While it is heartening to know that Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif has publicly announced a 30 percent cut in PM House expenses, this measure in isolation will fail, unless similar austerity measures are strictly adopted by paid civil and uniformed bureaucracy - all elected members of Parliament and public officeholders, executives of state-owned public corporations and members of our diplomatic corps posted all over the world.
It is important to add that Pakistan is on the brink of financial bankruptcy and it can no longer afford its paid and elected officers to live like princes in houses spread over acres, with a multitude of servants at their disposal, all paid for by the state - a state that does not have funds to spend on vital constitutional obligatory duties like education, health and provision of welfare and basic needs for the most deprived sections of the society.
Every paisa spent from the taxpayers money, be it by the establishment, the bureaucracy, etc must be accounted for and subjected to scrutiny by powerful independent officers of repute from the Auditor General of Pakistan. Those caught for financial irregularities, tax evasion, etc must be given exemplary punishments. Otherwise, this country will disintegrate from within.
What justification is there for official delegations from Pakistan visiting Europe or America to attend the Pakistan Donors Conference to stay in five-star hotels with rents higher or similar to those where representatives of donor countries and other financial institutions reside?
Similarly, there is no justification for our uniformed officers and civil bureaucrats to live in five-star hotels despite numerous Officers’ Mess within Pakistan.
It is time that state resources be diverted only to building necessary vital infrastructure needed for the welfare of the people of Pakistan. The practice of allotting more than one residential plot to members of the bureaucracy, both civil and khaki, must cease immediately and funds generated from public auction of these expensive real estate plots should be diverted for public welfare projects.
If we as a nation want to prevent our frustrated youth being recruited by extremist groups, who today pose the biggest threat to the state - a challenge that the security agencies have failed to curb, in spite of the billions allocated to them, then we need to change our habits and reform our priorities.
MALIK TARIQ ALI,
Lahore, June 23.