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By-elections and foreign loans

Random thoughts

During the last few weeks we witnessed tremendous political activity due to by-elections in Punjab. All eyes were fixed on constituencies NA-122, NA-144 and PP-147. NA-122 became vacant due to the Election Commission’s de-seating of the speaker of the National Assembly. This was the most important by-election since it was a direct tussle between Sardar Ayaz Sadiq (PML-N) and Abdul Alim Khan (PTI).

The N-Leaguers had been very complacent regarding the by-elections, but when the results started coming in, one saw they were nervous. Sardar Ayaz Sadiq managed to win, but by a very narrow margin of about 2,500 votes. He won about 73,000 against his opponent winning about 71,000. It was more of a moral defeat than a political victory. There were at least 10,000 government employees in the constituency and it is always easy for the ruling party to offer them incentives to win their loyalty. Sardar Ayaz Sadiq should have resigned and allowed another election as he now has no moral authority to be the NA speaker again. It is a red signal for the prime minister and the Punjab chief minister and they should take heed.

In NA-144, both the N-League and PTI candidates were squarely defeated by an independent candidate – a breath of fresh air. The other important by-election was in constituency PP-147. It was fought between N-League and PTI candidates. It turned out to be a shock for Mian Shahbaz Sharif and Mian Nawaz Sharif. Their candidate and relative, Mohsin Lateef, was squarely beaten by PTI candidate, Shoaib Siddiqui. These results must have sent shock waves through the N-League camp. The sword of Damocles is still hanging over the head of Sardar Ayaz Sadiq.

A recent poll by Pildat has now placed the PTI as the second largest party in the country. It also found that 75 percent of people like Mian Nawaz Sharif as prime minister while 49 percent are in favour of Imran Khan. Such forecasts are common in the western world, but they are to be taken with a pinch of salt. We know that Churchill, George Bush and Neil Kinnock were all humiliated while they were polled as favourites. Let us also not forget how President Harry Truman defeated his opponent, then New York governor Thomas Dewey, even when the Chicago Tribune had already published that Dewey had won. If Ayaz Sadiq had lost, these by-elections would have been disastrous for the Sharif brothers.

The recent Pildat opinion polls have put a great responsibility on the shoulders of Imran Khan. A few more such by-elections could very well make him leader of the opposition. He should now project himself as a sober, refined politician. He should not indulge in the rhetoric of ‘ball, bat, wicket, umpires, foul language’ etc against others. If he plays his cards well, he should be able to win many more votes than he did this time. It is time he put forward constructive plans to deal with national issues like loadshedding, inflation, unemployment, education and civil service reforms, etc. These are issues that require urgent attention, and foresight and advanced planning would serve him well.

A very dangerous situation is arising due to the open-handed acceptance of loans of billions of dollars. It seems we, as a country, accept whatever we can get without a single thought for the future. We are now under debt for more than a hundred billion dollars. These loans are not donations or gifts. The amounts required to pay interest alone is killing our economy. We are borrowing more and more just to be able to pay interest on previous loans.

The rulers are playing ‘Double Shaw of Gujranwala’ and the loaning agencies are like those famous Kabuli ‘soodkhors’ whose loans were never paid off despite regular payments. All this will lead to a Greece-like scenario. We will be forced to accept whatever conditions are demanded from us and our economy will be destroyed, leading to inflation and unemployment, thus shredding our national fabric.

Politicians will continue to become richer while the masses search for crumbs to survive. A time will come when the west will use pressure to force us to give up our nuclear assets and capability. Didn’t they denuclearise Kazakhastan giving them a mere $300 million?

After a few years the current rulers, who are accepting huge debts (and making money by clever and dubious projects), will be gone. They will leave the country and the masses to the mercy of vultures and wolves, who will show no pity. It remains to be seen whether or not we will have more capable leadership by then. This country of unscrupulous rulers already wrote off Rs500 billion hard-earned public money of loans given to their near and dear ones, crooks and looters, yet they are still living in luxury and enjoying the money they failed to return. Who was it who wrote off these loans? None other than dictators and elected rulers who themselves benefitted, directly or indirectly, from these write-offs. And was there any accountability required from those who granted these loans in the first place?

There is a rule that states that to destroy a country hand it over to a businessman and to destroy a university, hand it over to a brilliant faculty. In our country, one of the root causes of maladministration is a rotten civil service structure. It does not produce competent, capable, well-educated officers in the respective fields. We only succeed in producing jacks of all trades and masters of none. Check the credentials of those in top slots and the reason for the bad state of affairs will immediately become apparent. Promotions are made automatically and not on merit alone and political affiliation is more important than competence. There is a dire need for a surgical procedure to remove the cancer that has been allowed to grow, and to allow a healthy and capable administration and political system to develop.

Tailpiece: In my last column I had given a few hints to foreign education aspirants on how to go about it. It should also be mentioned that, for European universities, clearing the IELTS (English test) will also be required. For American universities, GRE test scores are required. This should be the first step in their strategy for acceptance to foreign universities.

Email: dr.a.quadeer.khan@gmail.com

Dr. A. Q Khan, "By-elections and foreign loans," The News. 2015-10-26.
Keywords: Political science , Political leaders , Local elections , By-elections , Sardar Ayaz Sadiq , Abdul Alim Khan , Mohsin Lateef , Nawaz Sharif , NA-122 , NA-144 , PML-N , PTI , Punjab