concerned with feeding their families and making sure their children get an education so that they can have a future. Maybe there are one or two people in a century who can mobilize an entire country with their own charisma. The rest need well organized political parties to get things done.

Meeting the needs of the people requires compromise. It requires the willingness to work with other people – even those you don’t agree with. It requires the organizational capacity of a political party, not cheap publicity stunts and sound bites. It’s always easiest to say ‘no’. Finding a way to get to ‘yes’ takes real leadership.

Fixing the economy requires shared pain

While many economic indicators have shown that the national economy contains significant potential for improvement, progress is slower than necessary to keep pace with the growing population and needs of the country’s poor. Shahid Javed Burki examines the economic stress in the country and notes that one of the largest obstacles to improvement is political parties protecting their base from the possibility of tax increases.

There is no other way out of this quandary than for the government to increase its resource base. But the tax system is proving hard to reform. The various constituencies that support different political parties are not prepared to see an erosion of the incomes of their base that would inevitably result in the short term with higher taxes. The ruling Pakistan Peoples Party has a strong base of support in rural Sindh and does not want agricultural incomes to be taxed. The Karachi-based Muttahida Quami Movement does not want urban services to be taxed. The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), which governs Punjab and is the largest opposition party, does not want the documentation of the merchant class, which has successfully resisted it. Without documentation, it cannot be brought into the tax net. Politics, in other words, is pulling down the economy. And it is only politics that will bring about an improvement in the economy.

The solution to this impasse will not be easy, but taken together there is a possibility. To succeed, each of the political parties must put the good of the nation above their own drive for power and political gain. This means that every constituency must be asked to share the sacrifice of taxes so that the economy can be improved and programs funded to alleviate the suffering of the poor and hopeless.

Wanted: More Government Failure

“If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.”
– Thomas Watson, Sr., founder of IBM

I am going to make a controversial statement, but I ask that you please hear me out completely before you call me crazy and click to the next website. Are you ready? Here we go: I hope the government makes more mistakes. Lots of them. And quickly.

Ikram Sehgal expresses the standard excuse for military intervention very well in his criticism of the CJ’s statement earlier this week that each institution should operate only within its own place.

Time and again, the army has come to the rescue of the common citizenry in times of disaster. Is it surprising that given such circumstances some adventurers take it to be an open-ended “invitation” to ameliorate the miseries that the populace is facing? In the face of survival of the country, is it surprising that the Constitution and oaths of allegiance to it, take a back seat?

The circumstances in Pakistan are usually such that they provoke the minds and senses of the personnel of the armed forces as they do of common citizens. It does not help for them to see the apparent helplessness and inadequacy of the SC to implement its judgments on the one side and on the other, the long suffering public exhorting them to “do something” and being insistent about it (no matter that they turn on their “benefactors” soon after they have “done it”).

This frustration is enhanced when the rank and file see the incumbent government adopt the simple expedient of repeated filibustering, the changing of counsels that has successfully hindered the implementation of the NRO judgment for the last 18 months since late 2009. All the rhetoric by the SC declaring the NRO to be a black law and those in office affected by the NRO to be ineligible for office has remained just that, “rhetoric”. The ineligible have thus become legitimate and are legitimately looting the till. The result is that those who should be prosecuted by law for their countless misdemeanours are themselves prosecuting those who should be prosecuting them.

Same excuse every time. Government has not solved all the nation’s problems, so the politicians face “the rage of angels”. But what good has it done? According to Aqil Shah, none.

Shah is a postdoctoral fellow at the Society of Fellows, Harvard University. Writing in Express Tribune, he points out that it is military intervention that has caused the government to be so weak and ineffective in the first place.

It has not mattered whether the army is under the command of a reckless figure, such as General Pervez Musharraf, or an apparently more prudent one, such as the current chief of staff, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. As an institution, it deeply distrusts politicians and sees itself as the only force standing between stability and anarchy, intervening in politics whenever it decides that the politicians are not governing effectively, which is all too often a pretext used for the advancement or preservation of the military’s parochial organisational interests. These repeated interventions have weakened the country’s civilian institutional capacity, undermined the growth of representative institutions and fomented deep internal divisions in the country.

People continue to tell me that what we need is a period of military government. Sometimes they say that only ‘patriotic generals’ can effectively rule. Sometimes they say that it is a temporary need only, just enough to get the current group of politicians out of the way. But neither of these makes any sense.

Success is 99 percent failure – Soichiro Honda

The military is a more effective institution because it has been allowed to grow and learn over time without interruption. No one would say the military brass have never made a mistake. But how effective would the military be if every few years it was disbanded for a decade only to be called back and told, “Okay, you have three years to try again…” It would not be effective at all, and the national security would be at great risk.

And what about a ‘temporary’ intervention – the famous model that was adopted by Bangladesh in 2006. This too makes no sense because military intervention is always supposed to be temporary but it actually creates a ‘vicious cycle’ of ineffective government that is used as an excuse for another ‘temporary’ intervention etc etc etc. Even after the Bangladesh ‘minus-2′ program Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia are still running the politics.

No, what needs to happen is that the government needs to be allowed to make mistakes. There is a saying among engineers: “Fail faster, succeed sooner”. This means that you want to make mistakes and have failures in your work quickly so that you can learn from them and make improvements that lead to success. This rule is applied in industry and should be applied in government also. To its credit, this government has seen its own share of mistakes and failures recently but it appears also that the politicians are learning from these mistakes and failures and making improvements.

Three years ago who would have believed that Q-league would be talking with PPP about cooperation? Who would have believed that Mian Nawaz would state that the government should finish its elected term? Who would have predicted that any president would sign the 18th Amendment and give away his powers?

Progress is slow, but it is happening and we should be proud and encourage that. Part of progress though is mistakes. It is like learning to ride a bicycle. Whose father watches his child fall down and takes the cycle away? Actually they pick you up, dust you off, and encourage you to jump back on and have another go.

When the government makes a mistake we should not run screaming for angels in khakis to save us. Rather we should be cheering each and every government failure and pushing them to learn, improve, and more forward.