PM Imran’s poverty alleviation plan too vague, too late

Published: 01:59 PM, 30 Jan, 2022
PM Imran’s poverty alleviation plan too vague, too late
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Opposition parties criticize Prime Minister Imran Khan every day for his government’s failure to deliver on its commitments. While this ‘flogging’ may or may not be justified – depending on the context, what the Supreme Court has said in a latest judgment should be eye-opener for the player-turned-politician.

Justice Yahya Afridi has cautioned Prime Minister Imran that retaining “delinquents” like Law Minister Dr Farogh Naseem and Asset Recovery Unit (ARU) chairman Shahzad Akbar in important positions of authority would belie the most elementary principles of good governance and expose the PM’s ‘complicity’ with them.

While giving a judgment, the court said Section 216 of the Income Tax Ordinance (ITO) 2001 was blatantly breached in the case of Mrs Sarina Isa — the wife of Justice Qazi Faez Isa — on the unlawful directions of the ARU chairman with the concurrence of the law minister. Thus, they breached the statutory confidentiality of Mrs Isa’s tax returns, observed Justice Afridi in his separate note accompanying the Supreme Court’s detailed verdict issued in the Justice Isa case on Saturday. The short order had been given on April 26, 202.

Justice Afridi was part of a 10-member Supreme Court bench that overturned its June 19, 2020 majority order in the Justice Isa case that required verification of and a subsequent inquiry by the tax authorities into three foreign properties in the name of the wife and children of Justice Isa.

Section 216 of the ITO ensures confidentiality and makes it clear that if officers other than those from the income tax department access a taxpayer’s records, it will constitute a criminal offence.

Recently, the government through the controversial Finance (Supplementary) Bill 2021 amended the ITO allegedly to protect top elected functionaries from any criminal prosecution for disclosing personal tax information of Justice Isa and his wife. The amendment also empowers the government functionaries and officials to take decisions in future against any high-level public officials, public servants, their spouses and children or benamidars.

Shahzad Akbar had resigned – or was made to resign – recently.  However, Farogh Naseem is still there and calling the shots.

Superfluous to point out that the law minister is regarded as one of the most important functionaries of a government. And if the apex court says something against the man donning the mantle, the premier should give it a serious thought.

He must consider the possibility of replacing this minister and bringing in a more a suitable person to perform this role. True that it’s not an easy task in the prevailing situation but is necessary in view of the apex court’s opinion.

Many say that a major problem with the Imran cabinet is that most of its members are inexperienced – because of which timely decisions are not taken. This factor is also responsible for the PTI government’s failure to address people’s problems.

Since Imran Khan himself has no previous experience of governance, he is unable to take right decisions at the right time.  Also, he has little appreciation for the timing of a decision.

Take the example of his utterances about poverty alleviation. This is a very important subject needing urgent measures. But, so far, it appears he is not clear how he wants to grapple with this problem. 

In his latest interview he was all praise for China for its success in taking 700 million people out of poverty during the last 30 or 40 years.

“It is this fact which also impressed me as it coincides with my objective of steering my people out of poverty.”

He maintained that they would like to emulate the steps taken by China to alleviate poverty. “We want to emulate the Chinese model of inclusive growth.”

He is saying this when he has completed 42 months in power and has only 18 more months to serve out his mandated term.

One should not forget that he also talks of transforming Pakistan into Madinah-like state.

The question is whether the prime minister will be able to attain the target during the remaining short period of his term?  And whether the Chinese model is the right course to uproot poverty?

Why doesn’t the premier implement the Islamic system to deal with all problems facing the country?

Ashraf Mumtaz

The writer is the Deputy Editor of 24 Digital.