Protocols of Royalty: When will we be judicious towards taxpayers’ money?
News channels splashed stories Sunday that former chief minister Qaim Ali Shah was given a Royal protocol of 45 vehicles during a visit from Sukkur to Benazir burial place near Larkana. It was shocking for them and to large number of their viewers as to whether a person with no official responsibility or title can ever be bestowed such a lavish treatment?
Crucial questions, but in a country, often treated as personal property by most of our rulers, insensitivities have become a rule of the thumb. A seasoned commentator recently messaged his friend that in 1947, a nation needed a country, and today, the country needs a nation. It may, and perhaps does appear sarcastic to many but is a naked truth..
Scant respect to use of public or taxpayers’ money has indeed ben unfortunate, yet a grim reality. Sorry state of affairs, a poor reflection on our life style, which has somehow come to be standardized over past few decades.
Ayub Khan, a military dictator, wielding unquestionable authority and power, used an executive jet, given to him for use as Head of State. He traveled in that small aircraft to countries in the region for government-to government level talks with foreign dignitaries. He had a small delegation with him, barely couple of ministers, or few officials to assist him in talks concerning Pakistan’s interest. The late president gave that aircraft to PIA for use by the commercial carrier.
For long-haul flights, over the Atlantic to America, or the Pacific to Japan, commercial flights of the national airline, was invariably preferred. Smaller aircraft needed re-fuelling every four or five hours, which entailed inconvenience to rulers or protocol staff of countries of stop-overs.
The practice went on for years as standard operating procedures, till Z.A. Bhutto emerged on scene and began to use helicopters like Kings and Monarchs used telephones to talk to people from homes or offices. The system of taking caravans of people on foreign trips, without giving slightest consideration to burden on the exchequer, was introduced, which has become a normal practice, and continues uninterrupted since then.
Those at the helm seem least bothered that theirs is a poor country, dependent on foreign loans and forced tax extortions from poor and the ordinary. Big guns, remain unaffected because of envious positions they happen to be in, just by sheer dint of luck.
Even today, VVIP flights are nothing but planeloads of joyriders, mostly sycophants, who include media persons too. Some of the major media houses are in perfect position to send their own representatives to cover visits to foreign countries by Presidents and Prime Ministers for parleys abroad. Why this is not being done, needs to be explained. Indian media houses spend their own money on their reporters and camera crew to cover the visit of their prime ministers.
A former Singapore prime minister Lee Kuwan Yew put the then President Farooq Laghari to shame by asking how could be afford to take a planeload of friends, relatives, cooks and ayahs from Islamabad to Auckland for the New Zealand Summit of Commonwealth leaders. He bluntly told Laghari, that although he had barely six/seven hours flight from his island country to down under he travelled on commercial airline, with a staff of bare six. The fact that Singapore has a very high level of per capita income, must kept in mind.
Examples of austere living and respect for taxpayers’ money are far too many to be recounted. Richer States like Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, even Singapore in the East, remain conscious all the time of their coffers. Sweden, Norway, Denmark, The Netherland etc, are Kingdoms no doubt, but only cosmetically and for traditions’ sake. In reality, they are true and established democracies, respectful of rule of law, merit and corruption-free countries.
Some of them have strict rules for State expenditures, and often their prime ministers and ministers, ride bicycles, rarely allowed chauffeurs, drive their cars themselves, no cooks, no servants. Their wives prepare breakfasts, and dinners for husbands and kids.
Cost-consciousness has enabled them to divert money for welfare projects in health and education sectors. Muslim countries, especially in the Gulf, are mostly Kingdoms, or Sultanates. Still, ruling classes there are deeply conscious of the needs, and requirements of their people. Ordinary people is happy there. His needs are met by the State.
Iran is another glaring example, where Presidents like Ahmadi Nejad lived in private house, slept on floors, and after retirement, is not given any preference or allowances etc. Governments worth the name can only be those, caring for their people. Unfortunately, the position in Pakistan, is just the opposite.
Security concerns must be addressed, but extravaganza witnessed almost daily in the name of security, shutting off roads for VIP movements, has already taken heavy toll of life in Quetta and at other places. In Sukkur Sunday, the Khairpur bypass was closed to traffic to allow Qaim Ali Shah’s caravan to move to Larkana. Families, with children, and ladies, were made to suffer in oppressive heat for long hours. Should we really take pride in being called Pakistanis?
Reports have been circulating here for couple of days that petrol prices may be reduced after about week or ten days, but then Islamabad bureaucracy has started letting out feelers that the government will have to raise surcharges to offset the likely deficit from price reduction, which the prime minister wants to ensure relief to the people.
The government must review its expenses to save money for social sectors that has remained neglected for decades. Money must now be diverted to opening new schools, hospitals, clinics etc, which are immediate and urgent needs for the people of the country.
Source: Pakistan Observer