When Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto assumed power in 971, one of our maids told my mother, "Now we'll live in your bungalow, you and others like you will have to live in our huts". It seems PPP workers had told simpletons like her that this would happen if they voted for the PPP. Much like today, when the ruling party's politicians promised the moon to the masses in pre-election campaigns.
Bhutto was arrogant and despotic, just like Imran Khan. He too went after the press, putting many journalists in jail and forcing others to leave the country. It seems whenever a government finds itself on the defensive, it either imposes draconian press laws to stifle dissent, or put restrictions on women. 
Unsurprisingly, Zia thought all his problems would disappear if both the press and women were curbed. Flogging of writers became common and women were compelled to wear headscarves. Many women came out in protest, burning their headscarves in public. 
Later, the Punjab government under Shahbaz Sharif also ordered college girls to cover themselves, as if doing so would prevent rapes in the province. Again, women protested, and the order was withdrawn.
So I wasn't surprised when a male guard prevented girls in Lahore from entering a public building because their heads were not covered, saying that seeing women with uncovered heads disturbed the males in the building. Of course he couldn't have done it without approval from the top, and it was thought that Yasmin Rashid (a PTI minister) had given the order. She denied it, of course, even though I strongly suspect she was the one who was behind it all. 
But the most dangerous move of the present government is to make a new law punishing those who defame the present ruling party. Apparently the fat and corpulent Fawad Choudhry (the information minister) doesn't know the meaning of defamation. He doesn't want the truth about his party's failures to be told. Just like Bhutto, who thought anyone criticizing him was a traitor. In fact, also like the present chief justice, who made opposing the construction of dams a treasonable offence. Future generations of Pakistanis will wonder what exactly made the chief justice do what is not in his domain. But then, this is Pakistan.

The mentally retarded Imran Ali was hanged today. He was alleged to have raped and killed eight year old Zainab (the cops said he had killed many other little girls as well, but you can't believe what our cops say). The parents of the dead girl had demanded that the killer be hanged in full view of the public, but fortunately the court did not agree. 
People have often asked me why I say that killers and rapists should not be executed. The main reason, of course, is that in third world countries like Pakistan, innocent men and women are likely to be hanged. In the UK, a Muslim man was hanged in 1957 for a murder which he did not commit. The actual killer confessed on his death bed to the crime, the government realized its mistake and repealed the death penalty. I'm firmly convinced that many innocent people have been killed by the state for no fault of their own. Sometimes people are implicated in blasphemy cases by rivals who want their lands, or due to old enmity. It is very easy to give ten thousand rupees to a police inspector and file a case of murder against anyone you want. A Christian woman has been charged with blasphemy after a quarrel which resulted after she drank water from a well from which only Muslims were supposed to drink. Some Christians have been burnt alive after someone accused them of uttering blasphemous words or sentences. To give him credit, the notoriously corrupt AAZ didn't allow anyone to be executed in his five year stint as president of the country.
I believe that capital punishment should be abolished entirely, whatever the crime committed. It doesn't serve the purpose of preventing others committing rape or murder and other crimes. In Saudi Arabia, heads are chopped off for smuggling drugs and hands are cut for theft, yet both crimes continue to occur. That is why the death penalty is never imposed in highly civilized countries like the UK and the European Union. We should follow suit.

Crisis of leadership
This refers to the article ‘The bubble of life’ (Oct 11) by Kamila Hyat. The fact is that in our country nothing will change unless the government goes after the real looters of the country (smugglers, tax cheats and other such elements). But since every government has the support of such people, no one has so far gone after them. The present government too is not likely to do so as well.
Pakistan’s bad luck is that its politicians are not sincere. Their only concern is to enrich themselves as soon as possible. The inevitable will happen, and the public will come out on the streets (as they did to remove Ayub Khan). And I strongly doubt that Imran Khan will learn from history.
Shakir Lakhani
The News, October 15, 2018

She was supposed to be the answer to all of Pakistan's problems. She forced her husband to divorce her because she had seen in a dream someone she thought was one of saints or apostles and he had said, "You have to marry Imran Khan to turn Pakistan into an ideal Islamic state". So she married him despite not completing the mandatory period of abstinence (iddat) for a divorced woman, and for a time it seemed that her magic was working. Her husband was elected in a highly rigged election. She consults djinns, witches and fairies and then tells her husband what to do.

She told him to go to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and China with a begging bowl, saying that they would be bowled over and hand him whatever he asked for. So, even though he had said he would not go on any foreign tours for six months, he did so. It did not work. The Saudis said they are in need of a loan themselves, the UAE did not even listen to him, and the Chinese said they have already invested too much in the country.

Again, even though he had said he would rather commit suicide than go to the IMF for a loan, he had to do so after she told him that the IMF would simply give him the loan without asking any awkward questions. That didn't happen, so he's blamed poor Asad Umar for failing to persuade IMF to do what Pinky had predicted. If Asad Umar had any self-respect, he would have resigned immediately, but alas, the perks and privileges which ministers in Pakistan enjoy make them shameless.

And now, the latest blow. The bye-elections in Punjab have proved that his party has lost its popularity, which is not surprising, as the national elections are widely thought to have been rigged. So it's only a question of time before the riots begin and Imran Khan is forced to resign. 

The one thing I've noticed about the new generation is that they are absolutely intolerant. Perhaps it's due to the fact that they don't like to read. An entire generation has grown up believing that reading is a heinous sin, to be avoided at all costs unless absolutely necessary. So, when I say that I detest Imran Khan, these brainwashed idiots jump to the conclusion that I favor Nawaz Sharif and Zardari. It's like "Either you are with us or against us", as that illiterate U.S. president Bush said in 2001.
If they take the trouble to go through what I've written, they'll find plenty in it where I've criticized both Nawaz and Zardari. But what they don't understand is why I don't like Imran. I've always been against the puppet prime minister, even when he was in opposition. I know that he's not honest (there is plenty of evidence to prove this, including the fact that he is surrounded by crooks and he submitted a forged document to the court, besides not paying as much income tax as he should have). 
But what I've always said about him has been proved in his first seven weeks in office. I'm sure his most ardent followers must now be disillusioned that he's not the miracle man they were led to believe. And I predict that Imran Khan will be much worse than the two who ruled over the country these past ten years.

For how long will you blame the previous government for your failures, PTI?

 Published: October 6, 2018

How can anyone believe PTI after watching them turn into the same people they criticized previously?

PTI voters were convinced that all our taxes are siphoned out of the country and deposited in foreign bank accounts or used to buy property in Dubai. They were told that just by arresting a few civil servants and tax-evaders, the change PTI promised would happen overnight.
The 16.8 million people who voted for PTI actually expected miracles within a very short time of their party coming into power. As even a layman knows, miracles do not happen overnight. Yet his charisma is so great that Imran was able to persuade his simple followers that he was the chosen one, the man who would be able to make their dreams come true. Some PTI voters even believed that the dollar would soon be available for Rs40, and asked everyone they knew to sell all the dollars they had. As the sycophantic Senator Faisal Jawed said, “As long as Imran Khan exists, Pakistan exists.”
Apparently he forgot that Pakistan existed long before Imran was even born.
Alas, the miracle has not occurred, and there is no evidence that it will occur in the near future. The dollar has appreciated against the rupee (and is expected to be worth around Rs140 in the next two or three months). The stock exchange index continues to fall, and the economy itself appears to be in free-fall. The State Bank has raised the interest rate by 1%, and a further hike is expected, which will result in massive inflation. Growth rate is expected to slow down to 4.8%, if not lower.
Despite Imran proclaiming loudly that he will not go begging to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), his finance minister is doing just that. So, really, there is no difference between this government and the ones that came before. Gas prices have been raised and with electricity bills sure to increase, we are all in for a nightmare.

How does one expect PTI to fulfill its promises regarding the country’s economy when they are going back on everything their party stood for? How can anyone believe in them after watching them turn into the same people they were criticising previously? In the first few weeks of being in power, PTI’s priorities have been such that you wonder if they even know what really matters in the country. Firstly, there was the question of where the prime minister would live. He had said that he would not live in the PM house and that it would be converted into a university. So he decided to live in the quarters of the military secretary (which incidentally is part of the PM house colony). He may be fooling the people who voted for him, but he is not fooling the rest of the country.
Then there was the matter of protocol, which Imran highly detested. But the protocol continues to be in force, whether it is for him, for the president or his ministers. He also went back on his promise to not go abroad in the first three months of coming into power. He said he would travel on commercial flights and not travel in business class. But in the very first month of assuming office, he travelled to Saudi Arabia in an official Air Force plane and also took along plenty of ministers and others with him, a practice he used to criticise when he was in opposition.

"PM Imran Khan reaches Saudi Arabia on his first official foreign visit: he is accompanied by few cabinet members, including foreign minister @SMQureshiPTI and finance minister @Asad_Umar#PMIK @ImranKhanPTIpic.twitter.com/1MTZ7k8dLC
— PTI (@PTIofficial) September 18, 2018"

They also had a justification for their helicopter travel adventures. Fawad Chaudhry’s claim that a helicopter requires only Rs55 to take the prime minister from his home in Bani Gala to the prime minister’s house, only proves that the intelligence of everyone associated with PTI can be questioned. I even suspect that when they say ‘billion’, they really mean ‘crore’ (10 million).
Furthermore, PTI and its leader always claimed they are against dynastic rule, but unfortunately they accept anything when it comes to their party. Close friends of the prime minister have been named ministers and advisors, which makes us wonder, where is the merit now? Some of these include Naeemul Haq, Aleem Khan (under investigation by NAB), Awn Chaudhry and Zulfi Bukhari (despite being a British national, as well as under investigation for being in the Panama Leaks scandal and owning offshore properties).
Recently, Umar removed the ban on non-filers to buy vehicles and property, which shocked the country. Then he re-imposed the ban, only allowing overseas non-filer Pakistanis to buy property. But with the current volatile situation in the country and with the government backtracking on every measure it announces, how can overseas Pakistanis trust Imran, especially after his treatment of Atif Mian, a respected figure in international circles?
In the end, after all this mayhem and the inability of PTI to fulfil its promises, Chaudhry blames the previous government for PTI’s failures. This may help in the short term, but sooner or later, those who voted for the ruling party will be disillusioned and they will wonder whether the previous government was in fact better, or if following this whole ‘choosing the lesser evil’ mantra was a good idea. So unless this government takes drastic steps to improve the situation, people may come out on the streets protesting against false promises and impending price hikes.
The government needs to change its ways but while it fixes its problems, the country needs to be put first. Our economy is in shambles, we cannot afford to make mistakes anymore. The filing of returns should be made mandatory and there should be strict punishment for non-filers and tax thieves. Smuggling is a curse that has drowned this country in poverty. Just raiding the shops in Karkhano Bazaar in Peshawar, and all those markets in Karachi and other cities selling smuggled items will earn billions for the government. Taking the electricity and gas thieves to court and penalising them heavily, besides putting them in jail, will put the fear of God in others and will be another huge source of revenue.
The biggest revenue-earner will be the property sector, which has Rs7 trillion of black money invested in it. Some property price manipulators will have to be arrested and tried, but it will be worth it, even if a few of them are PTI donors.
But does this government have the will to do all of this?
I doubt it.
It will continue floundering like a sinking ship until the inevitable happens (as has happened so many times in the past), and a new government takes over.

Engineer, former visiting lecturer at NED Engineering College, industrialist, associated with petroleum/chemical industries for many years. Loves writing, and (in the opinion of most of those who know him), mentally unbalanced. He tweets @shakirlakhani (twitter.com/shakirlakhani)


Whenever a new government takes over in Pakistan, one of the first things it does is to blame the previous government for the bad economic situation in the country. The PTI government (which has been in power for seven weeks) is no different. But it has set up a dangerous precedent. It has arrested the leader of the main opposition party (Shehbaz Sharif) to prevent him from campaigning for his party's candidates in the by-elections next week. I had no idea they were so desperate to become rulers. The first thing they did was to increase gas prices and raise the bank rate, two steps which are certain to result in massive inflation. Already bus owners have raised fare prices, and with the expected imminent rise in electricity rates as well, we should be prepared for substantial increase in prices of edible items as well.

Everyone thought this party had made preparations for alleviating our miseries, but unfortunately it has proved otherwise. Lahore is paralyzed today and will remain so for the foreseeable future. The stock market has crashed, there is no activity in the property sector, and Pakistanis abroad are reluctant to invest in their home country. I predict that there will be so much chaos and mayhem that this government will fall within a couple of months, unless it takes adequate measures to stabilize the situation.

No economic clarity

APROPOS the editorial ‘No economic clarity’ (Oct 3). I wonder why the government doesn’t go after smugglers and property sector thieves.
The government should initiate a ruthless crackdown on the smugglers operating in Karkhano Market in Peshawer as well as the thousands of shops selling smuggled items in Karachi and other cities.
In this manner, the state can save at least $10 billion every year.
In the property sector, those who manipulate prices have made it impossible for the common man to buy a house. The government should take stringent steps to recover its levies and other taxes.
If the Federal Board of Revenue manages to net even a quarter of the seven trillion rupees black money invested in this sector, then the government will have no need to impose new taxes or increase gas, petrol and electricity rates.
Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2018