STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

The Budget has passed for better or worse, depending on which side of the divide you stand on. One thing is certain, it has changed the direction of the Country. It is the right direction. A very basic fact practiced in every home has finally been recognized at the National Government level. Match income with expenses. It has happened for the first time since Ayub Khan’s era. It entails a lot of pain for the poor working classes, salaried folks and middle class. I sincerely wish the pain remains bearable and PTI continues to deliver and follow implementation ruthlessly.

The passage of Budget was preceded by a lot of posturing and hyperbole–meaning exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally. Joint Opposition was on the warpath. They threatened to bring the Government down. Break-up the ruling coalition. Maryam Nawaz gave a ruling, ‘Misaak-e- Maishayat” would amount to giving PTI an exit route. She cannot let these criminals escape! How ironic. It all culminated in an APC being called by fully cramped Maulana Fazal Ur Rehman, seeking relevance on the political scene. It all came to a naught. Nothing.

However all this noise had little to do with the pain the public is facing due to galloping inflation. That was just a façade. The shrill yelling against “Na-ahal” and “Na-laik”, illegitimate and incompetent, Government emanates from the noose slowly but surely tightening against those who looted the national wealth. They will sup (dine) with devil to get off the hook. There is strong need to keep the momentum going, and bring it to fruition through the efforts of NAB and dispensation of justice through courts.

Adding to the discomfort is the Inquiry Commission looking into receipt and disbursement of Government loans. Hence I say, there is a need to cut the crap and get on with job. A piece of advice to those delivering justice. If the intent is to recover the looted National wealth please ensure that you recover it from the perpetuators while you have them in your control.

Only the Sharifs, the Zardaris and others in their club know about the various jurisdictions through which the loot has been laundered. Attempting recovery through various legal systems, like Dubai, Virgin Islands, Swiss and British courts, is next to impossible. Squeeze the criminals while you have them.

I am amused at the title given by Maryam-Bilawal combine to PTI Government. “Na-ahal” and “Na-laik. It translates into “Black Sheep”. Knowing IK for as long as I have, this “Black Sheep” is more powerful than a Cane Corso, an Italian Mastiff. History records the Roman Emperors would pit them to fight lions.

According to veterinarians, their jaw pressure is greater than Lions! I should know it, we own one. So a fair warning to Opposition Stalwarts attempting to belittle or ridicule this Government. As I said in my last post, it’s all about work ethic, mental strength and integrity. “Selected” Prime Minister beats you hands down on all these fronts.

The road ahead for PTI is rough. It is filled with boulders and rocks. For starters IK needs to improve his filters and whetting process. He has to ensure the hygiene of the team around him. Passing the new budget is like having a massive surgery. Sometime post operative care is more important than the procedure itself.

The other day Arshad Sharif, who I find a credible Anchor, and his guest Mohammad Malick confronted Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan that Razzaq Dawood, after transferring his shares in his business regained control through a holding company. A health committee formed by PTI has a former Ephedrine case accused. Further the new Energy Advisor who spent all his career in Energy Sector has many unanswered questions. Your core team needs to respond such accusations.

I have been urging steps against criminal profiteering by opportunistic traders. Finally IK has spoken on
inflation. Better late than never. It needs close and competent monitoring. Corruption is a hydra with many heads at every level of Government. It shall be an arduous path requiring renewal of vows often.

However there is a need to get out of this rut. PTI government has to pay $37 billion in next 5 years for loans taken before June 2018. There is a need to go back to the basics. We are an Agricultural country. That can become our savior. Let me give the Chinese example. Mao Zedong (Zetung) after the peoples’ revolution had a wasteland as a country. No resources, no industry, little international support.

He put everyone to work on growing food. Interesting anecdote. For the elderly who could not toil in fields, he gave them a target to kill 100 flies every day to get food. He put the country back on its feet. Apart from growing food, he developed a work ethic and mental strength. Look where those foundations have taken China today.

Such extreme measures are not required or desirable today. However a focus on Agriculture is a must. We need to improve our yields. We need to get into intensive value added areas. Let me share my discussions with my friend Siraj Ul Mulk from Chitral. Northern areas grow tremendous amounts of organically grown fruits. With right storage, appropriate preservation equipment, improved
logistics and proper marketing it has potential to earn billions in foreign exchange on an ongoing basis. I believe the same is true for Baluchistan. I can give 10 other examples.

I know IK can handle it. It may not endear me to his close associates. PTI has embarked on a marathon run. He needs to choose the best persons who can give the best response and suggest the best means to achieve a specific end. I am afraid the present Agriculture Minister and his team, if he has any, are non-starters. IK please give targets to your team and demand results. It’s important for Pakistan, it’s important for PTI. It’s time to cut the crap.

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