Friday, 17 May 2013

Pakistan: Who is pulling the strings?

PML-N leader Shahbaz Sharif has warned the caretaker prime minister not to make appointments to certain key posts at the behest of President Asif Zardari. He reminded him to respect the people’s mandate as he was legally, morally and politically obliged to respect this mandate and warned of a stern stance if the caretakers did not change their attitude.

Ahsan Iqbal, the PML-N’s deputy secretary general, wonders what is forcing the interim government to take important decisions while the new set-up is going to change within 10 days.

MQM has announced to boycott the re-poll in NA-250. In a press conference held on Friday evening, MQM’s senior leader Raza Haroon said that efforts were made to snatch the party’s mandate in Karachi. The ECP on Friday rejected the MQM petition which sought re-polling in the entire NA-250 constituency of Karachi.

The ECP declared that re-polling would only be held in 43 polling stations of NA-250 out of total 180 polling stations where allegedly polling was not held or delayed these stations on 11th May.

In a surprising development, the lawyer who had filed a petition in the judges’ detention case has withdrawn his complaint against former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf. The decision by Advocate Chaudhry Mohammad Aslam Ghumman came a day before the hearing of the case on Saturday by the Islamabad Anti-Terrorism Court at former president Pervez Musharraf’s Chak Shahzad farmhouse which has been declared a sub-jail.

Lately, Wazir Ali Khoja was removed from his post of Chairman and Managing Director National Investment Trust (NIT). Before his dismissal the government had removed three heads of public sector organizations: 1) Arif Hameed, MD, Sui Northern Gas Pipelines (SNGPL); Zuhair Siddiqui, MD Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) and retired Brigadier Khalid Khokhar, MD Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation (PMDC). 

One completely fails to understand that the power has not been transferred to newly elected members, elected members have not taken oath and even the names of new prime minister and finance minister have not been announced officially but posting and transfers are being made.

Many political parties have been talking about pre-poll and during the poll rigging but none have raised voice against such terminations. If such moves are being made at the federal level one just can’t rule out such violations at the provincial levels.

Almost all the political parties, PML-N being on the top, were accusing PPP-lead coalition of posting the favorites, but dismissal of those even before assuming charge creates even worst examples of nepotism by PML-N.

There were complaints that PML-N that ruled Punjab for five years, kept the favorites in key position during the interim set up to influence polling results.

It is often said that appointment of professionals as heads of public sector enterprises was aimed at improving performance of these entities. However, often these heads are appointed to serve the political agenda of appointing authorities.

The key items on agenda are: 1) paving way for appointment of party activists, 2) allocating advertisements to favorite media houses and above all 3) siphoning of funds by granting contracts to favorite entities.

The public sector enterprises that have been ruined include PIA, Pakistan Steel, and electricity generation and distribution companies. Entities that have been used to generate funds to meet shortfall in revenue collection are OGDC, PPL, PSO and Sui twins.
Interestingly nepotism, corruption and violation of good governance continued during the PPP led government despite the fact that Chaudhry Nisar Ali belonging to PML-N occupies the top slot of Chairman Public Accounts Committee.

Therefore, it may not be wrong to say that political parties criticize each other but have common motives. Surplus staff of PIA and Pakistan Steel just can’t be removed because activists of many political parties are there that follow the rule ‘I scratch you back and you scratch my back’.

Critics say political parties play ‘musical chair game’, let their favorites plunder and the next government allows them to go home without any accountability. Some cynics say that loyalties of turncoats are bought so that they could also help the new bosses in siphoning out funds of the public sector enterprises (PSEs).

It is o record that annually PSEs swallow around half a trillion rupees of tax payers’ money. A cynic commenting on metro bus project of PML-N said, ‘it was only to facilitate Ittefaq Steel (own by Sharif family) to sell its products’. 

It is only half truth because the project serves residents of Lahore only, whereas the condition of public transport throughout Punjab remains pathetic.

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