DR ZAFAR ALTAF
The country is short-changed on everything and yet the elite mafia keeps on getting ever more greedy and selfish. What is the eventual outcome of all this? Mafias abound on the scene. My definition of economic mafia is some one, who does much worse than a gun toting Sicilian or Italian. However, the one I am talking about has a recurring ability and keeps on milking the nation metaphorically and literally.
These mafias have lately increased and these have been because of the last government’s abilities to only see as far their nose. At the time they emerged, there were only seven of them and at one meeting with the then President of Pakistan I stated who those seven were. I was responding to a question by the then President that I had powerful friends and powerful enemies. So I narrated who my powerful enemies were and I had also mentioned that the power of the negative was much more than the power of the positive.
When I named the seven in descending order, the President agreed that I had a correct measure of the men. Unlike Protagoras, the stoic philosopher, who taught virtue, the then President and his men heard but did not take any notice, listened but did not pay heed. A powerful reminder of what can happen to people who live in ivory towers and feel the world’s information is provided by their JCO[s] and other ranks. If the information world were to be moved by these sources what would become of us?
Since then new mafias have emerged. These are the shameless types. Let me get to them. When former SBP governor and my senior in service, and the then SG Finance intrigued to remove the co-operative system out of the farmer’s realm and bring in micro credit and finance banking system they had in fact conspired against the country. Without a thought they demolished a structure that had been painstakingly built after the East Pakistan debacle.
All the institutions that were thus built have been subjected to the worst kind of mafia style assassinations. What was the ‘done deal’ with the WB and IMF? Simply this that the new cost of capital would be on the basis of neo-liberal economics – meaning that it would not be regulated. We now know what kind of reforms the banking sector had been up to and how the former PM/FM were involved in all kinds of scams.
When in the seminar on this subject the affected farmers spoke up one should have looked at the face of these self justifying group, who later on remarked that if this kind of information was to be brought out then they would never have come. Do we understand what these modern pro-poor bankers are saying; that they are above the laws and rules and regulations not to speak of the social systems of this country.
Triple mafias have emerged. How else can you identify them? Once they have made enough money on over invoicing and on establishing other monopolist organisations then they can be called none other than three or four-time mafias. These are of two kinds. One likes the poultry industry where they have kept all the interventions to their self.
In other words, they have kept the entire sector’s interventions to a few and have not allowed the market to become competitive and thus to improve efficiency in operations and consumer welfare to the fore. The second is where they have taken part in all the power-oriented industries – textile, sugar and in some cases even milk. The three reinforce each other in terms of having access to the industrial sectors perversion of the economic system.
The lessons on ethics emerging from the West is that it would be better for the world to be decently organised and not think that the few have the right to all kinds of paper transactions. There is of a third kind that is then a true monopoly and then all it has to do is to ensure that other entrants do not enter the industry. These are the one’s that have taken the country to the brink.
The new emerging mafias are also in the traditional realm. Take the case of the land mafia and the urban mafia. I used to complain of the market mafia that made off with the loaded trucks of the farmers that came to Lahore from the smaller provinces. Imagine this. Vegetable trucks are only allowed in Lahore and urban areas if they come between midnight and 4 am that is it.
If they come later, then that they have to wait an extra day. That means an extra cost to the farmers and in some case complete loss. The Arhtis and the khepias do have a field day. The producer and the consumer suffer. The dwindling margin of the producers does not do well by them. The result is the increase in agriculture related inflation on the one hand and disincentive to the farmer to do well.
Brace yourself for I am now going to identify the king of the landed mafia – the patwari – who by his singular and parochial act has become the information king of the rural areas. His little world is big when it comes to securing any land. Try and see how he can be transferred. He is the lowest rung of the revenue systems agrarian system and much of the malaise comes from him. His lordship is so powerful that the Senior Member Board of Revenue cannot budge him.
I was witness to the effort being made by the powerful of the last government when they were trying to use their influence to get a court verdict in their favour through manipulations for an act of corruption in which the patwari was caught red handed. How is that for a government that set up the National Accountability Bureau.
Who was more corrupt the corrupter of the social system or the corrupter of money. One is one time the other is for all times with a recurring element. You make a guess? It is for these reasons one says that it is better to have a democratic government than a tyrannical one. The tyrannical one is rigid and suffers from rigor mortis, its arteries are hardened and it has lost all sense of free flow of the lifeblood of a nation. The patwari rules, OK.
Whoever got hold of this land he is doing well. It comes at a comparatively cheap rate and it is an asset in perpetuation. These are of many kinds and some of them have been doing the rounds of the revenue department in terms of mili-bhagat [a criminal common cause]. The hills of Murree and the peripheral areas are full of this kind of working.
The Katcha areas of the rivers are being worked on this basis when the rules are simple that if a river eats land at one place it throws up land elsewhere and that is where the sufferer has to be compensated. One reads daily what the CDA has done on the encroachments. They always did a good job confiscating the only assets that the poor had whereby they made a few bucks to keep bone and blood together.
At the I-8/4 bus stand I would see them confiscating seconds as if they were the masters. Why could the CDA not build for them a flea market? I get it for in such cases the appeasement of the foul and the stinking would not be possible. This was the place where the poor could buy cheap bags for their school going children? I was shocked when I saw them cleaning everything up. You have a choice of paying Rs 700 for a glass of juice at a five star or take a glass of pomegranate juice for less than five rupees – give or take an extra rupee.
What do you want that the intestines of the rich should receive all these goodies and not the poor? Recently I was in the rural town and went to the only Five star restaurant carved out of the ground where I had played cricket against foreign teams. There were four of us and we went in for breakfast. The bill was paid at the rate of Rs 650 per head.
Talk of getting a heart attack is irrelevant when the social system is geared for this kind of activity. So sirs how is that this kingdom of heaven on earth run by the blest and in the case of the last government the doubly blest will survive. Have you learnt the lessons of history and of East Pakistan or should some idiot of a colonel from the Indian Army remind us of our wounds? The idiot was right. Can we live up to our requirements, as a nation is what is at stake? Take heed. The wolves are at your heels.