COMMENT: Conduct unbecoming —Mujahid Eshai - Thursday, October 07, 2010

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The Commonwealth Games chef de mission's behaviour should be condemned by all and sundry in no uncertain terms. He should be banished from representing Pakistan in future and holding any office in any sports organisation in the country. This is what happens when sifarshis or people having political affiliations are appointed ahead of merit

In the best tradition of our current pastimes, oft referred to in earlier columns, we have seen the chef de mission of the Commonwealth Games in a flag-snatching operation at the opening ceremony, in front of a huge crowd and millions of unseen television viewers in innumerable countries. We have had the very learned law professionals indulging in acts of total lawlessness and we have had the politicos reacting predictably to the announcement of the former president, currently residing abroad, to take part in politics. One also formed the impression that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) containers, which transit through Pakistan on their way to Afghanistan, are probably not provided a safe and secure passage by the government of Pakistan even though we may be charging them for such services. And, finally, the raise in the lending rate by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). What more could we want? Forgotten of course is the plight of the millions affected by the floods. Any comprehensive, clearly set out plans for rehabilitation, or foolproof method of distributing the minuscule financial assistance are yet to be laid out before the democratically elected parliament. The entire nation continues to wait expectantly to hear some meaningful future plans in respect of the economy now that the budget presented in June 2010 is completely and hopelessly out of sync with the ground realities. Arbitrary decisions, announcements and purported actions based thereupon, not having the sanction of parliament, abound. Thank you all our great leaders for showing faith in democratic traditions!

The chef de mission’s behaviour should be condemned by all and sundry in no uncertain terms. He should be banished from representing Pakistan in future and holding any office in any sports organisation in the country. This is what happens when sifarshis or people having political affiliations are appointed ahead of merit. Such persons are generally unaware of their precise role and expected conduct when representing the country. The man in fact reflected what has become the norm in Pakistani society, i.e. putting self before the country. So, no one should be surprised if the Pakistani weightlifters do not perform well.

The legal fraternity’s tug of war with the lower judiciary is political. This battle is only being fought in the plains of Punjab. Of course normal, legalistic behaviour could not be expected, as there was no apparent desire to follow that course. This behaviour, too, is part of our current societal norms. Could these unjustified or unjustifiable acts be attributed to the state of frustration in society? Perhaps. But one would only reckon this as being part of the feudal mentality that has seemingly corrupted all living in this country. The police behave in the traditional fashion regardless of whether there is dictatorship or democratic rule. The expectation of lawyers behaving in an ethically correct manner was a non-starter as the organisations supposed to monitor their behaviour and take disciplinary action against them are also part of the great political game. It is beyond imagination that the bar expects the executive and the judiciary to appoint persons for various jobs with the former’s approval. This performance is yet another example of the state of anarchy that is prevailing in the country. No one goes around slapping judges. It is just not done. Further, if the bar does not approve of the very strict performance of a particular judge, this is neither the first time nor the last that judges having some eccentricities are appointed to the bench and, once appointed, have to be tolerated. So, wake up legal fraternity and get your act together. It is a different matter to march for a national cause and be treated harshly by the law enforcing agencies. What the legal fraternity is indulging in is no national cause.

The announcement of the former president was no surprise. It is the constitutional right of every individual to participate in political activity with or without the formation of a political group or party, provided the criteria laid down for such purpose is met. The reaction of the political parties to the announcement was as expected. It reeked of settling vendettas, reflected an absence of political maturity and also showed a complete lack of civilised behaviour. Perhaps, if they all had taken it in their stride without making the belligerent statements that were made, the sky would not have fallen. The political analysts of the media could have analysed the announcement from all angles and stated their reservations. No one should have the power to stop the other from exercising a civil right. Leave the judgment to the millions out there who shall decide the fate of the party and its leader. That is a democratic tradition.

The SBP’s action is quite puzzling in the current scenario. Every day we read that the non-performing loans are on the rise. Every day we are told that the economy has slowed down. We all face daily electricity blackouts and massive fluctuations in the supply of gas that fires most industrial engines in the country. Consumer spending and financing has generally decreased. Ordinary people are finding it extremely difficult to meet their daily needs and debt servicing requirements out of their earnings. So whom is this action directed at? The governments? They are the biggest borrowers from the SBP. Will they be controlled through this measure? How will the already insufficient government revenues meet the increased cost of their galloping borrowing? The only thing that this action is going to do is to boost inflation further. Maybe the central bank has tried to pre-empt the possible future effects of the injection in the economy, whenever and if ever it happens, of the massive funding from abroad whether in cash or projects on account of the flood devastation. Perhaps somebody ought to tell all of this to the common man whose daily life is certainly going to be affected. Well, this is done in true democracies. Is our democracy of a different kind or just conduct unbecoming?

The writer is a fellow and former president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan. He also served as a member of the Federal Ad Hoc Public Accounts Committee

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