In a post 1971 Pakistan, the economy has been the biggest vulnerability leading to weak and pliant policies. With conspicuous absence of any efforts at calculating and enunciating architecture of national power, the entire development policy has been led by short term expediencies with self-interests. This leads to massive corruption and deprives Pakistan from becoming a strong vibrant country in the comity of nations.

Pakistan with its enormous natural resources and skilled manpower, counted as amongst the most intelligent in the world, could have been different. The greed of leaders and strings attached to them by outside actors and international financial institutions made them traitors. An economically strong Pakistan with a strong conventional and nuclear defence is not something desirable for major powers. With the military and nuclear aspect not in their control, the only thing they can play around is the economy through corrupt politicians, vested policies, bureaucrats, businessmen and economic hit men?

Though the Protection of Pakistan Act provides for waging war against Pakistan and preventing acts threatening the security, nowhere does it mention Pakistan’s economic security that caters both for the welfare of the people and strengthening of its defences. Though a long list of offences related to security are enacted in the Pakistan Penal Code, it remains silent on subversion and weakening of the state through corruption and defanging of transparency mechanisms. It says nothing about corruption as an act of subversion and treason. 

Pakistan’s policy makers and parliamentarians have still not realised the vulnerability the country faces through manipulation of economy, corruption, and economic hit men. It has never been made a national security priority. The reasons are simple. The rich get richer and foreign manipulators are appeased at the cost at Pakistan’s interests. A point has reached wherein the entire system is subverted for ungodly gains. The richest either position themselves as dirty rich offshore businessmen or move to control Pakistan’s consumer sectors like sugar, oil, poultry, livestock, property and shopping malls. Helped by regulators they can deflate the country at will. 

Post 1977, all systems and institutions in Pakistan were rigged and made meaningless. The reasons are many. In Zia’s time they were meant to gratify certain handpicked blue eyed politicians. In late 80s and onwards it became a fine science to hedge corruption by loading autonomous and semi-autonomous regulators and institutions with handpicked favourites. President Musharraf’s accountability drive was meant for political coercion and appeasement of international actors. As a result two main politicians, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari, have amassed exponential wealth through corruption. There are many others in the line but these stand out as major individuals who have subverted institutions to facilitate ill-gotten wealth. Others can follow after these two are tried. The way these are being tried in courts is slow, cumbersome and laden with hitches. This is how justice in Pakistan at the mercy of prosecution works.

Corruption hits the nation’s economic foundations, blocks exploitation of natural resources, destroys infrastructure and causes budgetary deficits for human resource development, productive industrialization policies, basic amenities like power, fuel, health, sanitation, clean water, urbanization, industrial and agriculture policies.

Furthermore, it affects the national income and its budgetary allocations resulting in a weak rupee, inflation, budgetary deficits, joblessness, tax evasion and money laundering.

It is a norm in third world corrupt countries to spend huge amounts on overpriced short term infrastructure projects with heavy kickbacks that are laundered overseas.  Good governance, a catalyst of growth, is ignored.

Pakistan’s regulatory mechanisms, anti-corruption departments and National Accountability Bureau are loaded with political appointees. The laws are applied against small time crooks and violators. Panama is just a tip of such scandalous affairs.  So we see that in Pakistan, ECP, PPRA, SBP, Competition Commission, SECP, OGRA, NEPRA, NADRA, FBR, PEMRA, BOI, EPB and many others are compromised through political appointments. Their combined output is inversely proportional to the corruption and mismanagement they conceal. 

Here is a brief of some pressing neglected sectors.

Pakistan’s small, medium and large scale manufacturing sectors that once fledged in domestic consumption and exports are now on the last pangs of death. Most have closed or shifting to consumer items imported from abroad. The major source of exports is manpower decreasing due to policies in Middle East. The ministry looking after industries, rather than making policies to revive these industries, facilitates their closure.

Lack of an assertive policy implementation in the agriculture sector is most alarming.

A case in point is the sugar cane industry that has now become a political industry with return on investment ratios as high as 1:10 or even more. These cartels make exponential profits through value addition, bad practices and exploitation of the farmer.

Sugarcane is bought at rates as low as Rupees 20-70 per ‘maun’ through middle men and arm twisters.  The rate further depreciates due to yearlong delays. Faulty weighing machines add to the misery. With the payments held back, farmers are blackmailed for new crops. Farmers are only allowed to sell their product to designated mills even if prices are lower. In case of surplus sugar, the mills are allowed to export with a subsidy. Mills also produce ethanol, alcohol and electricity sold commercially. In collaboration with NEPRA most mills invoice for furnace oil and take the subsidy while burning trash.

Another case is the Canola oil project. It was researched with Canada and launched successfully with German aid in Kabirwala. The ministry of Industries closed it in 2000s to create space for Indian Soya lobby. Industries Kabirwala, established to make Canola, Pakistan’s premium edible oil, now rots. 

Idara-e-Kissan, a flag bearer of community participation in Halla Milk and strawberries, has been closed to make way for pasteurized milk plants owned by politicians. Dr. Zafar Altaf the visionary of these projects died a broken man.

Adam motor company produced Pakistan’s first indigenous car in 2005. These cars still run on roads. The factory had to close within a year under pressure from local Japanese assemblers in Pakistan. The same fate fell to PACO, producing Pakistan’s most robust cross country vehicle, Yasoob.

There is a long list of similar projects that could have hit the roof but were deliberately failed to pave way for vested interests. Even in the recent Panama case, it is one SCP versus all the rest. How and when justice will come is a question mark?

Subversion of the state through corruption must become a crime under Protection of Pakistan Act. For this to happen we will have to wait for a new social contract.


The writer is a political economist and a television anchorperson.