The trains to heaven are few and far between. The trains to hell depart every five minutes. Packed like sardines, bursting at the seams, crawling like tortoises, the trains to hell never arrive at a railway station called Hell. The trains are hell by themselves. Their misery and suffering far exceed the infamous torture and temperature of the original cauldrons. Ruthless daroghas guard all exit points to prevent passengers from escaping. Many, however, have managed to dupe the daroghas and made ‘the great escape’. Pakistan, on the other hand, repeatedly ignores every opportunity to break out and thus continues to suffer the miserable environment of the train going to hell.
The proverbial daroghas are the rich parasite elite who plunder and extract a big chunk of Pakistan’s resources. This class has become the largest roadblock to the country’s progress and prosperity. Dr Hafiz Pasha estimates an annual extraction of Rs1 trillion worth of perks, benefits, tax exemptions, concessions and subsidies awarded by this self-centred class to itself every year. Thus, the foremost task for Pakistan is to deconstruct and strip this scum of all its unjust entitlements.
Pakistan awaits a Rosa Parks moment, of someone taking a stand, to begin the elite dismantling process. The outgoing government gave a parting gift (read bribe) of Rs90 billion as discretionary fund to parliamentarians. This ought to be nullified and the amount returned to state exchequer. Likewise, the recent salary and pension increase of 15-35% ought to be cancelled for all grade 16 and above government officials — including an unjust increment of Rs200,000 to the already bloated salary of the Chief Justice.
It was unjust and unbecoming of 11 High Court judges to accept a tax-free loan of Rs361 million for building private homes. This amount ought to be refunded and diverted to pay minimum legal wages to millions of oppressed sanitation workers and security guards. Likewise, withdrawing and selling an estimated 200,000 or so Federal and Provincial government vehicles could immediately recover Rs600 billion. No other country allows such obscene indulgence. If the UK could function with only 86 official cars, so could we. An end to fuel entitlement of government officials could annually save Rs216 billion for Pakistan — an amount that far exceeds the Rs140 billion annual budget of India’s space department.
Pakistan annually blows up $52.37 million in unjustified contracts with Chinese companies for ‘complex’ tasks like sweeping the streets of Karachi. The actual sweeping is done by 12,000 exploited Pakistanis who are paid illegal wages of Rs15,000 per month. Pakistan would do well to cancel all such suspicious sweeping contracts. Even a Shylock like IMF has seen through the façade and has asked Pakistan to “tax the rich and protect the poor”. Despite resistance by its decadent elite, Pakistan ought to immediately impose the wealth tax, inheritance tax, agricultural tax, progressive rate for capital gains tax and deemed income tax on unused property above Rs10 million.
Pakistan’s Rs751 billion pension burden is inequitable and unsustainable. Why must a judge receive a life-long pension of Rs1 million, while 90% workers unregistered with EOBI will not receive even a single penny on retirement. The existing pension system ought to be replaced by a uniform National Pension Programme based on an equal monthly contribution by employee and the organisation.
All hidden perks, plots and allowances currently considered legal entitlements of our elite be eliminated. Free tickets, free electricity, free phone calls, free junkets, free security escorts, free entertainment, free club memberships and numerous other hidden free goodies provided to the elite at the tax payers’ expense must be stopped forthwith. But for its deplorable elite, Pakistan is entirely ready to take off. Doing away with half of its self-serving ministries and all its ceremonial Commissions may be the fastest option for Pakistan to terminate its travel in the train going to Hell.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 6th, 2023.