Wattoo says corruption crosses all limits in Punjab   

Alleges important postings being made after ‘bargaining’; Supports fresh elections, but is unable to predict the outcome ; Wants Musharraf era local government system implemented

Published: 06:55 PM, 27 Jan, 2022
Wattoo says corruption crosses all limits in Punjab   
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Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo, a former chief minister of Punjab, has alleged that corruption in Punjab has crossed all limits and postings of important positions in the bureaucracy are made on the basis of “bargaining”.

In an interview with Channel 24 on Thursday, he said officials posted through this process cannot be expected to solve people’s problems.  

He says respect and money are two different things. Anyone wanting to earn the former will have to keep the latter at a distance.   

A veteran politician with no political affiliation at present although his son and daughter had contested the 2018 elections on PTI’s tickets, Mr Wattoo said the local government system of Gen Musharraf’s era is the best for the country and should be implemented without delay after reincorporating municipal and town committees in it.

Mr Wattoo is in favour of creating new provinces in the country to solve people’s problems.

Punjab, he says, should have at least two provinces. However, he is opposed to carving out any province on a linguistic basis.

He supports the demand for fresh general elections but says no one is in a position to predict their outcome.  

Here is the edited version of the questions and answers.

Q. All opposition parties are demanding fresh elections in the country. What situation do you foresee if, hypothetically speaking, elections are held immediately?

A. The confusing way the rulers are running the system justifies the call for fresh elections. New people duly mandated by the electorate should run the country. Who will be chosen in elections is not possible to predict at this stage because of the involvement of certain (extraneous) factors. Yes, only in a democratic system such a prediction is possible.

The PTI has lost much of its ground over the past three years. The results of the first phase of the local elections in KP have established this point.

In the next phase, bad governance, the unbridled price-hike will play an important role.

In our country, the situation is much different than in other democracies. In our case results of the elections are always different from the assessments, predictions. Therefore, I don’t think anybody should make any assessment about the outcome of the fresh balloting.

Apparently, the PPP has a stronger position in Sindh, PML-N in Punjab and the JUI-F in KP and Balochistan.

The PTI has gone very weak because of a number of factors.

Q. There are demands for more provinces. In your opinion how many provinces should be set up in the country and what should be the yardstick for a new province?

A: I am in favour of setting up new provinces, especially in Punjab.

I share with you the experience of my visit to Indian Punjab some years ago. Although Indian Punjab is much smaller than our Punjab, but they have divided the same into three provinces – and all are functioning well.

During the visit, we were told that in Indian Punjab farmers are being provided free electricity and canal water for irrigation. When the hosts were asked how they manage to provide both these facilities free of charge, they said the tax coming from wine is enough to foot the bill.

As for the yardstick for the creation of new provinces, it is always political.  

I am in favour of creating more provinces in Punjab, Sindh, KP and Balochistan. But I am opposed to creating a new province on linguistic basis.  

Punjab should have at least two provinces and political parties should not politicise the matter.

Keeping in view the needs of the people a province should be carved out on a political basis.

Q. As a former chief minister, how will you comment on the performance of Sardar Usman Buzdar, the incumbent chief executive of the country’s largest province?  

A. Mr Buzdar claims that he is doing a lot for the province. Ask him to visit Oakara and Deepalpur (the areas Mr Wattoo comes from).  In this area the PTI has lost various elections. The government has not spent even a penny on the development of this area in four years.

This is the area where a road links Deepalur and Head Sulemanki. This road is used even by army troops in various situations but no attention has been paid to it.

Q. If so, then why in your opinion the prime minister is so strongly supporting this chief minister?

A:  The prime minister should keep in mind Transparency International’s report on the state of corruption in Pakistan. Corruption in Punjab has crossed all limits. It is unprecedented.  

This was not the situation when Nawaz Sharif, Ghulam Haider Wyne, myself, Shehbaz Shafrif or Pervaiz Elahi were chief ministers.  

It is unheard of that postings of secretaries, commissioners, deputy commissioners and DIGs are ordered after “bargaining”.

How can officials posted through the bargaining process be expected to solve problems of their respective areas? They cannot control inflation or crime.

Q. What should be done to improve the situation?

A: Wise people say that respect and money are two different things. For the sake of respect, the chief minister will have to turn a blind eye to money. And if money is made the yardstick, respect will never come closer.

The leadership should select a good team of experienced and competent people to run the country.

The selection of the present PTI leadership was exposed from the episode of Shehzad Akbar, the accountability czar, who has just resigned or was made to resign.

Q.  What will you like to say about the local government elections the Punjab government has decided to hold in May?

A:  The government is caught in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.

The Supreme Court and the Election Commission of Pakistan have ordered the government to hold local elections. But the PTI leaders are advising their seniors not to hold them. Probably, the PTI’s defeat in KP is behind this thinking.

Nobody should forget that local government is the first tier of democracy. Without this tier fully in place, democracy can’t flourish. This system should not only be implemented but also strengthened.

Gen Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Ziaul Haq and Gen Pervez Musharraf had given different systems of local government during their respective tenures.  

In my reckoning, the system given by Gen Musharraf was the best and most suitable for the country. But in this system, the municipal and town committees were excluded.

If these committees are again made part of the same system, the enforcement of the Musharraf era local government system would be the best for the country.

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Ashraf Mumtaz

The writer is the Deputy Editor of 24 Digital.