Failing governments

Failing governments
For seventy years now, both civil and uncivil governments have told Pakistanis that the country is going through a ‘crucial phase’.

Imran Yaqub Khan

Federal Minister for Interior, Ejaz Shah, recently presented a report in the national parliament in which a horrifying statistic came to light. Nationwide, a total of 771,225 crimes were recorded, Punjab in the lead with 490,000 and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at number two with 178,000 crimes.

While reading this report I was forced to contemplate whether the government has succeeded or failed. There are, of course, many parameters with which to judge a government’s performance. The GDP is important, as is the citizen’s lifestyle. For me, the security of the citizens is as important as any other factor. This is why governments were formed, after all, to protect the citizens from dangers, both internal and external. Many countries today face civil war because governments failed to secure its citizens. If elected governments fail to provide security, then in desperation, citizens are ready to accept fascist and vindictive governing too.

Where does the money to protect citizens come from? It comes from tax money which is utilized to hire and train security forces, equip them with weapons, construct and maintain jails and appoint both officers and staff. The government is also supposed to fill the people’s needs, whther they be filled by goods or by services. These needs cannot be fulfilled easily without government help. So which needs are these that the government is obliged to provide? Travel services, roads, bridges, ports and broadband internet for human communication. These services collect taxes, sometimes through private companies, but mostly, by the government itself.

Public needs also include social welfare responsibilities, which include providing employment and monetary support for the destitute and elderly.

If these are some of the parameters on which to judge the performance of any government, then the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf lead government fails badly. If anyone wishes to divert the blame away from the government by mentioning the 18th Amendment, they would do well to remember that the ruling party is also ruling in the two provinces that came first and second. Peshawar, under its second tenure of PTI, came first with 38,926 crimes.

And has the government fared any better in collecting tax? After raising tax collection to an unrealistic 45%. This tax money was to be used for development projects. As we near the end of the fiscal year, we hear that the government has not even spent half of its budget on development projects, but how will it spend money it doesn’t have? The coffers are empty.

Even if the treasury was full, the ruling party’s inexperience and weak team would result in Peshawar’s BRT-like fiasco. As for needs; well, first wheat flour disappeared from the market, then came back at much higher rates than before. For this, the government expects the public to be grateful. Now sugar, oil and other staples seem to be converging on the same path but worry not, for government ministers will have a unique solution to the problems. If wheat flour is expensive, then the size of the chappati can be reduced. And for suggesting such ludicrous solutions, the government must be praised to high heavens.

The responsibility to provide employment has turned into a threat, with most young people losing their jobs, and those that are still working, are threatened with firing every day by their employers.

The destitute and the elderly were being provided support by the Bait ul Mal since the time of General Zia’s dictatorship, yet the government has hijacked the project and renamed it ‘Ehsas Program’. Contracts for installations of machines for withdrawl of this aid will deduct from the receiver’s amount and will charge the government too. If this is ‘Ehsas’ then God save us all.

For seventy years now, both civil and uncivil governments have told Pakistanis that the country is going through a ‘crucial phase’. For the longest time this term was a running joke for the public but looking at the government now, it seems that we really are going through a ‘crucial phase’. If no action is taken to fix the government, then matters will soon spiral so far down that the public will be paying for it through their nose for decades to come.

Who knows whether this is a rumor or real news, but media circles were discussing the supposed contact and consultation on economy that powerful circles made with former Finance Minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Ishaq Dar. The former minister apparently told the representative of the powerful circles that if things continue as they are for much longer, then it will take eight or ten years for the economy to rebound.

This article first appeared in Daily Dunya (Urdu).