There seems to be no hope for improvement in the plight of people of Pakistan. The same economic team that was in place during the Musharraf junta is entrenched like a virus in our Ministry of Finance. Any hopes pinned on this political government to provide a relief vanished the day Mr Shaukat Tarin resigned. With Shaukat Aziz and Salman Shah being the two absentees, the Minister of State for Finance today has the indispensable Hina Rabbani Khar assisting the 'new Adviser on Finance, Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, the very man who supervised the failed privatizations of Pakistan Steel Mills, KESC etc. The third member of these three witches from our past is a former IMF retired economist who served the former junta briefly during Shaukat Azizs tenure. This son of a former Chief Secretary had proceeded abroad on an all-expenses-paid foreign scholarship with a bond requiring him to come back and serve but instead joined the IMF. The senior most bureaucrat in the Ministry of Finance at present we all remember very well as Musharrafs choice to head Punjab. With the same policymakers in the chairs at the top of the table, it is small wonder that same policy is in place too; resort ever more to more and more indirect taxation, never shall we widen the tax net. This would only add to the frightening rise of inflation, especially after the VAT hits the poor ordinary consumers like a bolt from the sky. Meanwhile, the tax evaders and the filthy richy rich shall continue to avoid paying their dues. In the developed world, even with their advanced, well-documented economies, the VAT was levied only after all traditional sources of taxation had been exhausted and the state could not fulfill its welfare obligations to the most deprived sections of the society with out it. In Pakistan it is the elite which gets our state subsidies, in the form of allotment of expensive real estate or large tracts of agriculture land or evacuee property, waiving of capital tax on property, reduction of import duty on luxury vehicles, waiver of tax on stock exchange profiteering, or tax holidays, pure and simple, to whole industries. The state seems oblivious of its obligation to provide subsidized health, education, security and justice to the most deprived of our society. Prime real estate located in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore etc has been allotted for peanuts to develop golf club resorts for the minority elite and building expensive private clinics, schools and colleges for their children, which charge astronomical fees beyond reach of the common man. It is such policies which forced the poor to send their children to madressas where some of them ended up being recruited by Jihadists. The tragedy of Pakistan is that those who make our policies and decide the fate of this nation have nothing at stake here. Our rulers have more feelings for their polo ponies than their starved masses. These people do not consider Pakistan worthy of living for their children, nor safe for their private wealth and assets to be kept. -MIR TASSADAQ, Lahore, May 17.