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The Black Holes Of Pakistan (FreePakistan Newsletter # 130)


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[Frederic Bastiat]


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By Abid Hasan

[The writer is a former operations adviser at the World Bank. The article first appeared in The News on September 9, 2011.]

Black holes are natural phenomena scattered in outer space from which nothing can escape, not even light. Recently, with the advent of modern governments, many man-made black holes have been observed on our planet, especially in our own country. These black holes are government organisations that gobble up huge amounts of taxpayers’ monies, and don’t have much to show for it. Pakistan’s black hole organisations are of varying sizes which have gobbled trillions of rupees of the taxpayers’ money, leaving them wondering on the usefulness of this spending. Any time a tax rupee goes into these black holes, information about its use is lost to the outside observers.

In the last decade, the government of Pakistan has extorted (as tax is essentially extortion by the state) Rs16 trillion of taxes from the citizens. In addition, the government has borrowed Rs6 trillion, of which Rs2.5 trillion is foreign debt. What has the government done with Rs22 trillion worth of resources? The simple answer is that most of this amount has been spent on Pakistan’s black holes.

Pakistan’s biggest black hole is defence. Over the last decade, it has gobbled over Rs3 trillion. Little is known by the taxpayer about how this money has been used. The military’s performance has been varied. It has provided excellent disaster management support and fought valiantly in Swat and Fata, but they lost in the Kargil. The Swat and Fata expeditions were a double whammy for the taxpayers. Hundreds of billions of rupees were spent fighting Taliban and non-state actors, after spending tens of billions on nurturing and supporting them in pursuit of liberating Kashmir and a nonsensical strategic depth doctrine.

All these flawed policies are now posing an existential threat to the country, and have earned Pakistan the unique global brand image of a state and society that encourages and facilitates militant fundamentalism. Hundreds of billions have been spent on expensive toys, procured through very opaque processes. Ironically we are now having difficulty “protecting” these toys. The military has strayed from its core mission. It has spent billions on commercial activities and the luxurious lifestyles of senior officers etc.

The second largest black hole inflicting the country is the public education bureaucracy. We have spent close to Rs1.5 trillion in the last decade. Despite this, there is hardly any improvement in the standard of education imparted here. A large part of this money has been used to pay the salaries of the 1.2 million teachers, who are overpaid and under performing. Drop-out rates are still very high among the students and over half the schools don’t have water, latrines or electricity. Importantly, education “apartheid” has increased, with the rich benefiting from good private schools and the poor stuck with poorly run public schools.

The third gigantic black hole in the country is the Rs1.2 trillion sunk into subsidies. The poor hardly benefit from subsidies on electricity, fertilizer, wheat or subsidies provided to PIA, Pakistan Steel or Railways. For the most part only the rich and middle income and overpaid, incompetent and corrupt employees of state enterprises benefit from these.

A whopping Rs800 billion has been consumed by the black hole providing sustenance to law enforcement agencies. These agencies are corrupt and incompetent to the core, and in many instances promoters and facilitators of criminal activities.

The health sector has gobbled up Rs600 billion, with hardly any improvement in the health indicators or access to health care. Whether it is immunisation coverage, births attended by trained birth attendants, availability of medicines and doctors at basic health units or quality of health care in public hospitals, Pakistan’s health system is simply not delivering to the poor.

The irrigation department has consumed Rs400 billion in the last decade, where corruption and inefficiencies are endemic. The rural elite get more water then their legal right, depriving tail-enders in collusion with irrigation officers.

If you think we are done with black holes inflicting Pakistan, there are dozens of smaller black holes which need to be highlighted. For example (i) Rs100 billion spent on water and sanitation with hardly any improvement in quality or access to clean water; (ii) Rs100 billion spent on the Khushal Pakistan and People’s work programmes, which mostly benefited the contractors and local politicians, and did nothing to improve rural infrastructure; (iii) Rs50 billion spent on administration of justice with no improvement in access, timeliness or quality of justice; (iv) the taxpayers’ money funded perks and privileges of elected officials and high civil, military and judicial officials, who have irresponsibly appropriated large amounts to support their luxurious lifestyles and expensive cars, which is not only unaffordable but simply immoral

So it is clear that the dismal state of Pakistan is largely because of these black holes being nurtured to benefit a few. They are the reasons we have accumulated Rs10 trillion in debt and spent Rs4 trillion in the last decade, servicing this debt.

 From the perspective of the over 170 million poor citizens of Pakistan, who get abysmal basic services, Pakistan is a failed state despite trillions of rupees spent on agencies providing these services. They see Pakistan as a country for the rich and the corrupt. They are probably very sensible, and on a high moral ground, for refusing to pay taxes to a government which is corrupt and incompetent.

 These black holes need to be plugged to enable the government to raise taxes to be used properly so we can avoid an economic meltdown. Three actions are vital for this. First, the military needs to reengineer itself and reset its priorities, if it wants the public support for a continued large claim on the country’s scarce resources. Second, the performance of agencies delivering basic services to the ordinary citizens needs to be improved through deep civil service and institutional reforms. Finally, living a life of luxury at the expense of the taxpayers needs to be curtailed. [Courtesy The News]




[Dr Irfan Zafar. Islamabad]

 The Sindh government has asked the extortionists to leave Karachi. To settle with their counterparts residing in the corridors of power? [Daily Times]


[Khurshid Anwer, Lahore]

 Zardari – Mujh se pehli si mufahmat mere Altaf na maang.Altaf – Pehle hi mufamat se inkar kiya hota, maalom gar hota anjaam mufahmat ka.Zardari – Dar na mufahmat kar le, dar na mufahmat kar le.Chorus-       Mufahmat mein sara jahan jal raha hai, zameen jal rahi hai, aasman jal raha hai.- Mufahmat Karne walun ka tarrapna kis ne dekha hai.Anjaam- Aye mufahmat tere anjaam pe rona aya, yun to har baat sar se guzar jati thi, jane kiyun aaj is baat pe rona aya. [The Frontier Post]


[Dr Irfan Zafar, Islamabad]

Zulfikar Mirza has called Interior Minister Rehman Malik a “compulsive liar”. Sir, who in the government is not? [Daily Times]


[Dr. Irfan Zafar, Islamabad]

 We would like to thank the British Government for entertaining the masses of this country through a comedy show hosted by one of their citizen. [The Nation]


[M Rafique Zakaria, Karachi]

I have a friend in Multan. He got married a fortnight ago and told me that he was coming to Karachi for his honeymoon. The other night, I got an e-mail from him in which he wrote that instead of Karachi, he was going to Waziristan for his honeymoon. Reason being that he heard that Director General (DG) Sindh Rangers Major-General Ejaz Chaudhry told the Supreme Court that the situation in Karachi is worse than Waziristan. [Daily Times]


[Col. (Retd) Riaz Jafri, Rawalpindi]

It was comforting to know that the doctors in the UK have given a clean bill of health and heart to President Zardari after his undergoing an angiography there. It calls for sacrificing as many black goats by him and the Jialas as they can afford. The nation didn’t know about the suspected ailment of his heart which made him dart to London, as his voyage with entourage was being viewed as yet another private visit like his many previous sojourns or at the most a visit for a damage control meeting with Altaf Bhai in the wake of the bombs exploded by Zulfiqar Ali Mirza.Lucky we are that our President could be examined by the best and that he did not have to take a chance with the Cardiovascular Hospitals like AFIC Rawalpindi Cantt, Shifa International Islamabad, Hearts International Rawalpindi Cantt, Doctors’ Hospital Lahore, Punjab Cardiology Lahore, Agha Khan Karachi and many more treating hundreds of the lesser mortals daily.

Strangely, some of these hospitals boast not only of their surgeons to be world renowned but also being equipped with the latest electro-medical machinery and gadgets to carry out such simple angiographies by the dozens a day. I am sure the President would now take personal interest in improving the technical know-how and expertise further, if required, of these and other hospitals in the country so that next time he doesn’t have to scurry in a hurry and subject himself to the hazards of the air travel which by itself could be damaging for a cardiovascular patient. [The Frontier Post]


[Dr. Irfan Zafar, Islamabad]

May we request the Honorable President and the Prime Minister to educate the masses by telling them “How much money is required in one’s possession to find inner Peace and Contentment” Is there a limit to this lust? [The Nation]


[Shahryar Khan Baseer, Peshawar]

 I feel so bad for Mr. Moonis Elahi and his family. For some reason a very “wicked man” of the FIA called Mr. Zafar Qureshi, has been making Mr. Moonis and his families life really difficult. Mr. Moonis Elahi has only been found to be stealing only 20 Crore Rupees from NICL and he has categorically told everyone that the money was not even in his account and was in fact in the accounts of Mr. Moonis’s servants and workers, then why are FIA bugging Mr. Moonis Elahi?

Mr. Moonis does not want to fight anyone and is a very peace loving person. He has once removed FIA man Mr. Zafar Qureshi from this investigation but the media put him back in the same investigation. Mr. Moonis has paid and used many favors to try to pursue Mr. Zafar Qureshi in dropping this case, but when Zafar Qureshi refused, then Mr. Moonis used his influence on the other FIA managers, which has greatly shamed FIA and created a feeling of mistrust with FIA for all Pakistanis (Thank You Moonis).

We would like to use this forum to (Sarcastically) request Mr. Zafar Qureshi of the FIA to stop haggling Mr. Moonis, who is an angel and except the 20 Crore Rupees he paid to his servants (out of his good will), Mr. Moonis has not harmed anyone. [Pakistan Observer]


[Farooq Zaman, Lahore]

Bilawal Zardari has appealed to the Pakistanis and the international community for help to the Sindhis ravaged by floods. By the way, has this appeal reached his fabulously rich father too and what has been his personal response in terms of donation, may we know? [The Nation]


[Ayub Khan, Lahore]

Ever since the life-changing press conference by Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, popular culture has coined another cult saying — one that revolves around eating either a banana or an apple! It seems that now everyone is quoting that iconic saying where one lies about eating either an apple or a banana. The popular social networking site, Facebook, immediately sprang up with a group called, ‘That awkward moment when you are eating a banana and say it is an apple’ — it has hundreds of fans already! Then there is a joke making the rounds about four ‘apples’ changing history: the one eaten by Eve, the one that awakened Newton, the one invented by Steve Jobs and the one that was declared an apple by Rehman Malik! One must hand it to us Pakistanis: we really know how to laugh at ourselves and make light of some of the most serious situations to baffle most nations! [Daily Times]


letterLetters to FreePakistan

[Col. Riaz Jafri (Retd), Rawalpindi]

Mr. Omar Malik (NewsPost 16 September 2011) asks the Prime Minister,” How can you expect others to donate when they see such abhorrent display of extravagance by our Senators and MNAs?”  Little did he know that the PM is leading an 80 strong entourage of politicians, journalists and others to the UN this year just to address the General Assembly for about half an hour and meet only one head of the state that is of Iran on the side lines. Would they all be needed there to assist the PM in his speech and the solitary meeting? What are our Embassy and UN mission doing there?  Can’t they do the needful for the PM for both these events, so that the PM could travel ‘lightly’? How much is the poor taxpayer going to pay for the more than a week long sojourn of these 80 free loaders?   I only wish they are not booked in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel at USD 1000/= a night ? This is what they call “maal e muft,  dil e beyrahm”!


[Ahmad Kamal Khattak, Peshawar]

The horrific stories of car jacking and the revelations of car don mohammad hassan is writing on the wall the rampant activty of stealing cars in the country. Amazingly buying a new car is still a herculain challange for most part of the poor population of the country and those who manage to buy one are always in fear of being robbed of their precipous possession. As a recent revelation the car don exposed that at least 45000 small cars are being stolen from punjab and kpk to GB. The actual figure would obviously excced the claim of the don.

In this age of rural to urban shift, transportation is a biggest challenge the masses go through a no. of time everyday. Just to mention the case of peshawar, ten years ago, it was possible to find a place to sit in the local buses running on main roads in the city but now it is a not possible at all. if some one has to travel in a local bus, he will have to stand and in such way that is not safe at all and pose a threat from pick pockets as well as hygenic hazards. The imposition of duties and taxas on cars has reached a notoriouly exploiting zenith. the cars available in the country are extremely expensive on one hand and sub-standard on the other hand. All these factors combined give rise to mafias such as cars jackers which include gangs of thieves, the supporting police and the buyers who encourage these activities.

If we go by the islamic principle, the government should abolish all the taxes on transportation vehicles. the car companies should be forced by the government to sell their products on a reasonable price and the import of car should not be banned in any circumstances. Hopefully this way the car would lose it;s importance as a precious commodity at all and so will end the crimes associated with the whole activity. today keeping a car is a necessity, it is no more a luxury and by the way any car of the world has a service life too which is not too long with our roads condition.


[Zaheer Khan, Dubai]

For now nearly two years  you just focus on the corruption of Prime minister Galani. You have forgotten the horrendous corruption of MR Zardari responsible for destruction of Pakistan. You have taken away public attention from his ongoing massive corruption endangering sovereignty of Pakistan. You do it to please your MQM mentor, benefactor and bosses. You prove them as innocent of target killing of thousands innocent, batyhakhori of billions of dollars for 27 years and just talk of their accusation of August killings. You are prejudiced and all your analysis are MQM specific. EXPOSE ZARDARI AND MQM CRIMINAL HISTORY TO SAVE COUNTRY.


Issue of the month: Dusting the truth


[Shumaila Raja, Rawalpindi]

Everything Dr Zulfiqar Mirza said in his press conference on Sunday was nothing that we did not already know. Everybody knew that Rehman Malik and many others are the enemies within and that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) was involved deeply in the violence in Karachi since the party’s inception. People have been aware of this for quite some time but it was Zulfiqar Mirza who had the courage to come out in public and say it. Despite knowing all this, nobody took any action against the accused or did anything to expose the truth. Even with Mirza revealing the truth, there is a fear that proper action will not be taken against the accused and that nobody would bother to hold the ‘traitors’ responsible for their crimes against the people of this country. Dr Mirza has made very daring confessions and explicitly exposed the hidden hands out to destabilise Pakistan. According to his claim he has already told the army chief, the ISI chief, the president and the prime minister. Now the case is in the chief justice’s court who has taken suo motu notice of the Karachi killings. Let us use these disclosures as an opportunity to set things right. [Daily Times]


[Humaira Masihuddin, Islamabad]

I never really wanted to dignify Zulfikar Mirza’s fatal press conference towards the end of the Holy Month of Ramzan by commenting on it but the reaction from a sizable number of educated people praising him for courage and of all things honesty was just a little too much to bear. Not that this reaction is surprising considering the current falling standards of morality and integrity as well as the diminished capacity of critical thinking in Pakistan these days.

Dissecting Mirza’s outburst the first question that comes to mind is regarding the conversation that took place according to him; between Messers Altaf Hussain , Mazar-ul-haq and Mirza himself in which the latter claims Altaf spoke about facilitating the breaking up of Pakistan and not being able to stop killing the Pakhtoons in Karachi. More than anything else one would like o know how Altaf Hussain found in Mirza the worthiness for such confidential talk. Could it be a case of “Birds of a feather flocked together”? Maybe Altaf recalled mirza’s famous “Pakistan Na khappay” speech and that must have inspired confidence in him that he was talking to someone of his own ilk. Two other questions worth raising here are why didn’t Mirza report such treacherous talk immediately? And why was his party so closely allied to the MQM? In any case the charges he has made must be thoroughly investigated and any party harbouring anti Pakistan agenda should be banned with immediate effect.

Moreover, what is so honest about speaking half truths? Karachi is armed to the teeth and the whole world knows that every political party there has an armed wing. The saddest part of the whole press conference was the way religion was shamelessly used by a man who admits to cheating his way through college and who belongs to probably the most inept corrupt and underperforming government in the history of this beleaguered country. One shudders to see a man who boasts about being friends with the president (who has been facing corruption charges at home and abroad till recently and is unable to account for his riches) have the audacity to take the glorious name of Hazrat Imam Hussain (R.A).

All that Zulfikar Mirza has succeeded in doing is exposing himself badly, he has already admitted that he hired ten thousand policemen not on merit but on personal discretion and is guilty of issuing three hundred thousand licenses for arms as Sindh’s home minister where as a sane and sincere person would have disarmed the already armed communities and not issued more of the same. [Pakistan Observer]

Hurricane Mirza

[Saif Tabrez, Lahore]

What can be said? Zulfiqar Mirza has left no controversial stone unturned. Besides the entertainment value of his much talked about press conference, it must be remembered that the consequences of his statements will be far-reaching. He has laid some serious allegations against some very prominent personalities and these must be investigated by the authorities, including the Supreme Court. If Rehman Malik really is a serial and compulsive liar then he must be removed from the all-important interior ministry before he causes any more damage. If the allegations about the US and MQM being in cahoots to break up the country are true then strict action must be taken. If Hurricane Mirza really has caused some irreparable damage then let us see the rehabilitation and reconstruction of our political structure. [Daily Times]


[Mohammad Khan Sial, Karachi]

On September 09, 2011, MQM chief Altaf Hussain addressed press conference direct from London which was live telecast by seven private TV channels for more than 4 & half hours each so much so news bulletins and commercials on the channels were not telecast during the period that was set back to news viewers on one hand and big financial loss to the channel owners on the other may be in millions. Immediate after the press conference, a discussion programme was going on of Hamid Mir on GEO TV but another anchor Kamran Khan immediately intervened and he gave a detailed and controvercial interview of ex-City Mayor, CDGK Syed Mustafa Kamal taking too much time despite Altaf had already addressed four and half hours. It was clear that Kamran Khan was openly supporting the said ethnic group out of the way.

When Mustafa Kamal abused repeatedly Zulfikar Mirza by claiming that he was running “Blue Film Shop” in Hyderabad, Kamran Khan strangely did not object or intervene but when Masood Sharif – a guest talked about the operation against MQM in the past, Kamran Khan lost his temper and asked at least twice Masood Sharif to mind his language despite he (Sharif) did not pass any objectionable remarks against any one. It was darkest aspect of journalism. [Pakistan Observer]


[Malik Tariq Ali, Lahore]

It is against national interest of Pakistan, if the elected executive, or paid civil and uniformed servants of the state were aware that its nationals were being murdered, slaughtered and kidnapped, while they failed to perform their primary constitutional obligation. A government exists to serve the people of the state. What is more important, party discipline, or the national interest?. It does not matter what motivated Zulfiqar Mirza to state, what he did on oath of Holy Quran, but the content of charges and allegations that he made, which he claims are substantiated by documentary evidence.

It is the state executive and establishment which has failed, if they were aware of the extent of crimes that were being committed and the identity of criminals. People of Pakistan were being murdered in cold blood in Karachi and all the instruments of the state have failed to protect them. It is time the state performs its primary obligation to protect the lives and property of its citizens, instead of being slave to the political compulsions of those who are elected, be they in government or in opposition. It is the people who are the primary asset of a state and the reason for establishing a government and not vice versa.

The interests of Pakistan are more important than the individual interest, or misplaced ego, of its political elite or the establishment, or the interests of other countries. This country has been wronged by those who have no stakes in this country and what is happening in Karachi is because of such individuals with split loyalties, who live with their families and assets abroad and who have nothing to lose if Pakistan (God Forbid) collapses. [Pakistan Observer]

[Iftikhar Shaheen Mirza, Islamabad]

Zulfikar Mirza’s recent revelations have put a big question mark against the integrity of Reman Malik and the MQM. The veteran politician, by taking the oath over the Holy Quran, has hit the jackpot. If we accept what Mirza has said, then what kind of trust can one have in the government? Is it not the ugliest form of democracy? Are not we headed for a total collapse? The government’s manoeuvering has already put Karachi into serious trouble and the continuation of this policy will of course land them nowhere in the next election. The continuously deteriorating law and order situation in the country with all the government’s efforts going haywire is giving room to terrorists to act at will. [Dawn]


[M Shaikh, Islamabad]

During the Supreme Court’s hearing of the Karachi suo motu case, many amongst public and leaders were anxious to give evidence and opinion, and actually submitted applications for becoming a formal party. Dr Zulfiqar Mirza was not called, nor were the MQM leaders asked to testify. A nasty allegations-and-counter-allegations theatre was thus avoided. Seemingly, the hearing was confined to the objective of making it clear to the police authorities that they were being observed, and the political parties that they could be banned or convicted. This might help the Gilani government and discourage background operators. If this does not work, then, within the democratic setup, nothing will.

The Supreme Court played a non-political role, but its message may be too weak to reach the hardened shells of criminals. The filing of affidavits by the DIG certifying peace is a good step, but for the more than 1300 murders which took place in this city during the last few months, this is a peanut response. Serious changes in the Constitution to empower the Court directly for field and administrative actions are needed in Karachi and elsewhere. The slogan of separate legislature, executive and judiciary is nothing but a conspiracy to stall justice and such theoretical ideas, with no history of proving useful anywhere, need to be done away with. [The News]


[Khalil Ur Rehman Rijai, Karachi]

Dr Mirza’s press conference on August 28, 2011 at the Karachi Press Club was sensational. He not only announced resigning from the membership of the Sindh Assembly, but also declared quitting the position he has been holding in the party. He was lambasting the MQM as ever but yet he was in his senses to overlook the other warring factions in Karachi. He never said who is responsible for the killings of the MQM affiliates and the Urdu-speaking people in the recent violence. In this way he divulged the incomplete truth.

Before current tenure of the PPP, there were only two warring factions in Karachi namely the MQM and the ANP but now the PPP (via Liyari) and the Sunni Tehrik joined the ranks. Moreover, the Taliban fleeing from north and the Baloch rebels have also taken refuge in Karachi ‘jungle’. Drugs, arms, land-grabbing and street crime mafias have been constant menaces. The MQM, PPP and ANP have become part of the problem and have failed to find a solution. A third force can make them sit together to agree upon:

a- Deweaponise Karachi.
b- Get an honest population census.
c- Redefine the electoral constituencies.
d- New voter registration list. There should be an agreed formula to consider people from other provinces to become permanent residents of Karachi, abandoning their previous domicile.
e- Measures to be taken to gradually eliminate the ethnicity flavour of all the political parties in Karachi. The MQM has to make a sacrifice for honourable peace in Karachi but they can enhance their opportunities in other provinces at the same time. [Business Recorder]


[S T Hussain, Lahore]

Allegations levelled by former Sindh Home Minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza claim that MQM’s Babar Ghauri, Federal Minister of Ports and Shipping, is involved in stealing of thousands of NATO, ISAF and US military containers. According to the press reports published in the print media Federal Board of Revenue has confirmed that 24,000 containers went missing inside Pakistan during the last four years and they fear some may have contained arms and ammunitions. The MQM minister Babar Ghauri has strongly denied the allegations on a TV talk show. The question is why did Dr Zulfiqar Mirza as a Sindh Home Minister not lodged any FIR? Why did the FBR not stop theft of containers?

I think it would have been more appropriate if the MQM senior minister would have replied to the allegations of missing containers in a more sincere and transparent manner. In order to know the truth, it is imperative that an independent commission should be formed to investigate truth about these missing containers. It is a serious matter and the government should not sweep it under rug on the pretext of policy of political reconciliation for its self-interest to complete the five-year term by hook and crook and keeping all the political parties happy. [Pakistan Today]


Edited and prepared by

Khalil Ahmad


[FreePakistan Newsletter, among other things, is a compilation of views and news taken from the national newspapers’ print and online editions. It is not possible to mention the source of every piece of news or view made use of herein; but as a matter of policy, where possible the source is mentioned with due thanks. However, no opinion expressed here should necessarily be taken as reflecting the view of Free Pakistan Newsletter.]



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