Democracy- By Dr Farrukh Saleem


Democracy is about elections. We had elections 11 months ago. Democracy is about universal suffrage (right to vote to all adult citizens). We have universal suffrage. Democracy is about majority rule. We have that too. What we now need to do is to hold our democracy accountable; accountable for its acts, accountable to voters.

Consider this: Pakistan is 340,403 square miles and has 172 million citizens. Of the 172 million, 127 million make Rs160 a day or less (Utility Stores sell Tapal Danedar Tea 400 grams for Rs153). Of the 172 million, 40 million Pakistanis go to bed empty stomach (Utility Stores sell daal masoor for Rs115 per kilogram). There are at least 2 million Pakistani children begging on our urban streets, 9 out of 100 born in Pakistan die before reaching the age of 12 months and 35 Pakistanis women die every day from pregnancy-related complications.

Now consider this: A mere ten miles from Pakistan is Islamabad. Islamabad is 350 square miles and has a million inhabitants. Islamabad now has 91 ministers or VIPs with the rank of a minister. Every 10,000 residents of Islamabad have a minister and there is a minister for every 4 square miles of Islamabad. Each minister costs the exchequer Rs3 million to Rs4 million per month, Rs50 million a year or Rs100,000 a day, every single day of the year (Peshawar, Lahore, Karachi and Quetta all have there own armies of ministers).

Islamabad is a mere ten miles from Pakistan. Islamabad has 42 ministries and at least 48 divisions. Islamabad also has at least 42 civilian armoured cars with bullet-proof glass, ballistic stainless steel plates, run-flat tires, an explosion-resistant fuel tank and layers of armour under the outer skin capable of withstanding military-grade small arms. One such special armoured version of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, known as S-Guard, costs Pakistan Rs160 million. Just one less car and one million Pakistanis could eat daal masoor and drink Tapal Danedar that day.

America has a 15-member cabinet. Germany has 15 ministers, Switzerland has 7, France 21, Nigeria 19 and Somalia 31. In the U.K., the Ministerial and Other Salaries Act 1975 restricts the total number of paid cabinet ministers to 22. Always wondered what our federal Ministry of Women Development does or for that matter the Ministries of Culture, Youth Affairs, Tourism, Population Welfare, Overseas Pakistanis, Minorities, Housing & Works and Livestock do. After all, what is the total number of animal-residents of Islamabad?

Islamabad is a mere ten miles from Pakistan. The Prime Minister of Pakistan has spent Rs79 million on foreign trips over the past 4 months. What if the PM’s New Year resolution is not to leave Pakistan for the following 360 days? Each and every one of the 138 districts in Pakistan could get a new school. What if the PM decides not to leave Pakistan for the following 5 years? Each and every one of the 138 districts in Pakistan could get a new hospital. Vow, PM for life!

Here is an 11-item matrix that claims the total expenses of just one MNA to be Rs90,000 per day (it does appear to be exaggerated but accountants, who I have shared this with, have been unable to find any major error):

1. Monthly Salary: Rs120,000 to 200,000

2. Expense for Constitution per month: Rs100,000

3. Office expenditure per month: Rs140,000

4. Traveling concession (Rs8 per km): Rs48,000

5. Daily BETA during Assembly meets: Rs500

6. Charge for 1 class (A/C) in Train: Free (For any number of times)

7. Charge for Business Class in flights: Free for 40 trips / year (With wife or P.A.)

8. Rent for Govt hostel any where: Free

9. Electricity costs at home: Free up to 50,000 units

10. Local phone call charge: Free up to 170,000 calls

11. Total expense for a MNA per year: Rs32,000,000 (Rs88,889/day)

If we were to follow Singapore’s example then all privileges should be monetized (lets say, Rs300,000 to Rs400,000 per month for every minister/MNA and nothing else). Imagine; 127 million Pakistanis earn Rs160 per day or less while each and every one of our 91 ministers cost Islamabad Rs100,000 a day. Democracy must be held accountable.

The writer is the executive director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS). Email: farrukh15@hotmail.com

Source: The News, 1-Feb-09

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