Editorial : Wealth of information - Friday 22nd April 2011

THE customary disclosures of lawmakers` assets and liabilities always make for interesting reading. As per a report in this paper, the financial details of members of the National Assembly furnished to the Election Commission show that many of our lawmakers are extremely well-off. In fact, the prime minister has shown that even in these dire financial times it is possible to save — he has managed to save more than half a million rupees from his annual salary, which, apparently, is his only source of income. While Mr Gilani manages to make ends meet with his salary of just under Rs1m, other members of the house appear to be financially much better off. Several MNAs have assets worth billions of rupees. One of them, Mehboobullah Jan of the PPP, represents Kohistan, one of the nation`s poorest and most under-developed districts. And while opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar has not declared the value of his assets, the fact that he owns several plots, considerable acreage and two luxury vehicles indicates that his assets are significant Also, as many Pakistanis struggle with financial hardship, lawmakers such as Faryal Talpur and Shah Mehmood Qureshi have seen the value of their assets rise by tens of millions of rupees. Other disclosures are clearly farcical. Several powerful politicians have said they do not own cars while some have said they have no cash in the bank.
While those lawmakers who have declared their assets deserve praise, clearly a lot about the origin and extent of MNAs` wealth has gone unsaid. Though such declarations are essential for the creation of a transparent democratic culture, many questions remain about what has and has not been disclosed. Such figures show that moneyed individuals are well represented in the legislatures. The question is: would these people be interested in changing the status quo and, for example, widening the tax net so that the state can more equally distribute wealth? We are a nation of contradictions; one of these is that the representatives of the people lead lives the majority of the population can only dream of. Unless these contradictions are addressed, change for the better is unlikely.

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/04/22/wealth-of-information.html

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