ANALYSIS: Bull in the parliamentary china shop —Taimur Shaique Hussain - Tuesday, March 22, 2011

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ANALYSIS: Bull in the parliamentary china shop —Taimur Shaique Hussain
While pointing out that residents of F-6 Sector in Islamabad alone have investments exceeding $ 2,000 million overseas, MNA Hiraj explains how our parliamentarians escape disclosure, documentation and recording procedures of our banking channels

Raza Hayat Hiraj, a young and eminent politician and an MNA on a PML-Q ticket, appears to have made waves within the National Assembly. The MNA, a barrister by profession, has moved a bill pursuant to constitutional article 63, proposing compulsory declaration by all members of parliament of all wealth held abroad, or else face disqualification from their seats. Whilst such a proposition may seem both laughable and ridiculous at a cursory glance, it stands to have potent ramifications for the presently precariously perched political platform.

Just the fact that Hiraj happens to be sitting in parliament on a PML-Q ticket differentiates him from the scores of others who occupied federal ministries under the Musharraf regime, but could not even secure their own seats from their very own constituencies during the last election. While this may well have been a stark demonstration of the people’s electoral power, it may also be the death knell for status quo politicians, both treasury and opposition, for such is once again the degree of dismay among the common man. Hiraj claims he enjoys support from his party’s leadership. He has gone forth to identify his mission as bringing to the fore someone loyal, a son of the soil, to lead the country as opposed to the fly-by-night footsy players like Moeen Qureshi or Shaukat Aziz.

Of importance to the average Pakistani is the comfort in knowing that sometime in the future, their leaders might not be able to hold dual nationalities, thereby not having priorities, faithfulness and devotion aligned with the constitution of a country other than Pakistan. We need not look far to find examples of countries wherein this factor exists as a law of the land. In other countries, forthright states-people like Ms Sonia Gandhi may relinquish their shot at governance based upon similar reasons centred around nationality and origins.

Further, the proposition that wealth be declared and invested within Pakistan may have implications and ramifications of far reaching magnitude. It may not be hard to imagine the success of a call for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), which has dwindled to a mere trickle over the past three years, provided our parliamentarians could show prospective investors that their own monies were ploughed at home. So dismal is the government’s show of credibility that over 10 million of our professionals abroad do not collectively remit even a measly fraction of the amount remitted home by, say, only 1.5 million of Sri Lankan expatriates! Despite being industrialists and feudal lords of no small measure, our leading politicians pay no more than a few hundred rupees in taxation. While those sitting and pontificating over us are quick to complain and explain that the taxation net needs to be deepened and broadened, little emphasis is ever placed on the fact that the nation is bound to play ‘follow the leader’, and that it is eons past the time that our leaders led by example. Whilst the incidence of taxation becomes steeper for the common man, the ‘undeclared’ nature of riches and holdings of our political pontiffs continues to insulate them from contributing to the national exchequer.

While pointing to the staggering statistic that residents of F-6 Sector in Islamabad alone have investments exceeding $ 2,000 million overseas, MNA Hiraj points out that most of these outward remittances are affected through informal channels, explaining how our parliamentarians escape disclosure, documentation and recording procedures of our banking channels. It would perhaps not be a sweeping statement to remark that a very large portion of our economic woes as a nation may indeed be attributed to the shrewd ‘wizardry’ correctly attributed to our leadership.

Admittedly, the world has been reduced to a global village. Admittedly too, it may be advantageous to spread investments over frontiers and diversify streams of wealth. However, specifically and in light of the prevalent failure of western economies themselves, their banking systems abegging, the prevalent global recession, the dire need to rescue and then reconstruct Pakistan’s economy, the free fall characterisation of rupee depreciation, the gaping requirement for power and fuel infrastructure and myriad such factors, it is now nothing short of a necessity to derive a home grown solution. To the chagrin of our politicos, so ‘devoted’ to the service of our nation and our people, the economic solution may perhaps lie in bringing back the loot or else relinquishing power.

While Raza Hayat Hiraj’s constitutional proposition appears no less than delectable to the average, middle class, salaried countryman, the question continues to loom regarding how many of our parliamentarians will actually become signatories to such a bill. Will this bill ever assume the status of a law? While Hiraj remains confident of support from the PML-Q and the PTI, he also appears enthusiastic to win over the MQM, given their deteriorating relationship in recent times with the powers that be. Armed with a free press and independent media, it would indeed be ‘interesting’, to use a euphemism, to note and relay the names of non-signatories once Hiraj’s bill has been presented to the house!

Whether the bill is ultimately successful or otherwise, a sitting parliamentarian’s endeavour to bring some semblance to a tottering country is nothing less than laudable. The crusade seems to have begun by the many against the few. With the precedent having been set, appeals of a similar nature over the years by PTI Chairman Imran Khan seem to be moving towards fruition what with a sitting MNA crying “foul”, and assuming bravely the role of the proverbial bull in the china shop.

It may benefit to bear in mind that the most engrossing of epics begins with a single alphabet, the longest of voyages with but a single step.

We hereby salute you, Mr Raza Hayat Hiraj, for courageously walking the drawing room talk!

The writer is disillusioned with status quo politicians – both treasury and opposition

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