Fixing the anomaly

9 Aug 2016

Never too late
By: Syed Zeeshan Haider

Since Pakistan came into being, our economy has been undergoing vicissitudes constantly. Moreover, it has been swaying between nationalisation and privatisation since 1947. Both the civilian governments as well as the martial laws had affected the entire structure of our economy in their own ways. Resultantly, some of our governmental institutions are working within the private sector, today. For instance, the defense institutions are involved, either directly or indirectly, in businesses such as petrol stations, Wedding houses, bakeries and recreational parks etc. When a government organisation starts getting involved in the businesses, it usually leads to an unfair competition in the economy. These government department owned businesses, extract their salaries out of the taxes that are paid by the same businesses they compete with. On the other hand, the privately-run businesses pay their employees through the money they earn from their businesses. Consequently, reducing their profitability as compared to the government organisation owned businesses. As a result, the competition between the two becomes unfair and the private businesses begin to deteriorate. Another downside of this is that the involvement of defense institutions in the private institutions diverts their attention from their actual cause.
The logic that is presented in favour of the defense institutions’ involvement in the business industry is that wherever they invest, they always employ either the downtrodden civilians or the ex-servicemen. However, this is not entirely true. These institutions mostly have citizens only in the lower class staff team while the government servants mostly or completely occupy the upper slots. For instance, the army cantonments across the country have bakeries, petrol stations and medical shops working directly under them. This puts a lot of unhealthy strain on the private businesses and private businesspersons.
In the past, the army cantonment areas used to be located far from the civil areas as these areas contain equipment and secrets that the general public is not supposed to be aware of. In past, even the photography was prohibited in these areas. However, at present, these places usually burst with visitors and the civilians because of the establishment of businesses and recreational parks. The civilians work under the army for these businesses and therefore, the access to the cantonment area is always required. As a result, the current situation is such that there are always long queues of citizens on their cars and motor bikes at the cantonment entrances. Given the current country’s security situation, all these civilians are required to undergo a thorough system of security checks due to which the people standing in the queues have to wait longer. In this case, if either of the sides loses its temper, it will only aggravate the yawning gap between the defense institutions s and the public. At this point in time, our policy makers need to increase their budget so that they do not have to enter into private sector to earn more. This will also make the private investors less insecure because the private sector, in actuality, is the backbone of the country’s economy. After all, the country runs on the taxes the private sector pays. Hence, it is important that all government organisations specially the armed forces refrain from business practices.
Our defense institutions need to solely focus on Pakistan’s borders and combating terrorism. Pakistan today faces numerous internal and external security threats. Conversely, the cantonment areas of Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad are witnessing a rapid sprouting up of new businesses under the supervision of the army. For instance, Chaman Zar Askari Lake – a recreational spot – in Multan is located in cantonment area. Recently, a McDonald’s restaurant has been opened up in that locality. As a result, the previous Eid days were nothing short of a torture for the McDonalds goers because of immense traffic jams at Military check posts at the entrance of the Multan cantonment area. If this famous international food chain had been set up in civilian areas, it would have been beneficial to the economy of the city, even more. Moreover, public would have been spared the misery of waiting in long queues during hot summer days.
It has been 68 years since Pakistan came into being but we still not have been able to solve our basic issues. The security situation is worsening inside the country that needs to be dealt with on immediate basis. Hence, it’s a cue for the rulers that they take immediate steps towards rectifying anomalies concerning rules of business in certain government organisations. Certainly, it’s never too late to fix things.

Published in “Pakistan Today” on 09-08-2016
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