Cruelty at Pakistan Monument. Attn. Chairman CDA
March 22, 2023
Information Commissions that never learn
April 3, 2023

A chauffeur driven official vehicle, a Rs130 million luxury Lexus to be more exact, displaying green number plates and carrying a grade 20 government official drives through a crowded street. Purchased by depriving millions of their minimum legal wage, this obscene luxury government vehicle has not paid the road tax for last 12 years. What moral authority does any government have to collect taxes from its citizens if it does not pay its own taxes? The Lexus is just one of the 150,000 government vehicles that collectively consume over 12 billion rupees of taxpayer-sponsored fuel every month. This is just one of the numerous privileges given on a plate to an already pampered minority, now spitefully referred to as “the elite”.

What is common between the elite capture of 150,000 government vehicles, the unscrupulous loot of Toshakhana gifts by every Pakistani leader and the millions of illegally underpaid and criminally exploited sanitation workers and private security guards. Indistinguishably interlinked, they represent the cause and effect of the same despicable ‘disparity manufacturing’ process. A small minority makes rules to legalise its own unlimited entitlements, privileges, perks, petrol, luxury vehicles, huge pensions, bloated salaries, disproportionate allowances, large residences, exclusive clubs, foreign visits and a licence to usurp the costly Toshakhana gifts, that in fact belong to the people of Pakistan.

The insatiable burden of this greedy minority is borne by the poorest, most downtrodden and exploited sections of the society. Not a single daily-wage sanitation worker in Sindh municipalities receives even the minimum legal wage and not a single private security guard in Pakistan receives the legal wages for a 12-hour shift. While the cursed elite flies off to foreign lands for minor physical ailments, the guards and sanitary workers are deprived of their daily wage even for a single day of sickness. While the elite has created schemes that entitle hefty lifetime pensions to themselves, their spouses and their second generations, not a single contracted sanitary worker or private security guard in Pakistan is registered to even the most inadequate EOBI programme. Compare this with numerous officials who are ‘entitled’ to draw pension equal to 85% of their last pay, purchase of a luxury vehicle at a depreciated value, a security guard, a driver, an orderly, 300 liters of free petrol, 2000 units of free electricity and 3000 free telephone calls per month.

No society can survive leave aside progress with such cruel disparity, such gross injustice, such exclusive plunder of national resources and such intense exploitation of the downtrodden. This can be brought to a halt only by sane and strong voices of the civil society that demand harsh measures to reduce the disgusting disparity between the elite and the downtrodden. Any rules and laws that entitle any perks, benefits, allowances, privileges, vehicles, fuel or discriminatory benefits of any kind to any ‘high-up’ are against the spirit of Article 25 of the Constitution and must be immediately done away with.

All those who partook in the immoral Toshakhana loot knew well they were purchasing the gifts at a fraction of the assessed value, which itself was a fraction of the real value of the gift. They must be held accountable, made to return the gifts and barred from holding any public office in future. The 150,000 government cars ought to be withdrawn and sold in the market. The British who ruled us for 200 years operate with mere 86 government vehicles held in a central carpool. Except for a dedicated vehicle for the UK Prime Minister, all other ministers and officials must fill a request form that records the purpose, time and distance of each journey.

Pakistan’s survival is linked to radically downsizing the salaries, perks, allowances and pensions of all government officials above grade 16 and proportionately upgrading the salaries and EOBI registration for the daily wagers, the sanitation workers, the security guards, the petrol pump employees and the coal miners who die every day in the treacherously unsafe coal mines of this country.

Naeem Sadiq

Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th , 2023.