Tran­si­tional van­tage point

The Pak Banker - - Editorial - Mu­nir At­taullah

Sure, it is scan­dalous that our rich and elite class does not pay its fair share of in­come tax, and that agri­cul­tural in­come too re­mains un­taxed. But let us not pre­tend that such glar­ing anom­alies are eas­ily rec­ti­fied

Why does the pass­ing of time seems to stretch out in prospect but ap­pears com­pressed in ret­ro­spect? An­other year is again about to roll by, al­most im­per­cep­ti­bly. Con­versely, do not our na­tional woes seem never-end­ing, with nary a so­lu­tion in sight?

The mys­ter­ies of time have had an en­dur­ing fas­ci­na­tion for hu­mankind - even more so since Ein­stein pro­posed his rev­o­lu­tion­ary the­ory of space and time - though the par­tic­u­lar co­nun­drum I started this col­umn with is prob­a­bly no more than a psy­cho­log­i­cal il­lu­sion. For, is it not equally fair to say that that the fu­ture is upon us be­fore we know it?

Ac­tu­ally, hu­man per­cep­tion of time is prob­a­bly a di­rect byprod­uct of how our me­mory func­tions. And that, like other bi­o­log­i­cal func­tions, may no more cap­ture ac­tual ex­ter­nal phys­i­cal re­al­ity than the per­cep­tion by our vis­ual cor­tex of light of dif­fer­ent wave­lengths as dif­fer­ent colours. For, colour is not 'out there' in the ob­ject be­ing per­ceived; it is in the mind of the viewer. In the same vein, El­liot's po­etic ren­der­ing of Ein­stein's ideas ("Time present and time past/ Are both per­haps present in time fu­ture/ And time fu­ture con­tained in time past") may well be closer to ac­tual phys­i­cal re­al­ity than our psy­cho­log­i­cally sub­jec­tive (but pow­er­ful) im­pres­sions of time.

But I di­gress. Fas­ci­nat­ing though this sub­ject may be, it was not re­ally my in­ten­tion to­day to dis­cuss such es­o­teric mat­ters. The sub­ject of 'time' can wait for an­other day. My plan for this col­umn was al­to­gether more pro­saic: as an­other year draws to a close, to take stock of where we stand to­day in re­la­tion both to our re­cent past and our medium term fu­ture.

And at first glance - let us ad­mit it - the broad pic­ture is far from re­as­sur­ing, if not ac­tu­ally cause for great trep­i­da­tion and con­cern. On the four great na­tional is­sues (in my opin­ion), our col­lec­tive thoughts and ac­tions seem mired in a time warp. The econ­omy ap­pears to be in di­rec­tion­less shambles, with no firm hand on the till; ter­ror­ism and re­li­gious in­tol­er­ance con­tinue to thrive, with plenty of sur­rep­ti­tious ( and open) in­ter­nal sup­port; the demo­cratic sys­tem is per­ilously shaky and dis­cred­ited, what with the po­lit­i­cal par­ties all pulling in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions in the ruth­less pur­suit of their own nar­row self­ish in­ter­ests; and the army, in the guise of defin­ing and de­fend­ing our na­tional se­cu­rity par­a­digms, is back to where it al­ways was as the real cen­tre of power.

Long time read­ers will note that ' cor­rup­tion' does not, un­sur­pris­ingly, make it to the top four in my list of our na­tional pri­or­i­ties. Not that I con­sider it an unim­por­tant or triv­ial mat­ter; far from it. Only, I think we need to con­cen­trate what­ever col­lec­tive po­lit­i­cal en­er­gies we can muster to first tackle those prob­lems that are both more 'doable' as a prac­ti­cal mat­ter, and are more fun­da­men­tal to our very ex­is­tence.

I know that our peo­ple and the me­dia, not to men­tion our politi­cians and the higher ju­di­ciary, seem ob­sessed with the idea that cor­rup­tion is our pub­lic en­emy No 1 (in­deed, in sep­a­rate and in­de­pen­dent polls re­cently con­ducted by Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional and the BBC, cor­rup­tion was also over­whelm­ingly per­ceived as ex­actly that by peo­ple world­wide). But my view re­mains that you can­not re­ally tackle cor­rup­tion with­out do­ing much else first on a broad front (such as ef­fec­tive po­lice, ju­di­cial and ad­min­is­tra­tive re­form, an in­de­pen­dent Elec­tion Com­mis­sion, strength­en­ing par­lia­ment, etc, not to men­tion an ed­u­cated pop­u­lace). If any­thing, my fifth pri­or­ity would be a firm po­lit­i­cal com­mit­ment to ed­u­ca­tion.

Of the four top pri­or­i­ties, putting the econ­omy on a sound and sus­tain­able path of growth is, with­out any doubt, the most im­por­tant. With­out ad­e­quate re­sources lit­tle else is pos­si­ble. And what we need to do here is no high sci­ence. But to pre­tend - as some par­ties are do­ing - that such re­sources (amount­ing to hun­dreds of bil­lions of ru­pees) can be gen­er­ated by sim­ply elim­i­nat­ing cor­rup­tion in the Fed­eral Board of Rev­enue (FBR) and loss-mak­ing govern­ment cor­po­ra­tions, is lit­tle bet­ter than chas­ing a shad­owy ig­nis fatuus, the prover­bial will-o'the-wisp. Of course ev­ery­one knows of these ter­ri­ble leak­ages. And what a won­der­fully mag­i­cal so­lu­tion it would be if we could some­how staunch such cor­rup­tion laden haem­or­rhag­ing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.