‘State abdicates responsibility to safeguard rights of people’ – OCTOBER 21, 2019

Right Livelihood Award 2014 Stockholm 12/ 2014 Photo: Wolfgang Schmidt

LAHORE: “We have created two Pakistans – one for the masses and the other for the elite,” says economist Kaiser Bengali.

The elite class has created a parallel economy by setting up industries, organisations and services.

“All those who got amnesty are thieves and must land in prison.” Mr Bengali says.

Speaking at a session on “Economic and Social Inequality” at Asma Jahangir conference at a local hotel on Sunday, Mr Bengali deplored that the state was no more recognising rights. He said the poor were becoming poorer and the governments were busy fudging the poverty data.

Regretting that the state has no interest in the welfare of people and only robbing people of their rights, Mr Bengali said there would be no hope for us and our children until and unless people overthrow this state and create a new state.

“Battles will now be fought and won on the streets and we have to be ready for it,” he said.

Mr Bengali, who had also served as adviser to the Sindh chief minister, said the state had given up all its responsibilities including providing decent education and healthcare services.

“There are private universities that serve as money laundering fronts,” he claimed.

Similarly, he said, there were seven-star hospitals where costs were enormous but healthcare services were not up to the mark.

Answering a question, Mr Bengali said the BISP was never designed to reduce inequality or poverty. It was designed to supplement low incomes.

“I had told the then prime minister and others concerned that the government could not attack poverty by giving Rs1,000 to a family. “We had designed the BISP at a family level but now it has gone back to the household level,” he said.

Former federal finance minister Dr Hafeez Pasha said the government was losing Rs1,500 billion to Rs1,600 billion annually as a cost for offering exemptions and amnesties over the years to the elite. He said the traditional feudal elite constituted one per cent of farmers holding 22pc of farm land and 1.2 million farmers had land below one acre.

He said the total agriculture tax contribution was less than Rs3 billion by the elite class, while others were paying Rs1,400 billion. He said Pakistan was the only country in this part of the world that was spending more on military security and debt servicing than addressing human development and social protection.

He said the trade union movement had blossomed in 1970s but the military government abolished the student unions and labour unions. “The collective bargaining process was then retarded for all time to come,” he said.

Economist Shahid Kardar said the existing unjust and uncaring socioeconomic structure had made social mobility impossible for the marginalised section of society.

“We should have been investing in human beings to enable them to develop skills and be able to participate in national economy effectively,” he said.

Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2019