Back in 1968, the people used to protest fiercely every other day, governments wouldn't last more than two months, as Karachi was the capital and its residents were politically volatile. This made Ayub Khan decide to make a new capital nearer to his home town. The country started its slide towards bankruptcy in those days, with people in East Pakistan saying there was no need for a poor country to spend so much on a new city, as they were perfectly satisfied with Karachi as the capital.

Slowly, Ayub's popularity began to decline, until one fine day sugar disappeared from the markets. There were rumors that his son (or one of his sons) had smuggled it to India. The price of sugar (I don't remember how much it was), went up steeply and the people revolted. Ayub had to step down and with the resultant anarchy, the dismemberment of the country became a certainty.

Today, with Imran Khan oblivious to the sufferings of the people, and the price of all edible items going through the roof, it's only a question of time before the bubble bursts. Imran Khan is lucky that the attention of the people has been diverted to Modi's annexation of Kashmir, but with Modi going to hold a joint rally in Houston next week with Trump, the world will stop talking about Kashmir and the issue will be forgotten. Then Imran will have something else to talk about, like for instance taking over control of Karachi to remove its garbage, while the garbage in Lahore keeps accumulating. In fact, Imran Khan was supposed to come to Karachi today, but perhaps he was advised to stay away, as the risk is too high. If Karachi goes to him, you can bet the country will come to a standstill and things will get worse. 

As I was saying, how much more inflation can we endure? What will be the tipping point, when the common folk decide they've had enough? Already the traders are resisting to get registered with the tax departments, knowing that the government is filled with corrupt ministers who are tax evaders themselves. I fear that Pakistan may face more upheaval in the coming days.


I read an article recently in which the writer lamented the runaway inflation and demanded action against those who had ‘goofed’ up the economy. This is a tall order, and it appears that it cannot be implemented. One of the Great Khan’s defenders told me that he [Khan] is not fully aware of what’s going on, as happened in the recent Gas Infrastructure Development scandal, which would have resulted in a two-billion dollar loss to the treasury. If this is true, we are in more trouble than we thought. The Dear Leader once caused a great deal of consternation when he said he learnt of the devaluation of the rupee only after hearing about it in the electronic media. So it seems not much has changed in the twelve months he has governed, or mis-governed, the country.

Among the Great Khan’s defenders is one who says that Khan was not consulted in the matter of waiving off Rs 300 billion owed by those who had recovered the gas cess but had not paid it to the government.
As proof, he said that Khan did not sign whatever documents were required by the president to issue the ordinance. Another of his devotees says that he did sign the papers but did not enquire into what it was all about because the one advising him to sign was someone he trusted blindly.

This is something that should worry us deeply because Khan reportedly withdrew the ordinance when some other favourite told him about the backlash against it on social media.

Just suppose he had banned Twitter and Facebook as some of his advisors reportedly wanted a few months ago. His favourite would never have known how the public felt about the waiver, which was really an amnesty. The country would have been poorer by almost two billion dollars today.
We still haven’t forgotten how Khan promised to change the face of the country. He can begin right now by taking action against those who took us to the edge of the precipice, particularly those who asked him to advise the president to pass the ordinance. If he doesn’t, it will only reinforce the terrible suspicion we’ve always had: that he doesn’t know much about governance, and that he’s in politics only to enjoy the perks and privileges of the job.

So why should we be surprised that our traders are resisting the FBR fiercely to bring them into the tax net? They know this government does not have the will to punish tax evaders, because most of our ministers and lawmakers themselves pay very little tax, if at all. Again, this is where the Dear Leader should do some research and look at the tax returns of his cronies, including his own.

All tax evaders want to go on earning millions, selling smuggled and stolen items even though they are deeply religious people. If you ask them why they don’t want to pay income tax and sales tax, they smile and say, “Because all our tax money is siphoned away to foreign bank accounts.” They are also convinced that Islam does not sanction imposition of income tax, custom duty and sales tax. Go to any mosque on Friday, you will never hear any preacher ask his listeners to refrain from smuggling or tax evasion.

Whatever the reason, traders will have to be persuaded to get registered and pay the taxes, which they get from the public anyway. There is no choice but to deal sternly with them.

Of course, they are a politically powerful group, but again, the Great Khan told us that he would transform the face of the country by recovering eight trillion rupees every year in taxes. The only way to do so is to go all out and declare war upon traders, smugglers and tax evaders. Apart from imposing whatever punishment that is decreed by law, why not prevent these pious and holy ones from going for pilgrimage? Only tax-paying registered persons and their families should be allowed to go to the Holy Land.

The government should seek support from eminent religious scholars in the matter. They should issue a fatwa to the effect that those who don’t pay taxes are the same as thieves and looters and they will never be forgiven, even if they perform the pilgrimage a hundred times.
The writer is an engineer, a former visiting lecturer at NED Engineering College