Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What was he thinking?

Addressing envoys from various western countries in the capital on Thursday, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani seems to have forgotten a few basics when it comes to reassuring Pakistan’s donors about how we plan to spend their aid money. Urging donors to fulfil the pledges made to Pakistan after 2010’s devastating floods, the PM rather carelessly said that checking corruption would be like walking a “tightrope”. He further went on to elaborate that balancing matters like development activities, resolving outstanding national issues and tackling corruption simultaneously would be “difficult”. Now, it is common knowledge that the government has plenty on its plate that it must take care of, but was it really necessary for the PM to reiterate this to international guests whose job it is to assess whether or not Pakistan actually deserves the money it has been promised?
The fact that Pakistan received pitiful little after the worst floods witnessed in recent history spoke volumes about the lack of trust that western countries have in us. It is because of debilitating incidences of corruption that Pakistan, ravaged by extremists, plagued by natural disasters, depleted of natural resources and on the verge of economic collapse, has seen an international community that has not been generous in coming to our aid. In such a climate, for the PM to state that handling corruption would be a tough task is a very negative message to relay. It is worth reminding our incumbents that to remedy the malaise that has seeped so deep into the national fabric, it is corruption that has to be dealt a firm blow. Without corruption being minimised if not eliminated, development will suffer as all projects will be affected by siphoned off money.
One just needs to see the rulings delivered by the Supreme Court (SC) lately to understand just how pervasive corruption has become. The SC has ordered rental power companies to give back with interest the millions they had taken as advances from the government for their failure to initiate power generation projects. It is little wonder then that citizens live in the dark. The SC has also ordered three retired generals to reply to allegations concerning the leasing of lands belonging to Pakistan Railways allegedly for a pittance during the Musharraf era, costing the national exchequer an astounding Rs 25 billion. This case may have been a legacy of the previous incumbents but the problem has not stopped there. As the rental power case exemplifies and, whether true or not, the recent reports pertaining to the Hajj scam that point an accusatory finger at the PM’s own family only show that even the highest ranking officials in this country are not going to be easily trusted by international donors. Frankly, who can blame them?
The task, as stated, will definitely be a hard one. However, it is not impossible and it certainly is a task that needs a serious beginning to be made and demonstrated. Corruption may well prove the straw that broke the camel’s back if it is not wiped out. It was imperative that the PM, during this visit of foreign delegates, show how committed his government is to cleansing the system but, alas, they have been sent back probably even more sceptical than before. The ruling incumbents still have two years to implement some vestige of a policy to rid us of the corruption menace and to clean up their own act. We hope that they manage to convey such a commitment to the international community soon. *

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