Money mania – 17 Jun 2022

WE live in a bizarre country. That is the most appropriate term I find to describe Pakistan. It has some laws and of ficial practices that are not only irrational, but actually absurd when seen in the context of their implementation. They cannot be explained and no sane-minded person would justify them. The elites are the beneficiaries and so they are pro-status quo.

The root of the evil lies in our failure to show ownership of our country, mainly because we are not unanimous in our opinion regarding the raison d`être of Pakistan`s genesis. Was it to be a homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent? Was it to be a theocratic state patterned on Riyasat-iMadina? Was it to be a security state designed to guard the ummah? The fact is that our own people now feel betrayed by our own rulers.

Mostly uneducated, our masses are confused. They fill the mosques chock-a-block and pray for a miracle. That alone can brace them for the sacrifices they are asked to make in the name of austerity.

A look at the situation on the ground brings out the bizarre contradictions. The authors of the federal budget announced last week had obviously not read the Pakistan National Human Development Report (2020) prepared by renowned economist Dr Hafeez Pasha. It very succinctly brings out the stark inequality that divides the country into `two Pakistans`. He writes, `The overall share for the poorest income quintile is 14.2 per cent compared to 37.2pc for the richest quintile.

What is not recorded in this budget or in earlier ones is the fact that `the total privileges enjoyed by Pakistan`s most powerful groups amounted to Rs2,660 billion in 20172018. Equivalent to 7pc of the country`s GDP, these privileges can be broken down into favourable pricing, lower taxation and preferential access`. On the other hand, according to Pasha, the social welfare programme which is mainly used by the poor amounted to a measly Rs624bn in 2019.

And how do our rulers spend the revenues and foreign exchange reserves they earn? Economist Kaiser Bengali, while presenting a `shadow budget` a day before the federal budget was introduced in the National Assembly, gave us this bit of information.

For every Rs100 raised as revenue the government spends Rs200 on current expenditure. As for the balance-of-payments gap, for every $100 worth of goods exported we import goods worth $220. This deficit is met by loans that have been ballooning, and now foreign debt servicing stands at Rs3.9 trillion.

The president of Pakistan was recently reported to have approved a 10pc hike inthe salaries of superior judiciary judges.

The salaries of senior bureaucrats and the perks they receive are phenomenal as I was informed by our unrelenting social activist Naeem Sadiq who gathers information from the horse`s mouth. From him I learnt that the federal and four provincial governments in the country collectively own 150,000 vehicles that are mostly allocated to of ficials of various grades while a few are kept in a car pool to be requisitioned for specific purposes. Naeem Sadiq also told me that the British government owns 83 vehicles and all of them are kept in a car pool and that no individual is allotted a car.

The perks have been bizarre in Pakistan, with bureaucrats entitled to hundreds of litres of petrol. Senior officials and their families are entitled to healthcare from elite private hospitals and the government reimburses their bills. Overcrowded illequipped public-sector hospitals are not good enough for them.

It remains to be seen whether the austerity measures, which include slashing petrolquotas, announced for government officials, will be followed.

The privileges have extended to education. The private schools and cadet colleges are for the rich, includ-ing government servants, and low-fee schools are for the poor. So inadequate is the education system in the country that Unesco says that 23 million children in the age group from five to 16 years don`t go to school. The biggest paradox is the rapidly growing population of those who live below the poverty line. The leaders are too prudish to even make a call for family planning, and the babies keep coming six million a year, according to the National Committee for Maternal and Neonatal Health.

The bulk of the populadon has been reduced to this condition as a result of poor governance and resource constraints. A major factor is the expenditure on safeguarding the security state. The defence budget for FY2023 stands at Rs1.52tr which is an 11.16pc increase over the previous year`s defence spending.

The greatest irony is that the real danger comes from the possibility of an implosion, spawned by internal unrest among the poverty-stricken starving masses who have reached the brink. Can our other sophisticated arsenal be used to protect the security state from its own people? m

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Minority task force – 17 Jun 2022

It is a matter of great honour and privilege for me that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has appointed me chairman of a task force with a status of federal minister. The newly-constituted task force, comprising five senators and nine MNAs from minority communities, will be responsible for overseeing minority issues in line with the directions of the honorable Supreme Court.

Here, I also would like to thank all political parties, especially religious parties, that unanimously passed a resolution in the National Assembly in my favour to prioritize the issue of minority rights. It is also a great honour for me to have the trust of my fellow parliamentarians.

I have been in parliament for the last two decades and I have tabled many bills to introduce new legislation or seek amendments for the public interest at large. Despite my very tough schedule, I ensure I am available to extend immediate help in case any segment of the community faces an issue beyond their local reach. My presence in parliament also helps maintain close coordination with other fellow parliamentarians to promote interfaith harmony.

I have represented the Hindu community before the honourable Supreme Court on many issues, such as kidnappings and abductions, forced conversions, restoration of temples and holy places, job quotas, and most recently to seek prohibition of alcohol beverages in the name of non-Muslims. I believe that by doing this social work, I am contributing something to make our society peaceful where everyone enjoys their rights.

The detailed decision of June 19, 2014 by the Supreme Court for the protection of minorities reflects one of my most significant struggles in the legal field. The judgment is, no doubt, among the few such actions by the judiciary that attempts to address and ensure the rights of non-Muslim citizens. I am very hopeful that now all pillars of the state would be on one page on this issue, with the cooperation of the media.

Although the role of the task force us advisory in nature, the decision by the current government to follow the unanimously passed resolution can be termed historic for various reasons. First, it is an deniable fact that minorities in Pakistan are facing numerous issues despite their unconditional love for the country. Forced conversions and forced marriages of underage minor girls belonging to the Hindu community have not been controlled yet. Such an unwanted situation creates a sense of insecurity and panic among the vulnerable minority communities. However, this can be overcome with the help of this task force.

Pakistan has a rich heritage and great potential for faith tourism. On several occasions, I have highlighted this issue that our holy places and historic sites are in dire need of protection by government institutions. Most recently, our temple in Korangi, Karachi came under attack by some extremist elements, who attacked it in response to the persecution of Muslims in India. I believe that now I will be in a better position to preserve and safeguard our places.

I have visited many foreign countries and observed that the main objective of any welfare state must be to provide social and economic equality to all citizens regardless of their religious affiliations. Under the task force, I will try my best to play my due role in ensuring fair standards of living, access to justice, education, job opportunities and freedom of expression.

I would like to dedicate this new responsibility to Quaid-e-Azam, whose August 11, 1947 speech is still a ray of hope for all patriotic non-Muslim minorities. I would like to assure everyone that the task force, under my chairmanship, is ready to accept the toughest challenge to implement what Quaid-e-Azam had promised with non-Muslim citizens 75 years ago. I pledge to complete all tasks with the support of all my colleagues, human right activists and the non-Muslim community. I thank God Almighty who has enabled me to do something good for my country and nation.

The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

He tweets @RVankwani

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Parliamentarians’ assets – 17 Jun 2022

According to Section 137 of the Election Act 2017, members of the Senate and the national and provincial assemblies are under obligation to submit their annual statements of assets and liabilities, along with those of their spouses and dependent children to the Election Commission of Pakistan. Over the years, many have attempted to either shirk from declaring their assets or use all kinds of means to somehow disclose as little as possible to the public. And, due to the lack of any automated system and mandatory provision of such details in digital form, most of the times the assets returns forms are thoroughly confusing – muddled figures, illegible handwriting, anything but coherence. While some parliamentarians will disclose details of their spouses wealth, they may choose to avoid detailing out their other dependents’ information.

The ECP has released data regarding assets owned by members of parliament for the year 2021. Interestingly, the assets of many of the members hardly mount to Rs20 million. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is apparently in debt to his son Suleman Shehbaz, while holding assets worth Rs240 million and liabilities worth Rs140 million – his net worth coming to Rs100 million. The prime minister holds property in London. His spouse Nusrat Shehbaz’s assets stand at Rs230 million with investments in various mills. The value of properties and investments shown by the PM and his spouse would raise interesting questions. Former PM Imran Khan’s assets stand at a little more than Rs140 million, with eight properties inside Pakistan and four properties of his spouse Bushra Bibi. He has no property or business abroad, in keeping with his mantra that a country’s rulers should not hold properties abroad. Imran Khan has shown his Bani Gala House as a gift. While there is little by way of investment and earning, millions were spent on repairing and reconstructing his houses in Bani Gala and Zaman Park. He has declared four goats as assets over the years but no car. He is however seen using bullet-proof cars, which makes one wonder whether the former PM is carpooling with friends. PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari may be moving around the world asking for investments in Pakistan but himself prefers to invest in Dubai. He too owns no car.

Needless to say, this annual assets reveal is important. However, the form it is in and the lack of scrutiny it seems to go through is rather disappointing. The requirements mentioned in the Election Act are not fulfilled properly and it seems they are hardly even counter-checked. At a time when the country’s people are being asked to tighten belts to the extent of giving up a cup of chai, perhaps our politicos need to take a look at the wealth they are sitting on and ask themselves who they fool when they fill out these forms.

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No truth in Dua Zehra`s abduction story, IO tells court – 17 Jun 2022

KARACHI: Sindh police on Thursday recommended cancellation of an FIR lodged by parents of Dua Zehra, who had gone missing from Karachi and was recovered from Punjab, saying that theclaims about her kidnapping and being underage could not be proved.

On June 7, the Sindh High Court had allowed Zehra to decide whom she was intending to reside or go with af ter she denied on oath that she had been kidnapped by her purported husband, Zaheer Ahmed, saying that she had married him of her own free will.

The police had booked Zaheer Ahmed, cleric Hafiz Ghulam Mustaf a, who had allegedly solem-nised their underage marriage, and Ali Asghar, a witness to the marriage.

On Thursday, Judicial Magistrate (East) Aftab Ahmed Bughio fixed the matter for June 20 to hear arguments from the parties on the challan filed under Section 173 of the criminal procedure code.

Earlier, Investigating Officer (IO) DSP Shaukat Ali Shahani Kled the ñnalchallan stating that during investigation it was foundthat the circumstances, documentary evidence and statements of Dua Zehra were first recorded before a Lahore judicial magistrate under Section 164 of the CrPC and later before the SHC on oath and it turned out that the woman had gone from Karachi to Punjab of her own free will and no one had kidnapped her.

He said that a medico-legal of ficer`s certificate also suggested Dua`s age between 16 and 17 years, and therefore, no offence of herkidnapping was made out under Section 364-A of the Pakistan Penal Code, according to which an abductee`s age must be less than 14years.

The IO further said that since marriage of Dua and Zaheer had taken place in L ahore and because every province had different traditions and laws related to marriages, therefore, Sections 3 / 4 of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2013 were also not attracted in the present case.

DSP Shahani stated that since the girl had denied before the magistrate and the SHC that she had been kidnapped, therefore, Section 216 (harbouring offender) of the PPC was also not applicable against the bridegroom`s 10 relatives, who on this basis had already been discharged f rom the case by the court under Section 63 of the CrPC.

Mr Shahani maintained that the remaining detained suspects, cleric Hafiz Ghulam Musfata and Asghar Ali, were also found to be innocent, thus their further detention would be injustice to them.

He recommended to the court to also discharge them from the case under Section 169 of the CrPC overlack ofevidence.

Concluding the report, the IO recommended to the magistrate to accept the challan in C-class and order cancellation of the FIR.

A case was registered under Sections 364-A (kidnapping or abducting a person under the age of 14), 216 (harbouring of fenders) of the Pakistan Penal Code read with Section3(i) of the Prevention of Trafficking in Person, 2018 read with Sections 3 / 4 of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2013 at the Al-Falah police station on the complaint of the girl`s father, Syed Mehdi Ali Kazmi.

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Boy kills father – 17 Jun 2022

TOBA TEK SINGH: On Thursday evening, a boy slaughtered his spiritual healer father in Mamu Kanjan`s village Chak 554-GB.

The police said deceased Baba Zahoor Saeen divorced his wife several years ago who died two years ago.

Zahoor had no contact with his children, but after his mother`s death suspect Sajjad Ali would occasionally visit his f ather.

He visited his father on Thursday and hit his head with a wooden bar and when his f ather fell unconscious, Sajjad slaughtered him. He later set himself into the Mamukanjan police.

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16-year-old girl ‘falls’ off balcony to her death – 17 Jun 2022

Karachi: A teenage girl died after allegedly falling off a balcony of a residential building in Karachi’s Aram Bagh locality on Thursday.

An Aram Bagh police official said that a teenage girl died after she allegedly fell off a balcony of a residential building near Pakistan Chowk.

After receiving information, police and rescue workers reached the area to take the girl to the Dr Ruth KM Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK), where she was identified as 16-year-old Ariba Rashid. Police said they are investigating the case from different angles, including murder, suicide and accident.

Wall collapse

A woman was killed and her husband injured on Thursday after a wall of their house collapsed on top of them in the Lyari neighbourhood. Police said the casualties were shifted to the Civil Hospital where the deceased woman was identified as Samina, 44, and her injured husband as Imran, 47.

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Man arrested for torturing his mother – 17 Jun 2022

LAHORE:A man was arrested for subjecting his mother, maid and grandson to torture under influence of liquor in Ghaziabad on Thursday.

The arrested suspect has been identified as Nadeem. He reportedly had consumed heavy amount of liquor and was frustrated. After a brief argument with his mother, he subjected the victim Basheeran Bibi to torture. When a maid and his grandson came for her rescue, he also beat them up.

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Three sexually abused in the district – 17 Jun 2022

KHURRIANWALA: A 12-year-old boy was allegedly molested while two girls foiled rape attempts by making noise. According to the case filed by Abdul Razzaq, a resident of 97 RB Sheikhupura Road, his 12-year-old son went to fetch yoghurt from his house when the accused, Rajab Ali, lured him to a sugarcane field and allegedly raped him. Police registered a case against Rajab Ali and started raids to arrest him. Meanwhile, Adnan allegedly took the six-year-old daughter of Waris Ali to his camp and attempted to rape her, widch she thwarted by making noise and drawing attention. Separately in 546 GB, the accused Hassan Iqbal entered a house at gunpoint and found Riaz Ahmad’s 12-year-old daughter alone in the house and attempted to rape her. OUR CORRESPONDENT

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