Bold and ugly

Published April 17, 2024
The writer is a poet. His latest publication is a collection of satire essays titled Rindana.
The writer is a poet. His latest publication is a collection of satire essays titled Rindana.

EACH time, Pakistan has to go to the IMF for a new Stand-by Arrangement or even at periodic reviews of perennial ‘stood-us-up’ programmes for the release of the next tranche, it is lectured on its failure to adhere to most of the programme’s conditions, ie, earn more than it spends, do away with untargeted and across-the-board subsidies, divest loss-making SOEs, ensure the State Bank’s independence and not treat the bank as a subsidiary of the finance ministry, etc. The newly elected government faces the unenvious prospect of being at the receiving end of this lecture again.

The government should, however, take heart and cite the Communist Party of Pakistan’s (CPP) most recent declaration, and that too by a personage no less than its secretary general who, while presiding at a meeting in Hyderabad, certified that the government is doing nothing but ‘following the Fund’s dictates’.

The Fund should not take the CPP’s endorsement lightly, as it does not come from some political party whose only claim to fame is contesting elections and forming a government here and leading an opposition there. The claim, nay indictment, comes from an entity that cannot be accused of even running a union council, sealing its reputation of neutrality and placing it as far away from vested interests as possible.

The party also lamented that all major political parties, including the PPP, PML-N, and PTI, got those elected who only serve the Fund’s purpose and, as such, declared the recent national elections as ‘nothing but a farce’. It is unclear whether the party communiqué failed to cite the shining examples of multiparty democracies and the ‘fair’ and ‘truly representative’ elections held in Russia only a few weeks back or similar examples to be emulated from China, or was it just an oversight by the papers’ district correspondents?

The Fund should not take the CPP’s endorsement lightly.

It is seldom that the ‘lefties’ and their favourite punching bags, the IFIs, need to look no further than political suicide notes disguised as television interviews of individuals on the point of bursting with self-importance with their misplaced sense of indispensability to the establishment. The remaining autopsy of communism is a topic for another piece. The remainder of this piece is dedicated to the avarice of crony capitalism, which the Fund refuses to distinguish from a system at least ostensibly based on merit, competition, a level playing field, and the government getting out of the business of business.

The Fund and the CPP should dig up an interview aired not too long ago on a popular television channel where a former provincial minister, someone very close to the centres of power at the time, debunked charges of corruption and loot by explaining in great detail how all he did was to inflate the value of his agricultural land with the ‘cooperation’ of the banks; got loans approved with the help of friends in the right places, and used that money to buy an industrial unit. He did not elaborate on the Ponzi any further, but then how much imagination does it take to figure out the rest?

For instance, electricity at a sugar mill can be stolen through kunda or a cooperative lineman; constant sugarcane supply, without having to pay for it for years, can be arranged through the transfers and postings of local police officials. Hoarding, price manipulation, and even export during domestic shortages can also be arranged. However, it calls for a larger cartel, inter-provincial coordination, and cooperation, not to forget good working relations with the centre.

He was asked about the alleged corruption of an erst­while party col­league; he very non­chalantly summarised the said person’s ‘humble antecedents’ but in the spirit of fairness hastened to add, “But he is very daring! I have to give it to him. It takes courage to be corrupt.” Such pearls of wisdom, another level of chutzpah…

The former and possibly future American president Donald Trump and his family members face civil fraud charges for inflating their property values to get loans on favourable terms and for tax evasion. We can gloat that far lower-ranked minions of government over here had not just discovered the formula before the Americans but had the ‘courage’ to fess up on national television. Anyone who tries to snatch this dubious distinction from us must first answer, what came first, Bambino or Trump Tower?

But our judicial and tax mandarins should take heart. No one is nudging them in that direction because gone are the days when the worst murderers and extortionists like Al Capon could be put behind bars for tax evasion, as even the New York state attorneys are finding it difficult to stop the train wreck called Trumpism.

The writer is a poet. His latest publication is a collection of satire essays titled Rindana.

shahzadsharjeel1@gmail.com

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2024

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