Given the harsh economic crunch Pakistan is passing through, there emerged two kinds of opinions ever since the new government perched on the throne of power. One opinion says that the government took up the reins in dwindling pecuniary conditions with no option but to levy extra taxes and thereby apply all those tactics which may chip away the financial crisis and help come out of this quicksand Pakistan is deeply mired in. This view suggests we ought to wait, and let the Prime Minister Imran Khan work until Pakistan is out of the financial constraints. By and by the Khan will put things on right routes. So, develop patience and stand by him since he stands as a last hope for Pakistan amidst the coterie of corrupt politicians who have brought Pakistan on the brink of decadence.
The proponent of the second opinion can’t wait for that much long and want wholesome results forthwith. They see faults and glitches everywhere – from announcing back-breaking budget to lack of intention to put the country on the promised paths which have alluringly been committed by Imran Khan while being on the container and elsewhere during protests.
Let us now ascertain the weight behind these arguments. Going by the first argument, we do not have anything substantial in hand right now, but just the character of a man who has shown unflinching spirit to achieve the things he avows in life – his winning the coveted World Cup, his efforts for giving Asia’s best cancer hospitals to the nation, his coming clean when it comes to rampant ubiquitous tales of financial corruption, to name a few. After Abdul Sattar Edhi, he remains the only being whom the people of his country trust the most for the charity missions assuredly because the nation believes he will not fall for financial tampering.
With deep furrows on his forehead and the demeanor of a concerned person, he tells his people yarns of corruption corroding the very basis of this country. In the same breath, he bellows out warnings to the crooked people and emphatically says he will not spare any corrupt and put all behind bars – an expression almost extinct in erstwhile rulers.
With his resolve, unprecedentedly strange accounts of corruption are emerging. Fake bank accounts carrying exorbitant amounts of over one billion rupees have come out. Temper frays when it dawns upon us how fake and ‘benami’ accounts are managed to transfer the huge pots of money obtained through corruption and embezzlement. Front men are used to camouflage the real identities of the embezzlers.
Let’s now turn to the problem of tax evasion. Most politicians, despite running big businesses, are tax defaulters. On the eve of elections 2018, 21,428 candidates submitted their nomination papers; out of these, 30% even did not have national tax numbers, and another 30%, though having NTNs, did not file tax returns.
To achieve the targets, tax net is being extended on a wider level. Mega drives have been launched to nab tax evaders.
Thus, his supporters are hopeful that things would turn out better, though it would take time. They repose complete trust to the leadership of Imran Khan that he would bring the ever promised change.
On the other side, his opponents stand – frowning and frothing, vehement and vociferous – waiting in ambush like a cat to pounce upon the prey over its slightest movement of mistake. They are extra-active to pinpoint the missteps taken up by the government.
To substantiate, it is pointed out that government has evermore been critical about the old, dusty and rusty system of “patwaris” in tasks of revenues; but when the Deputy Commissioners of Chakwal and Rajanpur resisted the political interferences from the PTI’s MNAs who reportedly intruded into the services matters allegedly seeking transfers of some patwaris, the DCs were served with show cause notices and inquiries initiated against them for violating the chain of commands as the concerned officers complained of the political interferences direct to the Election Commission of Pakistan while bypassing their senior commands.
This was the start. Issues of political interferences then kept piling over the others showcasing weakness of the government, hence giving sufficient material to the critics for lambasting the rulers - the latest being the verbal transfer order of the IG Islamabad.
Another charge being built up is based on the report that the development funds worth billions are to be issued to the PTI members of Punjab assembly. If this happens, this will stand in sheer contrast to what Imran Khan has always been promoting in his policy-guide for the ‘Naya’ Pakistan.
Only last year, while criticising Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for doling out Rs. 94 billion to the selected PML-N lawmakers as development fund, Imran Khan said that if the PTI came to power, it would pass development funds to local government representatives. He added that allocating discretionary funds to members of parliament “opens up new windows of corruption”.
Imran Khan’s heading for financial aids from friendly states and the bailout package from IMF have also drawn harshest censure from the opposition, reminding government its earlier pledges not to go for aid or IMF package.
The list is long; it persistently moves on unfailingly. So are the outlines sketched by the supporters of Imran Khan. But at the end of the day, the stark reality is that Khan and his coterie took up the central stage when the economy was dipping the lowest with experts anticipating current account deficit to surpass $21 billion in the current fiscal year.
In such a gloomy picture, some exceptional pragmatic steps – away from the Don Quixotic rhetoric of pre-election spell – have to be pursued to make room for the capital inflow from all possible means to bring the country out of this economic predicament.
For that, the government is tightening screws around money laundering, wealth concealment, capital flight, misdeclaration in external trade documents, fake accounts, fabricated statements of income and misuse of public funds.
To extract the desired outcomes, all national intuitions like apex court, National Accountability Bureau, Assets Recovery Unit, Federal Board of Revenue and Federal Investigation Agency are collaborating with one another.
Notwithstanding negativities that dampen for the time being, there are predominantly affirmative aspects ardently chased by the government, which makes us keep our fingers crossed. Let us cultivate hope and back the first opinion that things will at last take up the right routes in the years to come as enjoined upon by the captain in his various recent proclamations.
The writer is a lecturer at Punjab Group of