Pakistan’s begging bowl runs deep

Published: September 6, 2010

People reach for food distributed from a truck in a village in the Muzaffargarh district of Pakistan's Punjab province. Photo: Reuters

Allah Ditta hurriedly hides his ration and relief packets under the shabby rug which adorns his clumsy tent dwelling as he sees a TV team approaching his relief tent. His wife Naseera has now joined the queue to get another packet or two of the relief goods containing pulses, cooked rice, mineral water and biscuits. The anchor person along with his cameraman stops in front of his camp as the latter fixes his shot and peeps inside through the lens to see if the shot is worth taking. The camera is now rolling and anchor person asks a few questions to Allah Ditta, “Tell us Mr Allah Ditta, since how long have you been encamped here and what treatment has been meted out to you so far?” the anchor person ask politely in a sympathetic tone. Allah Ditta starts his tirade rather mechanically and abruptly

Sahab, are we the humans or animals? For the last two days neither me nor my children have eaten anything. You should better kill us instead of meting out such humiliating treatment.

While no country is free from its due share of nature’s wrath, no other country in the world is afflicted with dependency syndrome quite like us. It is our consistent pattern as a nation which certainly perturbs the sensitive ones. We expect foreign aid and do not realize that the country is fast becoming a laughing stock in the eyes of the world. We as a nation are plagued with dependency and despondency syndrome with no panacea insight to wean the nation away from this lethal mind set.

Let me ask a few elementary questions which are not difficult to answer. Why is it that in the wake of any calamity, we look upon the wealthy nations to come and rescue us from the situation which is no fault of theirs? Why is it that we are still passing through ‘testing times’ even after 63 years of our existence? Why is it that despite favorable climatic conditions, sizable English speaking class and fair international exposure we could not achieve our goals?

Perhaps this begging bowl is the only object which ‘unites’ all and sundry of the country without making any distinction. Ruling elite, ferocious opposition, military, opinionated anchors, think tanks and intellectuals and the hapless oblivion, no one even bothers to raise question as to why we have become a crowd of beggars where everyone right from president down to a slum dweller asks for aid without any iota of shame. A picture of Pakistan on electronic media these days paints a thousand words of the mess we are in.

Self-reliance is the master key which unlocks all difficulties in life. “Help yourself and heaven will help you is a maxim which receives daily confirmation.” While help from within always strengthens, help from without enfeebles the recipients. It is not by the use of corks, bladders and life-buoys that one learns to swim but by plunging courageously into the waves and buffeting them.

Earthquake in Iran

Iran experienced the worst earthquake in 2003 in her Southern city of Bam which killed thousands of people. The whole world wished to extend a helping hand to its ruling clergy isolated on charges of Iran’s clandestine nuclear program. The ruling elite however decided to not ask any help from any country especially Western countries and issued a specific list of emergency articles instead to a few developed Islamic countries. No foreign aid worker landed on Iranian soil and both the government and the public sustained the gruesome incident on their own.

Every cloud, however has a silver lining; misery brings with it immense chances of turning it into strength. Japan and Germany suffered humiliating defeat at the hands of allied forces in World War II. Heroshima and Nagasaki had been annihilated from the face of the earth by the rampaging ‘Little boy’ and ‘Fat Man’ German Army had lost its awe and grandeur after taking many kingdoms in its strides. How these nations resurrected themselves and bounced back with proverbial ‘vengeance’ make interesting reading

Post World War II Japan

Sheer commitment, dedication and zeal of the Japanese people saw the country rising from the ashes of World War II and by 1960 its astounding pace and exceptional economic growth had stunned the world. According to an analyst the period leading up to the late 1960s saw “the greatest years of prosperity Japan had seen since the Sun Goddess shut herself up behind a stone door to protest her brother Susano-o’s misbehavior.” Former Prime Minister Ikeda started on an inspiring income doubling plan that saw lowered interest rates and taxes to private businesses. In addition, due to the financial flexibility afforded, Ikeda’s government rapidly expanded government investment in Japan’s infrastructure – super highways, railways, new airports and exceptionally large dams besides investing heavily in communication sectors. The result – present day Japan!

Post World War II Germany

Recovering from the destruction of World War II, Germany’s rags to riches story is also not very different its economy experienced a long period of strong economic growth and widely referred to as the “German miracle.” During this period of growth, extensive and generous social services and benefits accompanied high-tech market capitalism. The whole nation rose up to ‘snatch back’ its lost glory and the world saw a broad and unprecedented cooperation between the government, businesses, and labour that complemented free market principles in economic decision-making. Companies were considered responsible not only to shareholders but also to employees, customers, suppliers, and local communities. The capitalist model that linked business to a social conscience worked perfectly well and western part of Germany was able to contribute hundreds of billions of franks to impoverished Eastern wing after its unification in 1990

Modern China

Deng Xiaoping is widely hailed as the founder of modern China. Transformation had been made with utmost caution as the initial process of reform was proposed to ease the economy gently into its new guise, whereby any significant disparities between an open economy and the Chinese one would be ironed out. Key to this was expansion and liberalisation of the export program, Xiaoping focused on cheap power generation and exceptionally hi-tech infrastructure to lay the foundation of world’s second biggest economy. China has experienced unprecedented growth in the past thirty years, with GDP rising on average by 9.5 per cent per year over that period.

Recent flash floods have played havoc with already fragile economy of the country. Almost all of Pakistan’s GDP has been washed away in the deluge and in real terms country will witness a 0 per cent growth rate — the lowest in three decades. Pakistan’s economy has suffered due to the large amounts that have been spent on the security of Pakistan and weak policies. Inflation rose by 25 per cent – the highest in the last three decades. Pressure has mounted on foreign reserves and the exchange rate has depreciated.

Drastic times call for drastic measures – modest estimates suggest that we could manage to generate Rs 350 b domestically through austerity cuts. Pakistan after all did come out of the ignoble PRGF program of the IMF successfully in 2006 and we said “Good-bye” to all its programs. History may repeat itself if resilient Pakistanis and people in the highest echelon remain unyielding, come hell or high water.


Khubaib Usmani

A Punjab University graduate working with a public relations firm. After working for three years as an English Literature teacher at a private university he began work in a Pakistani think tank National Reconstruction Bureau as a media consultant. He writes on socio-political issues.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Syed Nadir El-Edroos

    Everyone is a flag waving, anti-India patriot, where taking off the silencer of your motorcycle and drivign around is equated with patriotism. Paying your taxes however is considered a matter of shame, where only the poor or those who do not have the means to bribe somone have to pay taxes. Then the richest of the rich say, well the government does not do anything for us? Really? Would people living in F6, F7 and E7 claim that the governmetn does nothing for them. In this paper some time ago it was reported that they were only 17 taxpayers in the whole of E7.

    Even if the state is corrupt and money is lost in inefficiency, the rich have a responsibility to meet. For if they dont pay their taxes, the government shifts the burden on to the poor by indirect taxation and withdrawal of subsidies.

    In the face of terrorism, the earthquake and now the floods, tax avoidance just keeps on increasing. Everyone wants to be free of the IMF and its diktats, but no one wants to pay the taxes that could allow for that for happen. Everyone argues that we have sold ourselves to America for billions of dollars though they dont want to cough up their dues.

    Thats fine though, the rich can remain rich knowing that someone else is footing their bill. Recommend

  • Fardad

    Well said SNEE, No body owns this country. Leaders have never set good examples to follow. The rate of indirect taxation is so high in Pakistan compared to the services offered by the government that no body wants to pay any additional tax, specially also when they don’t trust those handling the tax money. Conditions will only change when there are good examples set from the top. The present system churns out rot after rot. Democracy has become a prostitute in the hands of the corrupt. ‘Militrocracy’ waits like a vulture to scavenge the remains of a demised democratic government slain by its own hands. A paradigm shift is required in the way we manage our affairs ie in the system of governance. Meritocracy could be the answer which can answer all the questions and snatch and throw away our fathomed begging bowl.Recommend

  • parvez

    Pray why should the 2% who have it so good, institute austerity measures on themselves ? So that the other 98% may exist – that’s wishful thinking.
    When ‘push comes to shove’ they will be out of here ( Hollywood style ).Recommend

  • anyportinastorm

    Gotta agree with Parvez. Why would those minting money in the current conditions want to rock the boat? They have it good and are taking full advantage of the corruption found in every pore of every level of Government. A very well written article conceptually stating what has become of this nation. One major difference exists within Pakistan when compared to the other nations mentioned. Internal ethnic conflict has caused such great divides that those in power are simply trying to look our for their own. In order to combat corruption and to move forward as a nation ethnic conflicts need to be properly addressed and the basic foundations of infrastructure have to be laid. The only way Pakistan will ever grow as one people is if a universal education system is implemented and made cumpulsory upon every Pakistani national. Recommend

  • Riaz Majeed

    An exceptionally well written article which summarizes the situation the country got itself due to corrution of its leaders.Pakistan do not lack in anything and it only require honest leadership.Hats off to the writer for giving picture of those nations which rose from the naught and reached to the topRecommend