Taxatio reforms in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Taxation reforms in KP
By Tahir Ali
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government several has suggested several amendments to the relevant laws and revised the ratio of taxes in the 2014-15 budget.
It wishes to amend the first schedule of the sales tax act which will enable it to bring some more sectors in the tax net.
Rather than going for robust industrial revival and economic growth to increase its revenue, KP has opted for raising the ratio of tobacco development cess, land tax, agriculture income tax, professional tax and other taxes, levies, fees, duties and royalties such as the stamp duty, parking fees, route permits and royalties on forests for the purpose.
KP will generate provincial own receipts (PORs) of Rs28.78bn against current year’s Rs20bn. The PORs consist of tax receipts of Rs19.45bn (67.6%) and non-tax receipts of Rs.9.327bn (32.4%). Tax receipts include 11.8% direct taxes and 88.2% indirect taxes.

However the PORs will only be seven per cent of the total revenue receipts of the province as usual. PORs are projected to increase to Rs32.5bn and Rs36.6 in the next two years.

PORs include direct taxes like taxes on agriculture, property, land revenue etc, indirect taxes like GST on services, provincial excise, motor vehicle tax, stamp duties etc, and non tax receipts like income from property and enterprises, civil administration and economic, community and social services.

To improve tax collection, tax facilitation centres to be set up in Peshawar and other big cities. And Patwaris, who play pivotal role, have been given 50 per cent pay raise and Rs500 stationary allowance to discourage corruption and improve agriculture/land tax collection.

Agriculture tax
KP has been collecting direct taxes -Land Revenue (water tax or Abiana), agriculture income tax (AIT) and Land tax (LT) –and non tax heads (user charges) from farming community.

AIT/LT is collected by the Revenue and Estates department while LR is collected by the irrigation department through the patwaris from the farmers.

The AIT is collected on different rates from the owner, mortgagee or lessee or the tenants and levied on income from cultivated land while LT at a fixed rate over and above the exempted 12/5 acres of land under crops and orchards. Their rates have however been revised.

Target for AIT/LT and LR has been fixed at Rs79mn and Rs1.4bn against Rs22mn and Rs1.1bn budget estimates of the current year.

The exemption from AIT has been raised from Rs0.1mn to Rs0.4mn. 5 percent AIT would be collected from every owner of agriculture land if his income is over Rs0.4mn but doesn’t exceed Rs0.55mn. Where income exceeds Rs0.55mn but not Rs0.75mn, land owners will pay Rs7,500 plus 10 percent on the amount over Rs0.55mn. And when the income goes above Rs0.75mn but not Rs0.95mn, the owner will pay Rs22,500 plus 10 percent tax on the amount exceeding Rs0.75mn.On agriculture income between Rs0.95mn and Rs1.1mn, Rs42,500 plus 15 percent tax on the exceeding amount. And a land owner will pay Rs65000 tax plus 17.5 percent if his income exceeds Rs1.1mn.

Similarly, the rate for LT has been increased from Rs72 per acre over and above the exempted 12/5 acres of land under crops to Rs225-340 and to Rs900 from Rs300/acre for orchards.

Urban immoveable property (UIP) tax

The government has also revised and extended the scope of property tax. A proper survey will be conducted to properly determine property tax.
Earlier, 2 per cent capital value tax had been imposed on the transaction of UIP (residential flats and multi-storey buildings) but the 2 per cent tax had not to be less than Rs10 per square feet of constructed area. The condition has been waived and it will now be levied according to the classifications of constructed area.
Similarly, the ‘low’ ratio of UIP tax on houses of 15-20 marlas will be increased for houses on 18 marla or above.
Immovable properties have been divided into 12 categories. An owner of upto 5 marlas house (other than self-occupied) in category A, B and C (townships) in Peshawar will pay Rs1000, Rs 900 and Rs750 in UIP respectively. Owners of over 5 marlas will pay UIP tax of Rs1700, Rs1600 and Rs1500, owners of 10 marlas will pay Rs2200, Rs2100 and Rs2000, owners of 15 marlas house will deposit Rs3300, Rs3200, and Rs3000 while those with 18-20 marlas houses and flats will pay UIP tax of Rs10000, Rs9000, Rs8000 the three categories respectively.
Any land or building used for mobile towers or antennas which pays UIP tax at flat rate of 20 per cent of their annual rent will give Rs40000 annual tax in provincial, Rs30,000 in divisional and Rs20000 in district headquarters.
Critics opine that for the first time in the history of Pakistan, UIP tax will be extended to the suburbs at the district level in the KP budget (however this decision has been withdrawn in the finance act, 2014-15 passed by the provincial assembly)
The employees of grade 1-5 have been exempted from the tax. All government employees from scale5-22 will be giving annual tax between Rs100 and Rs2000.
Professional tax
Almost all professionals, business and services, with exclusion of lawyers, like chartered accounts, transporters, money changers, jewellers, cable operators, tobacco whole sellers, and businesses like petrol/diesel/CNG stations, real estate shops/ agencies vehicle service stations, printing presses etc will be in the tax-net now.
The professional tax threshold has been increased from Rs6000/pm to Rs10000 a month but as minimum monthly pay has also been fixed at Rs12000/pm ( as per the finance act, the minimum pay has been increased to Rs15000), practically all are to be taxed.
Those earning Rs10,000-Rs20,000/month will pay professional tax of Rs330 while the tax will be Rs435, Rs600, Rs800 and Rs1,000 respectively for those earning Rs20,000-Rs50,000, Rs Rs50,000-Rs100,000, Rs100,000-Rs200,000 and Rs200,000-Rs500,000/month.
The private limited companies, modarbas and mutual funds etc with paid-up capital and income of Rs10mn per annum in the previous year will pay tax of Rs18000 and Rs100000 if their income is over Rs200mn.
Persons owning factories, commercial establishments, private educational institutions and private hospitals will also pay tax. Any commercial establishment having 10 or more employees will pay tax of Rs10000 and private hospitals with 50 employees will pay Rs50000 tax a year.
Private business education institutes with 100 students will pay Rs70000 tax. Private law, medical and engineering colleges running degree programmes will pay Rs100000 tax, while educational institutes taking Rs5000 monthly fee from students have to pay Rs100000 annually.
Holders of import/export licence who earn Rs50000 in previous year will pay Rs4000 tax. A clearing or custom agent will pay Rs10000 and restaurants/guesthouses owners, professional caterers, travel agents and hajj/tour operators will pay Rs15000 tax while wedding halls owners Rs30000 annual tax.
Specialist doctors will pay Rs20000 while dentists Rs15000 professional tax a year. Diagnostic and therapeutic centres and pathological and chemical laboratories will also be taxed.
Experts say by directly collecting income tax from professionals and commercial entities, the KP government is intruding into the domain of the federal government which is exclusively authorised to collect income tax.
It is still not clear whether these taxes on employees and professionals would be in addition to the income tax?
It is merits mentioning that under the Finance Act 2013, KP had finalised arrangements to impose the infrastructure development cess but could not do so following objections from the federal government.
After the 18th amendment, excise duty on oil was to be imposed under Article 161(1)(b) of Pakistan’s constitution but it is yet to be levied. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa could receive Rs14.6bn on this count.
While the government claims it wishes to provide relief to the poor and collect tax only from the rich, these measures may ultimately burden the common men and will be resisted by the businessmen, farmers and the working class impacted by slump in business and price-hike.

 

 

Dawn-KP budget 2014-15

Progressive taxation of farm incomes

By Tahir Ali

Published Jun 23, 2014 06:11am

http://www.dawn.com/news/1114457/progressive-taxation-of-farm-incomes
The Rs404.8bn Khyber Pakhtunkhwa balanced budget for 2014-15, with a Rs139.8bn annual development programme, is aimed at addressing economic, social and industrial woes of the impoverished province, but falls short of business expectations.
“It is a status-quo budget devoid of any change, vision and reform agenda, and neglects the potential sectors. KP is beset with flight of capital, rising unemployment, terrorism and energy shortage. Joblessness is on the rise — there is 14.8pc unemployment in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“Emergency steps are needed for economic growth, industrial revival, infrastructure development, energy supply, revival of sick industrial units and improvement in law and order and technical and IT education. But there is no proper roadmap for these areas.
“The government has failed to give new mineral, industrial, hydro, oil/gas and tourism policies reflective of its agenda for change,” says KP Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Zahidullah Shinwari.
The new budget is bigger by Rs69bn than the current budget of Rs344bn, while the ADP is higher by Rs21bn over this fiscal’s Rs118bn.
Major revenue receipts include Rs227.12bn from federal tax assignments, Rs12bn in net hydro profit, Rs32.27bn as NHP arrears, Rs29.26bn from oil/gas royalty, Rs27.29bn as war on terror grant and Rs35.35bn as foreign assistance etc.
KP’s own revenue receipts are estimated at Rs29bn (up by 70 per cent against the current year) and include Rs19.45bn in tax receipts and non-tax revenue of Rs9.3bn. This includes Rs12bn as GST on services. The province also earns Rs2.85bn from its own power plants.
The budget suggests insufficient measures to check the current expenditure which has reached around 70 per cent of the total budgeted outlay.
The finance minister promised to provide 15,000 more jobs in the public sector, but admitted that joblessness cannot be eliminated by the government alone. Without support of the private sector, and for that matter, economic growth, the problem cannot be solved.
There seems to be a genuine attempt to raise provincial revenues. The PTI-led KP government has proposed a progressive tax on agriculture income, as well as land tax and property tax. The KP revenue authority will conduct a proper survey to determine the property tax.
It intends to raise fees on stamp duty, professionals and professional institutions, business establishments etc. Strangely, a PTI-led government is to tax educational institutions, including medical, engineering and law colleges.
The finance minister says the province is replete with abundant human and natural resources, but its population is living in poverty and backwardness owing to unfair distribution of resources, flawed planning, joblessness, illiteracy, corruption, nepotism, weak accountability system and lack of good governance. He vowed to root out these evils.
Prepared under the ‘Integrated Development Strategy’, the budget aims at good governance, responsive social services delivery, economic prosperity, peace, economic growth and job creation, improved transparency and accountability, enhanced fiscal space and gender equity.
The minister said the private sector would be involved in the construction and maintenance of public sector development projects in partnership with the public sector.
However, important sectors have been allocated higher but yet paltry sums: Rs3.4bn for power sector against Rs1.4bn in the current year; Rs4.7bn against Rs3.28bn for irrigation and Rs1.58bn against Rs1.53bn for agriculture. Agriculture is the backbone of the economy as 70 per cent people in KP are dependent on it for their survival.
A Board of Investment and Trade has been formed to ensure an investment- friendly environment and for economic revival. The KP oil and gas authority has been constituted for better use of existing resources and for exploring new ones. But the impact of the two bodies is still not yet visible.
The finance minister says KP’s industrial sector is hit by lawlessness, energy crisis, limited market, high cost of production, dilapidated infrastructure and inadequate technical knowhow.
For this, technical education is to be promoted and has been allocated Rs3.7bn.
A self-reliance scheme with a Rs2.7bn rolling fund has been proposed to give interest- free loans of Rs50,000-200,000 to jobless youth.
He said the mineral sector could be used for poverty alleviation but earmarked only Rs0.62cbn for the sector.
The government intends to set up a stock exchange in Peshawar and is seeking support of the federal government in this regard.
Several austerity measures have been proposed to bring down expenditure. No treatment/training abroad, no new cars and no new posts are to be allowed unless approved by the chief minister. The construction of houses for officials and ministers on 20 marlas and 110 per cent raise in salaries of ministers, advisors etc. This is, however, being resented.
A sum of Rs7.9bn has been allocated for a pro-poor initiative under which various welfare programmes such as health insurance and provincial youth technical education etc will be launched. A Rs6bn special relief package programme for giving subsidised edible items to the poor has been proposed in the budget.
Various hydro and alternate energy projects being launched include the construction of 350 small dams.
Published in Dawn, Economic & Business, June 23rd, 2014

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ORIGINAL TEXT OF THE ARTICLE AS IT WAS SENT TO DAWN
KP budget 2014<br
By Tahir Ali
The Rs404.8bn Khyber Pakhtunkhwa balanced budget for 2014-15 with Rs139.8bn annual development programme addresses almost all the problems the province is faced with but gives only partial remedies to the economic, social and industrial woes of the impoverished province.
“The budget is a status-quo budget devoid of any change, vision and reform agenda and neglects the potential sectors. KP is beset with flight of capital, rising unemployment, terrorism and energy shortage. Joblessness is on the rise –there is 14.8 percent unemployment in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa against around 9.5 percent at national level. Province own revenues have remained stagnant. Real estate not taxed. Emergency steps were needed for economic growth, industrial revival, infrastructure development, energy supply, revival of sick industrial units, improvement in law and order, focus on technical and IT education but there is no proper roadmap for the areas. The government has failed to give a new mineral, industrial, hydel, oilg/gas and tourism policies reflective of its change agenda,” says the KP chamber of commerce and industry (Kpcci) president Zahidullah Shinwari.
Agonizing further is the fact that around 70 percent of the development funds lapsed in the current fiscal, he added.
The new budget is bigger by 69bn from the current year budget of Rs344bn while the ADP is higher by Rs21bn from this fiscal’s ADP of Rs118bn.
Major revenue receipts include Rs227.12bn federal tax assignments, Rs12bn net hydel profit plus Rs32.27bn as NHP arrears, Rs29.26bn oil/gas royalty, Rs27.29bn war on terror grant Rs35.35bn as foreign assistance besides some others sources.
KP’s own revenue receipts are estimated at Rs29bn (up by 70 per cent against the current year) include Rs19.45bn tax receipts and non tax receipts of Rs9.3bn. Rs12bn as GST on services which rose by 100 per cent is inclusive of tax receipts. The province also earns Rs2.85bn from own power plants.
The PORs target may be easily met in next fiscal and the years to come as new power plants get operational and sales tax collection targets is met for being easy,
Unlike other provinces, the budget has been divided into welfare, administrative and development sections but it is insignificant as welfare and administrative is the current budget having an outlay of Rs265bn while development budget is Rs139.8bn with Rs100bn local and Rs39bn foreign component.
The budget suggests insufficient measures to check current expenditure which has reached around 70 per cent of the total budget.
The expansion of the public sector must be a matter of concern for the subsequent government. The rising pay and pension bill of Rs176.5bn (66 percent of total current expenditure of Rs265bn) will squeeze space for development budget in future if not tackled. Industrialisation and Private sector
The finance minister promised to provide 15000 more jobs in public sector but he agreed that joblessness cannot be eliminated by government alone. Without support of private sector and for that matter economic growth, the problem couldn’t be achieved.
There seems to be a genuine attempt this time round to raise the provincial revenues locally and reduce dependence on federal and foreign funds. The PTI-led KP government has proposed a progressive tax on agriculture income, land tax and a progressive property tax.
KP has established KP revenue authority. This year a proper survey will be conducted to properly determine property tax.
It intends to raise the ratio of provincial taxes and fees on stamp duty, professionals and professional institutions, business establishments, agriculture income and salaries.
The rise in taxes/fees is expected to hit the consumers ultimately for it will be passed on to them. Strangely, a PTI-led government is to tax educational institutions including medical, engineering and law colleges.
The minister said KP is replete with abundant human and natural resources but its population is living under poverty and backwardness for unfair distribution of resources, flawed planning, joblessness, illiteracy, corruption, nepotism, weak accountability system and lack of good governance and vowed to root out these evils.
Prepared under the “Integrated Development Strategy”, the budget aims at good governance, responsive social services delivery, economic prosperity, peace, economic growth and job creation, improved transparency and accountability, enhanced fiscal space, gender equity and donor harmonization.
The minister said public private partnership act has been approved. The private sector would be involved in the construction and maintenance of public sector development projects.
Education has proved to be its biggest priority. However, important economic sectors have been allocated paltry sums: Rs3.4bn for power sector against Rs1.4bn in current year, Rs4.7bn against Rs3.28bn for irrigation and agriculture Rs1.58bn against Rs1.53bn in current year. The detailed expenditure report for the current year reveals that vital social and economic sectors of the ADP like social welfare, education, agriculture, energy/power and industries had been allocated Rs0.6bn, Rs24bn, Rs1.53bn, Rs2.2bn and Rs4.4bn respectively but actual utilisation remained at Rs.2bn, Rs3.72bn, Rs0.63bn, Rs0.65bn and Rs1bn could be utilised in this fiscal in that order.
Agriculture is the backbone of the economy as 70 per cent people in KP are dependent over it for their survival but only Rs1.5bn has been allocated for the sector. The poverty and inability of farmers to use enough quality inputs to raise their produce but the government comes up with only loans on easy terms for them.
A Board of investment and trade has been formed to ensure investment friendly environment and for economic revival. KP oil and gas authority has been constituted for better use of existing resources and to explore new ones but its impact is still not discernable.
To bring down poverty and accountability, the government has promulgated the right to information law and established a commission for access to information, access to services’ commission and conflict of interest commission, ihtesab commission, a complaint cell in CM secretariat. And a public procurement regulatory authority established to make the procurement system of hiring of services, goods and construction transparent and corruption free and introduced the market rate system instead of the composite scheduled rates to ensure transparency in development schemes.
The minister said KP industrial sector is hit by lawlessness, energy crisis, limited market, high cost of production, dilapidated infrastructure and lack of technical knowhow.
For this technical education is to be promoted which has been allocated Rs3.7bn. Technical University will be established.
Under the self-reliance scheme with a Rs2.7bn rolling fund has been proposed to give interest free loans of Rs50,000-200,000 to jobless youth on their personal guarantee.
He said the mineral sector could be used for poverty alleviation but then only allocated Rs0.62cbn in ADP for the sector.
The government intends to set up stock exchange in Peshawar to support the progress of industry and trade sectors and wishes the federal government to take further measures in this regard.
The government proposed ‘several austerity measures’ to bring down expenditure. No foreign treatment/training, no new cars and no posts to be allowed unless approved by CM. But he didn’t specify what happened to similar measures in the current budget. The minister said the government has formed committees for monetization and economy which are working with far reaching consequences, though he failed to identify any.
The construction of houses for officials and ministers on 20 marlas and 110 per cent raise in salaries of minister, advisors etc however is being resented.
Rs7.9bn has been allocated for a pro-poor initiative under which various welfare programs, such as health insurance, long-term loan for development of industries, and provincial youth technical education scheme etc would be launched. Rs6bn more allocated for a special relief package program for giving subsidized edible items to the poor.
Various hydel and alternate energy projects being launched. Rs7bn have been allocated to construct 350 small dams. 400 megawatts of electricity will be produced through gas whose cheap energy will be given to industries.

Power sector privatisation

Power sector privatisation

By Tahir Ali

March 2, 2014

http://tns.thenews.com.pk/power-struggle-privatisation/

While the Nawaz Sharif-led federal government intends to gradually privatise all of the power distribution companies (Discos) and generation companies (Gencos), their employees are in no mood to let that happen easily.

The Council of Common Interests (CCI), headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, decided in principle to privatize all the state-owned Discos, Gencos and other Power Sector Entities in line with the 2011 Policy earlier this month.

“In the past, unnecessary recruitments and corruption has resulted in mismanagement in these organizations and privatization, therefore, is the only solution in the national interest,” said the Prime Minister.

The Privatisation Commission, sources said, has approved the restructuring and privatization Faisalabad Electric Power Company (Fesco), Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco), Hyderabad Electric Supply Company, Peshawar Electric Supply Company (Pesco) and others. Privatisation of some Thermal Power generation Stations has also been approved.

Earlier the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation, besides others, had decided that Islamabad Electricity Supply Company and Gujrawanala Electricity Supply Company would be offered for strategic partnerships. It directed the Privatisation Commission to ensure that the interests of employees are protected at all costs.

Minister for water and power Khwaja Muhammad Asif told the National Assembly recently that in order to improve the efficiency of the public sector power entities, some Discos and Gencos are being considered for privatisation. Improvement in the efficiency through competition, accountability, managerial autonomy and profit incentives; and the generation of required resources are the objectives of the government for the privatization of power sector.

“As a matter of fact, all Discos including Pesco are eventually to be privatized. Pesco`s turn may come later but it will,” said a knowledgeable senior source who declined to be named.

To a question on why privatization instead of improving their efficiency, the official said it`s a decision of a government you know with a knack for privatization of PSEs.

Pesco recently planned to privatise three feeders each in Bannu and Dera Ismael Khan but the proposal met stiff resistance from Wapda employees. They instead asked to handover the feeders to them with such incentives as were promised to the private contractors.

Employees fear privatisation would entail joblessness, job insecurity, and costlier energy for the masses and will tantamount to economic killing of lacs of families.

Gohar Taj, the chairman of the all Pakistan Wapda hydro electric central workers union (HECWU) which is the elected collective bodies’ agent (CBA) of Wapda, said the government had on the pressure of IMF decided to privatise Pesco, Lesco and Fesco. It has obtained approval from the CCI through majority.

“Vital national assets were being gifted to political cronies. Wapda workers won’t accept any privatisation or golden handshake offers. Due to our strong opposition, Pesco feeders couldn’t be privatised in Bannu. We will stage demonstrations on March 5 countrywide and on 11 in Islamabad. We will take along sympathetic parties and take the nation into confidence on the hazards of privatisation,” he said.

“The government should revive the loss-making entities with the staff and officers of Discos. CBA will support it. It can take help from the law enforcement agencies to curb stealing, recover dues from defaulters and to arrest corruption within the companies. Pesco employees, I am told, have increased recovery ratio by 10 per cent line losses have been curtailed by one per cent in the last three months. But if goes for privatisation, then it should be known to all that we won’t allow this bandarbant (selective distribution).”

“PPP is labour friendly. It listens to workers grievances and protects their interests but Nawas Sharif government is historically inimical to workers,” he added.

According to him, Wapda was the backbone of national economy till 1994 but now a scourge. “Discos have been destroyed with political intervention by taking political persons and vested interests as members of its BoDs even though they may have no share and therefore stakes to improve their performance. Funds given to improve age-old infrastructure are utilised for extending low-tension lines to benefit politicians which further increases pressure on the national grid and line-losses.”

Tela Muhammad, provincial chairman of the steering committee of the Wapda Pegham union KP, said Nawas Sharif government as usual was bent upon privatising vital national assets.

“We won’t accept offers like the PTCL employees who opted for retaining jobs but are denied due rights since then. We would oppose the move tooth and nail. Privatisation will do no good to consumers as income-hungry private owners of Discos would sell electricity at exorbitant prices. It will only provide the administrative officers of Discos to prepare list of unwilling employees by dubbing them incompetent or corrupt. Privatisation endeavours with regard to feeders have failed earlier. IPPs and RPPs scandals are fresh in minds. They sold power at enormously high rates to regulator which in turn raised power tariff for the people.”

“National institutions need to be improved with the help of all concerned and not to be privatised. If there are corrupt officials, the government has all the resources to arrest, try and punish them. Every employee gives income statement to tax authorities which can be scrutinised and compared with their living style,” he added.

Donor agencies like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank have identified poor governance; political and bureaucratic interference, institutional weakness, and lack of professional management as key shortcomings of Pakistan’s PSEs urging their restructuring and privatization.

But neither privatisation nor nationalisation is solution in itself. Without some institutional and administrative reforms and improvement, any of these will invariably fail.

For many years, the power sector has been virtually in private hands. For example Pepco, headed by an independent MD, manages all the affairs of corporatized nine Discos, four Gencos and a National Transmission Dispatch Company. These companies work under independent Board of Directors (Chairman and some directors are from private Sector). These are administratively autonomous and all entities have the physical possessions of all their operational assets. But the sector’s woes have risen in the meantime.

Similarly feeders in Pesco and other Discos have been privatised in the past but contractors soon fled from the contract. People ask if privatisation of KESC has reaped any dividends. Have the consumers of Karachi benefitted? Has the government got relieved of its subsidies? The government has allocated Rs55bn out of its total power sector subsidy of Rs220bn this financial year to pick KESC tariff differential this year even though it’s long been privatised.

Without structural reforms, stringent laws to punish and deter power stealers, community participation, ending of political intervention, eradicating mismanagement and a sound policy of reward and punishment for both consumers and workers of Discos, even privatisation will be meaningless.

“The government should provide security to raiding teams. Public mind-set should be educated against power theft through media, ulema and teachers. Community intervention can be ensured by assigning areas of responsibility to local bodies’ members at ward or transformer level. Field/line staff deficiency must be removed. Workers should be given commission on extra collection beyond benchmark target at different rates,” said the senior source.

Accountability, power generation especially from hydel and gas and renewal of power infrastructure are also vital for bringing demand and supply gap and line-losses down.

Pesco’s worth and standing

Pesco, according to an estimate, is worth over Rs300bn with all its assets and liabilities.

“Pesco is incurring a loss of Rs1bn a month. Out of the total Rs6.2bn worth units billed, around Rs5bn are recovered. Its total transmission and distribution losses are over Rs75bn at present. But all this is not entirely caused by incompetence and corruption of employees. They have security problems and are attacked by powerful stealing mafia. The police is too over-stretched for the precarious security situation to escort them. Laws against power theft are toothless. A power thief is set free by fining him Rs500-1000. Now this emboldens others to follow suit,” the source said.

“Pesco’s T&D losses are officially displayed at 30-32 per cent but it in reality are 70-80 per cent. Pesco is running in loss because off its 2.7mn consumers, 87.7 per cent are domestic, 10.2 per cent are commercial, only 0.9 per cent are industrial while one per cent fall in other categories. Against this, Fesco, Lesco etc are revenue generators with minimal T&D losses as over 30-35 per cent consumers there are industrial ones. Surprisingly, the government has decided to privatize these income generating Discos,” he added.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly has in 2003, 2005, 2006 and several other occasions passed resolutions against privatisation of Pesco. Abdul Akbar Khan had told the assembly the province had already paid the total transmission and distribution cost of Pesco system,”therefore the NWFP has every right to claim the ownership of Pesco, including its assets, under Article157(2) of the Constitution.

 

gur-making up in KP

Bitter realities of a sweet crop

http://tns.thenews.com.pk/bitter-realities-of-a-sweet-crop/#.Uq7hS6xsS1s

Sugarcane growers prefer making gur rather than selling the crop to mills owners

Bitter realities of a sweet crop

It is gur-making season in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, especially in Peshawar, Charsadda, Mardan and Nowshera. The estimated sugarcane production in KP is around 1.3 million tonnes. Almost half of it is used for gur making. Gur produced in Charsadda and Mardan is very popular countrywide. Gur is the main sweetener for around 60 per cent people in KP and Federally and Provincially-administered tribal areas (Fata and Pata). It is exported to Afghanistan, Middle Eastern and Central Asian states where it is believed to be used as a sweetener and in winemaking.

Mardan and Peshawar are the hubs of gur trade. Around ten to twelve thousands of purs are traded in the Pipal Mandi gur market when the trade is in full swing. Gur commission agents are also very active these days.

Thousands of tonnes of gur is traded in the province or taken out of the country daily. Majority of the sugarcane growers prefer using their cane-produce for gur-making rather than taking it to mills for its comparative advantages. It fetches them good prices. They have to feed their animals with cane-grass which necessitates intermittent cutting of crop as allowed by gur-making and not simultaneous harvesting of the entire crop as demanded by the mills option. And they usually use gur in their homes. Gur is used in juices, sweets and eaten with bread as curry with bread by the poor.

In Punjab, a kind of gur, named Duplicate, is prepared by mixing gur, glucose and other ingredients. It is good-looking as well as cheaper and tasteful, according to some farmers.

While sugar-mills began crushing season in early November, gur-making is usually started in late September or early October. It lasts till April next year.

Gur prepared in the initial stage is of inferior quality but can fetch more. Late production increases yield and standard. The gur made in January, February and March is much better in quality and is liked the most. Similarly, gur without alteration is the best for human consumption while that mixed with artificial colour tastes bad, though people residing in remote areas prefer it for its bright colour. Again, the gur made from the roots of the last year’s crop is good in quality while that from fresh canes is not that good.

According to Murad Ali Khan, a farmers’ leader from Charsadda, gur is more competitive for the farmers at the current rate.

“A pur of gur (having 75-80 kilograms) fetches a price up to Rs5000 depending upon its colour, taste and quality in the local market. Sugarcane yield per acre is around 400 maunds which can produce 20 purs (a pur consumes 20-25 maunds of cane). These can earn a farmer Rs100,000 or more. It exceeds the price offered by sugar-mills these days,” he says.

According to another farmer, quality sugarcane can give as much as 40 purs per acre. But, he says, farmers in KP will only benefit from the crop when its per acre yield of 350-400 maunds is increased to that of 650-700 maunds in Punjab. At present, gur-making through rented gurganee (machines) is less beneficial for farmers while those who own ganees are the real beneficiaries,” he opines.

Muhammad Zahir Khan, another growers’ representative, says hitches in supply of gur to Fata, Pata and the ban on export of gur to Afghanistan and the central Asian states, however, have lowered gur prices of late to the detriment of gur farmers. “Gur can be a healthy addition to the countries’ depleting export earnings if its export is allowed after value addition.”

Masud Khan, the manager of the Premier Sugar Mills Mardan, says though the minimum sugarcane support price is Rs170 per 40 kilogrammes in other provinces, the local sugar mills offer Rs180. “We have to compete with gurganees. While our per kg cost of production has increased for higher prices and wages offered to farmers and employees, escalating fuel prices and various taxes, gurganees have no such taxes and responsibilities. How can we compete with them? Sugar industry will be on verge of closure if not supported,” he says. The industry has been campaigning for ban on gur export, taxes on gur industry and eventual moratorium on gur production.

Rizwanullah Khan, the president of the Kissan Board KP, however, says prices of all the things are on the rise while last year’s cane price has remained unchanged. “In 2010, mills had offered Rs240 per 40kg. Cane price be increased as per cost of production. We have planned agitation to press for good cane-prices.”

Gur was once the food of the poor. Though it has become costlier than sugar for few years now, the poor still prefer it for its taste and health benefits.

A farmer said gur agents and big farmers have installed generator-run modern gur-ganees with several furnaces which help prepare plenty of purs daily.

In 1996, average retail gur price was 14 rupees a kilo. Currently, it is sold at Rs66-75/kg. The sugarcane growers, unfortunately, haven’t been able to get advantage of this hike. Growers say the gur commission agents have devoured most of the surplus value in the shape of huge commission or deduction of 5-8kg gur/a pur.

Mardan and Peshawar are the hubs of gur trade. Around ten to twelve thousands of purs are traded in the Pipal Mandi gur market when the trade is in full swing. Gur commission agents work pretty much like the property dealers or motor vehicle bargainers who are only concerned with their commission.

“The gur agents enter advance agreements with farmers by making payments for standing crops. They provide farmers seasonal/crop-based loans which they use for buying inputs and fulfilling their domestic needs,” a farmer says.

An official of the Sugarcane Crops Research Institute said though KP’s cane has better quality and sucrose content, its average yield is between 16-24 metric tonnes, much less than that of Sindh and Punjab. He cited insufficient use of fertiliser and pesticides, non-attractive price given by mills, intercropping, use of less than recommended seed (4 ton/acre) and shortage of irrigation water as reasons for lesser acreage and production.

KP school’s report

School report
KP’s Annual Statistical Report paints a bleak picture of schools in the province
By Tahir Ali

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/oct2013-weekly/nos-27-10-2013//pol1.htm#8

Experts agree that education requires a congenial atmosphere and the provision of certain facilities like water, electricity, washrooms, playgrounds and computer-labs within the school premises. But hundreds of schools in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa still lack basic facilities, an official document reveals.

It is mind-boggling to read that 20 per cent of the functional public schools still have no boundary walls, 30 per cent no water supply, 42 per cent no electricity and 16 per cent no toilets facilities.

According to the latest Annual Statistical Report released by the KP Elementary and Secondary Education (ES&E) Department, there are 28472 government schools in KP of which 27975 are functional while 397 are non-functional/temporarily closed and 100 are newly-constructed. Majority or 23073 (83 per cent) of the schools are government primary schools (GPSs) while government middle schools (GMSs), high schools (GHSs) and higher secondary schools (GHSSs) make up 9, 7 and 1 per cent of all the schools respectively.

Most of the non-functional/temporary closed schools are girls’ schools with 288 of them primary and 7 secondary schools.

Of the total 44873 and 25364 rooms in male and female GPSs, 4563 and 2039 rooms need major repairs, 11929 and 5504 minor repairs while another 3600 and 1416 room need rehabilitation respectively.

Similarly, amongst the 12644 rooms in GMSs, 784 need major repairs, 3048 minor repairs and 634 rooms are in need of rehabilitation. Again, off the total 15377 rooms in GHSs, 2220, 5361 and 2343 rooms are in need of major and minor repairs and rehabilitation respectively. And off the 8167 rooms in GHSSs in the province, 648 rooms need major repairs, 1434 minor repairs and 647 rooms need total rehabilitation.

According to the report, 3.93 million students study in 27975 functional government schools with 2.84 million in GPSs, 0.76 million in GMSs, 0.29 million in GHSs and 0.041 million in GHSSs across the province. Over 1.51 million students also read in 6743 non-government schools here. Most of the 119274 teachers in government schools are male (78172), but female teachers in private schools account for 44466 off 85325 teachers.

The teacher-student ratio in GPSs is 1:39 and secondary schools level is 1:23 but it is much greater in some schools. The report shows that 1175 male and 1450 female GPSs have only one teacher to teach all the classes and the students-teachers ratio for these schools is 1:58 and 1:61 respectively. 344 male and 103 female primary schools have no rooms to shelter students. 10318 off the total primary schools have two rooms and two teachers, obviously short of what is required.

Though females account for over 50 per cent of population here, girls schools make up 36 per cent of all the schools, but their share further comes down to 33 per cent at high and higher secondary levels.

According to a report in The News in 2009, out of total of 4338 and 2609 rooms in all schools in Mardan, as many as 713 rooms in boys’ schools and 399 in the female ones needed major repairs. The recent report says 480 rooms in male schools and 211 rooms in women schools still await major repair.

Overall Net Enrolment Ratio at primary level is 48 per cent (52 and 44 per cent for male and female schools) but it is at 28 per cent (33 and 21 per cent for boys and girls) in all middle to higher schools of the province.

While enrolment overall increased by around 23.9 per cent in the last 10 years (2003 to 2012), increase in teachers and functional schools was recorded at 15.7 per cent and 7.7 per cent respectively. Girls’ enrolment grew by 3 times against boys’.

During 2011 and 2012, the dropout rate for the stages from 5th to 9th grade has been recorded at 16, 9, 7, 14 and 16 per cent for boys. For the girls, it has been recorded at 24, 9, 8, 21 and 8 per cent in that order.

But dropout rate could be higher if we analyse the data intently. The date reveals 0.519 million students were admitted in the prep class in GPSs across the province in 2003-04. By 2008-09, when the students reached the 5th grade, their number stood at 0.29 million which means around 50 per cent of them dropped out. By 2012, only 0.16 million students of these are recorded in the 9th grade.

If not for the huge dropout and the spread of private education networks, the existing number of schools would hardly have accommodated all the students of the preceding stages. Are these two phenomena blessings in disguise for the planners?

Though dropout in GHSSs has not been ascertained in the report, it must have considerably decreased as both total male and female enrolment has been recorded at 41000 in last year for both first and second year.

The report further says that 1101of the total 21972 parents-teachers councils (PTCs) in primary schools are non-functional. Similarly, out of 4710 PTCs in middle and secondary schools, 192 are non-functional. The PTCs, it should be reminded, are meant for parents-teachers coordination.

The report shows that out of the sanctioned 133750 (86963 male and 46787 female) teachers, 119274 (78172 male and 41102 female) teachers work these days. It means a deficit of over 14000 teachers. Another 6992 teachers (3185 Primary and 3807 Secondary Schools teachers) will retire during the next 5 years. This, if not tackled soon, may expand teachers-students ratio and the latter’s woes, especially at higher secondary levels. 572 posts of male and 342 posts of female subject specialists, who teach students in grade 11 and 12 in the GHSSs, are still lying vacant, according to the report.

There is no analysis as to how many of the GHSSs in the province afford both medical and engineering classes, but knowledgeable sources say most of them don’t offer courses in science and most of the disciplines in arts for shortage of the subject specialists and resources.

The sector has had received considerable amount in the provincial budget and has been allocated Rs24 billion off the total ADP of Rs118 billion this year. Experts say government schools have spacious buildings and plenty of teachers but loose administration, poor monitoring mechanism, outdated curriculum, flawed examination system, overcrowded classrooms, lack of modern facilities, teachers absenteeism, outdated teaching techniques, and political interference etc are the factors responsible for the poor performance of the public sector schools vis-à-vis their private counterparts.

…………..

Original text of the article

Schools in KP left in lurch

By Tahir Ali

Experts agree that education requires a congenial atmosphere and the provision of certain facilities like water, electricity, washrooms, playgrounds and computer-labs within the school premises. But hundreds of schools in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa still lack basic facilities, an official document reveals.

It is mind-boggling to read that 20 per cent of the functional public schools still have no boundary walls, 30 per cent no water supply, 42 per cent no electricity and 16 per cent no toilets facilities.

According to the latest Annual Statistical Report released by the KP elementary and secondary education (ES&E) department, there are 28472 government schools in KP of which 27975 are functional while 397 are non-functional/temporarily closed and 100 are newly constructed. Majority or 23073 (83 per cent)of the schools are Government Primary schools (GPSs) while government middle schools (GMSs) high schools (GHSs) and higher secondary schools (GHSSs) makeup 9, 7 and 1 per cent of all the schools respectively.

Most of the non-functional/temporary closed schools are girls’ schools with 288 of them primary and 7 secondary schools.

Of the total 44873 and 25364 rooms in male and female GPSs, 4563 and 2039 rooms need major repairs, 11929 and 5504 minor repairs while another 3600 and 1416 room need rehabilitation respectively.

Similarly, amongst the 12644 rooms in GMSs, 784 need major repairs, 3048 minor repairs and 634 rooms are in need of rehabilitation. Again, off the total 15377 rooms in GHSs, 2220, 5361and 2343 rooms are in need of major and minor repairs and rehabilitation respectively. And off the 8167 rooms in GHSSs in the province, 648 rooms need major repairs, 1434 minor repairs and 647rehabilitation.

As for other facilities like library, computer and science laboratory, the report says that only 1205, 254 and 1152 off 3092 male and 451,154 and 561of the 1810 girls middle to higher schools have these facilities respectively. The rest have no such facilities and so are the GPSs.

With strategic use of computer bases learning tools, educational institutions can provide the supportive productive environment teachers need to reach, teach, and support each student’s learning needs and potential. But KP’s provincial assembly was informed last year that around 2000 GHSs and GHSSs in KP lacked computer labs and 4,500 computer teachers were needed.

According to the report, 3.93 million students study in 27975 functional government schools with 2.84 million in GPSs, 0.76mn in GMSs, 0.29mn in GHSs and 0.041mn in GHSSs across the province. 1.51mn students also read in 6743 non-govt schools here. Most of the 119274 teachers in government schools are male (78172) but female teachers in private schools account for 44466 off 85325 teachers.

The teacher-student ratio in GPSs is 1:39 and secondary schools level is 1:23 but it is much greater in some schools. The report shows that 1175 male and 1450 female GPSs have only a teacher to teach all the classes and the students-teachers ratio for these schools is 1:58 and 1:61 respectively. 344 male and 103 female primary schools have no rooms to shelter students.

10318 off the total primary schools have two rooms and two teachers, obviously short of what is required.

Though females account for over 50 per cent of population here, girls schools make up 36 per cent of all the schools but their share further comes down to 33 per cent at high and higher secondary levels.

According to a report in The News in 2009, out of total of 4338 and 2609 rooms in all schools in Mardan, as many as 713 rooms in boys’ schools and 399 in the female ones needed major repairs. The recent report says 480 rooms in male schools and 211 rooms still await major repair.

Overall Net Enrolment Ratio at primary level is 48 percent (52 and 44 percent for male and female schools) but it is at 28 per cent (33 and 21 per cent for boys and girls) in all middle to higher schools of the province.

While enrolment overall increased by around 23.9 per cent in the last 10 years (2003 to 2012), increase in teachers and functional schools was recorded at 15.7 per cent and 7.7 per cent respectively. Annual growth in the three was also disproportionate at 2.66, 1.75 and 0.86 per cent in that order. However girls’ enrolment grew by 3 times against boys’.

During 2011 and 2012, the dropout rate for the stages from 5th to 9th grade has been recorded at 16, 9, 7, 14 and 16 per cent for boys. For the girls, it has been recorded at 24, 9, 8, 21 and 8 per cent in that order.

But dropout rate could be higher if we analyse the data intently. The date reveals 0.519mn students were admitted in the prep class in GPSs across the province in 2003-04. By 2008-09, when the students reached the 5th grade, their number stood at 0.29mn which means around 50 per cent of them dropped out. By 2012, only 0.16mn students of these are recorded the 9th grade.

If not for the huge dropout and the spread of private education networks, the existing number of schools would hardly have accommodated all the students of the preceding stages. Are these two phenomena blessings in disguise for the planners?

Thought dropout in GHSSs has not been ascertained in the report, it must have considerably decreased ( Correction: increased) as both total male and female enrolment has been recorded at 41000 in last year for both first and second year.

The report further says that 1101of the total 21972 parents-teachers councils (PTCs) in primary schools are non-functional. Similarly out of 4710 PTCs in middle and secondary schools, 192 are non-functional. The PTCs, it should be reminded, are meant for parents-teachers coordination.

The report shows that out of the sanctioned 133750 (86963 male and 46787 female) teachers, 119274 (78172 male and 41102 female) teachers work these days. It means a deficit of over 14000 teachers. Another 6992 teachers (3185 Primary and 3807 Secondary Schools teachers) will retire during the next 5 years. This, if not tackled soon, may expand teachers-students ratio and the latter’s’ woes, especially at higher secondary levels.

572 posts of male and 342 posts of female subject specialists, who teach students in grade 11 and 12 in the GHSSs, are still lying vacant, according to the report.

There is no analysis as to how many of the GHSSs in the province afford both medical and engineering classes but knowledgeable sources say most of them don’t offer courses in science and most of the disciplines in arts for shortage of the subject specialists and resources.

The sector has had received considerable amount in the provincial budgets and has been allocated Rs24bn off the total ADP of Rs118bn this year. Experts say government schools have spacious buildings and plenty of teachers but loose administration, poor monitoring mechanism, outdated curriculum, flawed examination system, overcrowded classrooms, lack of modern facilities, teachers absenteeism, outdated teaching techniques, and political interference etc are the factors responsible for the poor show of performance of the public sector schools vis-à-vis their private counterparts.School report

Electing competent and honest leadership

The article was published on May5, 2013 before elections. Sorry for delayed posting.

Voting values
While the ECP and several advocacy groups are encouraging voters to cast their votes, what are the merits and demerits voters should consider before choosing their future representatives?
By Tahir Ali

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/May2013-weekly/nos-05-05-2013/pol1.htm#3

A week later, on May 11, 2013, 86.18 million Pakistani voters — 48.59 million male and 37.59 million female — will elect their representatives for National Assembly and Provincial Assemblies who would subsequently choose the next federal and provincial executives.

This exercise carries immense repercussions for over 180 million people as their fate will be left at the discretion of these elected representatives. This necessitates both quantitative and qualitative improvement in voting standard.

While tax evaders, defaulters and the corrupt couldn’t be sifted during the scrutiny process, voters are now the only hope to block their entry into power corridors. They will have to come out in large numbers and elect the best amongst candidates.

However, for multiple reasons — rampant corruption, joblessness, insecurity, poverty, maladministration, unawareness, corrupt practices that manipulate elections, terrorism and the like — voters stand disillusioned with political system that has resulted in low voters’ turnout in previous elections, coming as low as 20 per cent in different constituencies.

In the 2008 general elections, though voters’ turnout was 50 and 48 per cent in Islamabad and Punjab, it was 44 per cent for the country and only 31, 31 and 33 per cent in Balochistan, Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa respectively. Women comprise around 44 per cent of the registered voters but have been mostly kept from using this basic right in the past.

The total number of voters has gone up from 80.7 million in 2008 to 86.1 million this year, but analysts foresee a low turnout due to terrorist attacks/threats, ban on transportation facility for voters by the candidates and voters’ distrust in elections and disappointment with politicians.

But the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and several advocacy groups are encouraging voters to cast their votes. With increase in the number of overenthusiastic young voters, the emergence of the PTI on the electoral landscape, a comprehensive security plan put in place for polling day, chances of massive women polling (candidates and parties concluded written agreements inhibiting women from casting votes in the past. But this time no intra-parties’ agreement has surfaced so far) and with almost all the parties participating in elections, hopefully the turnout would be good enough, between 50-55 per cent in this election.

Voters generally look at the candidate’s personal caste, character or performance, his party and its manifesto or his own personal interests at the time of voting.

Some, especially diehard workers, say parties’ performances and manifestos, rather than candidates’ characters, should be the main concern for voters because parties form governments and ultimately decide things. But the rest — the swinging majority — have their own priorities.

“The problem is parties are run by their leaders and their selected buddies. If the party is in wrong hands, they would violate rules, its manifestos and national interests for their political interests and will ruin institutions by nepotism and favouritism and use the national exchequer senselessly for self/party aggrandisement. So, a party shouldn’t be supported if its leadership and candidates’ character and competency are questionable,” says Shakirullah Khan, a lecturer.

“Some parties seek votes over slogans of religious revolution, sectarianism or support terrorists in one way or the other. Supporting them is tantamount to dividing the state and society on the basis of sects, religions or creed. Can we endure such an environment,” he argues.

Others say development work, provision of jobs and contracts, financial assistance to the needy, personal liaison with the constituents or good oratory skills should be the basis for supporting a candidate.

“But what if all this is done by a corrupt politician. Obviously, this support is driven by selfishness. Pakistan owes its retarded growth, rampant poverty and financial weakness to these flawed priorities on part of the voters. By supporting such candidates, one may end up getting benefits but this will leave the country’s resources, people and fate in the hands of senseless rulers, so it cannot be a choice of a patriotic voter,” says Muhammad Iqbal, another voter.

Independent candidates were the fourth largest group in 2008. They polled 11 per cent votes in National Assembly and 26 and 24 per cent votes in Balochistan and KP assemblies. Being the main source of horse-trading, they must never be voted for. There are always some persons with good reputation amongst the candidates, but they come from parties whose performances were dismal.

“But even if a noble fellow who is contesting from a bad party is sent to his/her parliamentary party and parliament, he/she will be a misfit there amongst most of the self-centred colleagues. Party discipline is another hindrance. If the party decides on a thing that he/she finds obnoxious, he will either have to conform or risk expulsion. If he accepts, corruption will continue as earlier,” according to Shah Hasan, another voter.

But Iqbal responded the personal abilities and character rather than the candidate’s party affiliation should be the guiding factor for voters. Ignoring all ethnic, linguistic and sectarian biases while voting, they must vote solely on the basis of honesty, sincerity, merit and competence.

Vote is a sacred trust and casting vote is mandatory. By voting someone, we testify to his character and abilities and authorise him to decide and work on our behalf. It is as if we engage a lawyer who obviously cannot be a person who can be bribed, intimidated and bought, Iqbal said. “Even if they have been nominated by popular and reputable parties, voters should reject candidates who are corrupt, loan-defaulters and tax-evaders. And they should support competent persons even if they are contesting on tickets of ‘bad/corrupt’ parties.”

Voters should continue with their determination not to send corrupt elements to parliament. This obviously is a long route. But slowly and gradually it will become a norm and most of the electorate will follow suit.

People are heard criticising corrupt leaders, but they too are equally guilty of preferring them over the incorruptible, competent and trustworthy substitutes. If parties ensure awarding tickets to ‘electables’ (not necessarily competent and honest candidates), it is because the electorate too has been accepting their nominees. It’s very shameful that electorate goes on to elect the very candidates, who were disqualified for having fake degrees. This practice of siding with the corrupt must end.

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Original text of the article

Election: choosing competent & honest representatives

By Tahir Ali

A week later, on May 11, 86.18 million Pakistani voters –48.59mn male and 37.59 female – will elect their representatives for National Assembly and Provincial Assemblies who would subsequently choose the next federal and provincial executives.

This exercise carries immense repercussions for over 180mn people as their fate will be left at the discretion of these elected representatives. This necessitates both quantitative and qualitative improvement in voting standard.

While tax evaders, defaulters’ and the corrupt couldn’t be sifted during the scrutiny process, voters are now the only hope to block their entry into power corridors. They will have to come out in large numbers and elect the best amongst candidates. 

However, for multiple reasons – rampant corruption, joblessness, insecurity, poverty, maladministration, unawareness, corrupt practices that manipulate elections, terrorism and the like – voters stand disillusioned with political system that has resulted in low voters’ turnout in previous elections, coming as low as 20 per cent in different constituencies.

In the 2008 general elections, though voters’ turnout was 50 and 48 per cent in Islamabad and Punjab, it was 44 per cent for the country and only 31, 31 and 33 per cent in Baluchistan, Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa respectively.

Women comprise around 44 per cent of the registered voters but have been mostly kept from using this basic right in the past.

Total number of voters has gone up from 80.7mn in 2008 to 86.1mn this year but analysts foresee a low turnout for terrorist attacks/threats, ban on transportation facility for voters by the candidates and voter’s distrust in elections and disappointment with politicians.

But the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and several advocacy groups are encouraging voters to cast their votes. With increase in the number of overenthusiastic young voters, the emergence of PTI on the electoral landscape, a comprehensive security plan put in place for polling day, chances of massive women polling (Candidates and parties concluded written agreements inhibiting women from casting votes. But this time no intra- parties’ agreement has surfaced so far) and with almost all parties participating in elections as against 2008 when several boycotted the process, hopefully the turnout would be good enough, between 50-55 per cent in this election.

Voters generally look at the candidate’s personal caste, character or performance, his party and its manifesto or his own personal interests at the time of voting.

Some, especially die-hard workers, say parties’ performances and manifestos, rather than candidates’ characters, should be the main concern for voters as it is parties that form governments and ultimately decide things. But the rest -the swinging majority- have their own priorities.

“The problem is parties are run by their leaders and their selected buddies. If the party is in wrong hands, they would violate rules, its manifestos and national interests for their political interests and will ruin institutions by nepotism and favouritism and use the national exchequer senselessly for self/party aggrandisement. So, a party shouldn’t be supported if its leadership and candidate’s character and competency are questionable,” says Shakirullah Khan, a lecturer.

“Some parties seek votes over slogans of religious revolution, sectarianism or support terrorists in one way or the other. Supporting them is tantamount to dividing the state and society on the basis of sects, religions or creed. Can we endure such an environment,” he argues.  

Others say development work, provision of jobs and contracts, financial assistance to the needy, personal liaison with the constituents or good oratory skills should be the bases for supporting a candidate.

“But what if all this is done by a corrupt. Obviously, this support is driven by selfishness. Pakistan owes its retarded growth, rampant poverty and financial weakness to these flawed priorities on part of the voters. By supporting such candidates, one may end up getting benefits but this will leave the country’s resources, people and fate in the hands of senseless rulers, so it cannot be a choice of a patriotic voter,” says Muhammad Iqbal, another voter.

Independent candidates were the fourth largest group in 2008. They polled 11 per cent votes in National Assembly and 26 and 24 per cent votes in Baluchistan and KP assemblies. Being the main source of horse-trading, they must never be voted for.

There are always some persons with good reputation amongst the candidates but they come from parties whose performances were dismal.

“But even if a noble fellow who is contesting from a bad party is sent to his/her parliamentary party and parliament, he/she will be a misfit there amongst most of the self-centred colleagues. Party discipline is another hindrance. If the party decides on a thing that he/she finds obnoxious, he will either have to conform or risk expulsion. If he accepts, corruption will continue as earlier. If he doesn’t, he’ll be sent packing for indiscipline,” according to Shah Hasan, another voter.

But Iqbal responded the personal abilities and character rather than the candidate’s party affiliation should be the guiding factor for voters. Ignoring all ethnic, linguistic and sectarian biases while voting, they must vote solely on the basis of honesty, sincerity, merit and competence.

Vote is a sacred trust and casting vote is mandatory. By voting someone, we testify to his character and abilities and authorise him to decide and work on our behalf. It is as if we engage a lawyer who obviously cannot be a person who can be bribed, intimidated and bought, he said.

 

“Even if they have been nominated by popular and reputable parties, voters should reject candidates who are corrupt, loan-defaulters, tax-evaders, are themselves rascals or are supported by rogues, run illegal businesses, use abusive language against opponents, are incompetent, known violators of law or support the extremists and terrorists. And they should support competent persons even if they are contesting on tickets of ‘bad/corrupt’ parties,” he said.

“Of course initially, the men of character will face tough resistance in their parliamentary parties’ meetings and parliament. Perhaps they would be asked to remain quiet or quit the seat. Suppose he/she resigns or is forced to quit over principles, the electorate in the bye-elections must reject the party’s candidate if he/she is not as competent and honest as that one or better support another whose one is better.”

According to him, this will be a lesson for all. “The corrupt will never dare compete elections in future. Parties too will never award tickets to candidates on the basis of their electability but would decide on the basis of their character and capabilities to impress the transformed electorate. The men of character so elected will then be in majority. It will bring a soft revolution in the country’s political and economic landscape. Decisions will then be taken on the basis of merit. Parties’ leadership will no more be in the hands of the corrupt but in competent and honest hands.”

Voters should continue with their determination not to send corrupt elements to parliament. This obviously is a long route. But slowly and gradually it will become a norm and most of the electorate will follow suit.

People are heard criticising corrupt leaders but they too are equally guilty for preferring them over the incorruptible, competent and trustworthy substitutes. If parties ensure awarding tickets to ‘electables’ (not necessarily competent and honest candidates), it is because the electorate too has been accepting their nominees. It’s very shameful that electorate go on to elect the very candidates, who were disqualified for having fake degrees. This practice of siding with the corrupt must end.

 

Handbook for winners and losers in elections

The article was published on May12 2013 when election results were pouring in

verdict
Handbook for winning and losing candidates
If you or your party has won, ask your supporters to remain within the limits of law. Bury the hatchet. Visit all your fellow contestants and build a democratic, moderate Pakistan
By Tahir Ali

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/May2013-weekly/nos-12-05-2013/pol1.htm#1

By the time these lines are published, the country would have sailed through the exciting process of general elections — peacefully, fairly and transparently, one hopes.

Everyone who contests elections is ultimately a winner or a loser. Obviously, there can only be one winner amongst the contesting candidates. And if that one is not you, accept the verdict of the electorate and your defeat wholeheartedly.

Otherwise, there will be no difference between you and the extremists who, instead of allowing people to vote as per their sweet will, imposed their choices over them by attacking some parties and asking the people to remain away from them.

Don’t build conspiracy theories or indulge in allegations of rigging for rationalising the win of your opponent. And never indulge in anti-polls campaign as anti-democracy forces would surely benefit from it as has always been the case during the past.

Build new sound precedents. For example, call or visit your victorious opponent to felicitate him/her over the victory. We have something to learn from the developed countries in this regard. Candidates there indulge in criticising the opponents but once elections are held, the loser readily accepts the defeat and congratulates the winner.

And if you or your party have won, ask your supporters to remain within the limits of law and morality. Be patient, caring and unselfish. Bury the hatchet. Invite or better visit all your fellow contestants together. Ask them to guide and help you in serving the masses. Take their feedback as to what were the most important and urgent items on their agenda had they won. Keep in touch with them. This will help you better serve your constituency.

This is what democracy demands to take roots in our country: the spirit of tolerance, conciliation and cooperation on part of both the loser and winner.

With the ECP independent, the print and electronic media highly active and vigilant, voters lists cleared of bogus votes, elaborate arrangements made for conducting free and transparent elections and the people resilient to vote and so on, no party or candidate would continue to harp on the theory of massive rigging or establishment’s interference in favour of some parties to reject the polls results.

All this had made it impossible for parties or individual candidates to indulge in taking over polling stations and rigging on a massive scale as was witnessed in some previous elections.

We have had enough of selective morality. We have had several times been hit by the ‘I don’t accept’ mentality. Pakistan was dismembered mainly for the fact that Sheikh-Mujeebur Rehman-led Awami League, the winner of the 1970 election, was not allowed to form government as per the mandate given to it.

Similarly, in 1977, the military took over as the opposition agitated against the alleged rigging in elections. The period between 1988 to1999 was characteristic of an acute political polarisation between the major parties with Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto.

Between 1988 and 1999, five governments were sworn in against the required/normal two. It was because the PPP and the PML-N wasted no opportunity in dislodging the other by indulging themselves in palace intrigues, and horse-trading, etc.

Going by the principles of popular sovereignty and representative democracy, no one can justify the shenanigans of the religious and political leadership during these years. Some religious figures, unabashedly, played in cohort with the establishment. Routed by the people in 1993, a religious leader didn’t accept the people’s verdict against his wishes and continued his famous Dharnas and ‘million marches’ until the elected government of Benazir Bhutto was dislodged. Then he boycotted the next polls for he wanted elections be preceded by accountability. He didn’t own up these results either because he wanted something else.

The PPPP, the ANP and the MQM, no doubt, didn’t get the level playing field for the TTP threats. There were fears they might go for the boycott, but luckily sanity prevailed. But I am unconvinced if these attacks and threats had any worthwhile negative impact on their final results. Instead, they were judged on the basis of their performance during the previous government. And as the Pakistani electorate usually supports those who are on the receiving end and done wrong to, they might have, instead, gained from the sympathy wave.

The other parties, which the TTP didn’t target, relished freedom to organise rallies and conduct elections campaign the way they wanted. They felt happy for the leverage they got vis-à-vis their counterparts and hoped to capitalise on it. But as it became certain their freedom might not benefit them as they wished, some parties and leaders started talking in strange terms.

For example, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, the JUI-F chief, warned that non-state actors would decide the destiny of Pakistan if moderate politics of the JUI-F were blocked. He said the JUI-F was the hope of the nation and the country but conspiracies were being hatched to keep the JUI-F out of the democratic politics. “If our path is blocked, the people would lose faith in parliamentary politics and hence democracy and the country will lose enormously,” he added.

A worker of another religious party recently told me his party chief said if his party path was blocked, they would reconsider their strategy for bringing a change in the country. He quoted the leader as saying that opinions differ on the point as to whether change can be brought through elections or other means. “Some argue otherwise. But I fear if the path of our party was blocked, they would gain majority and I would be hard-pressed to conform,” he said.

What this practically means? Isn’t it a bare warning to the people: Elect us or you would be strengthening those who are against democracy? Can a democratic leader talk this way?

Despite several issues associated with democracy in Pakistan — rigging, horse-trading, role of money in elections, dynasties and feudalism, weak legal framework to impose election laws, etc — democracy is arguably the best ever system of election, governance and accountability contrived so far.

Elections afford the people an opportunity on regular intervals to dismiss those in power if they fail to deliver. It is for the safety, welfare and empowerment of the masses and, thus, cannot be discredited.

The future is now in your hands. Give confidence and hope to the nation that has seen little to cherish in the past. Help build a democratic, moderate and tolerant Pakistan by being a role-model for the nation.

  …………………………………

Original text of the article

Burying the hatchet Or Needed a democratic behaviour

By Tahir Ali

By time these lines are published, the country will have sailed through the exciting process of general elections –peacefully, fairly and transparently, one wishes.

Everyone who contests elections is ultimately a winner or loser. Obviously, there can only be one winner amongst the contesting candidates. And if that one is not you, If you were a candidate but lost elections, accept the verdict of the electorate and your defeat wholeheartedly. Otherwise, there will be no difference between you and the extremists who instead of allowing the people to vote as per their sweet will, imposed their desires/choices over them by attacking some parties and asking the people to remain aloof from them.     

Don’t build conspiracy theories or indulge in allegations of rigging for rationalising the win of your opponent. And never indulge in anti-polls campaign as anti-democracy forces would surely benefit from it as has always been during the past.

Build new sound precedents. For example, call or better visit your victorious opponent along with your supporters to felicitate him/her over the victory.

We have something to learn from the West in this regard. Candidates there indulge in scathing, though not depraved, criticism of the opponents but once elections are held, the loser readily accepts the defeat and congratulates the winner.

And if you or your party have won, ask your supporters to merry but within the limits of law and morality. Be patient, caring and unselfish. Bury the hatchet. Invite or better visit all your fellow contestants together. Ask them to guide and help you in serving the masses. Take their feedback as to what were the most important and urgent items on their agenda had they won. Keep in touch with them. This will help you better serve your constituency.

This is what democracy demands to take roots in our country: the spirit of tolerance, conciliation and cooperation on part of both the loser and winner.

With the ECP independent, the print/electronic media highly active and vigilant, the Establishment neutral, having no darlings, voters lists cleared of bogus votes, elaborate arrangements made for conducting free and transparent elections and the people resilient to vote and almost all parties took part in elections despite threats, no party or candidates in its/his right senses would continue to harp on the theory of massive rigging or establishment’s interference in favour of some parties to reject the polls results.

All this had made it impossible for parties or individual candidates to indulge in taking over polling stations and rigging on massive scale as was witnessed in previous elections.

We have had enough of selective morality. Win, yes. Defeat, no. We have had several times been hit by the ‘I don’t accept’ mentality. Pakistan was dismembered mainly for the fact that Sheikh-Mujeebur Rehman-led Awami League, the winner of the 1970 election, was not allowed to form government as per the mandate given to it.

 Similarly in 1977, the military took over as the opposition agitated against the alleged rigging in elections (there were indeed some genuine complaints of elections rigging then, but my emphasis is on the fallout of the anti-poll campaign).

The period between 1988 to1999 was characteristic of an acute political polarisation between the major parties with Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto alternatively siding with the establishment against the other.

Between 1988 and 1999, five governments were sworn in against the required/normal two. It was because the PPP and PML-N wasted no opportunity in dislodging the other by indulging themselves in palace intrigues, horse-trading and playing as the scions of the establishment against the political opponents with impunity. This behaviour on their part was anything but democratic or in consonance with the notion of popular sovereignty –that it is the people who have the ultimate right to elect their rulers and no one else.

Going by the principles of popular sovereignty and representative democracy, no one can justify the shenanigans of the role of religious and political leadership during these years. Some religious figures unabashedly played in cohort with establishment. Routed by the people in 1993, a religious leader didn’t accept the people’s verdict against his wishes and continued his famous Dharnas and ‘million marches’ until the elected government of Benazir Bhutto was dislodged. Then he boycotted the next polls for he wanted elections be preceded by accountability. He didn’t own up these results either because he wanted something else.

The PPPP, ANP and MQM, no doubt, didn’t get the level playing field for the TTP threats. There were fears they might go for the boycott but luckily sanity prevailed. But I am unconvinced if these attacks and threats had any worthwhile negative impact on their final results. Instead, they were judged on the basis of their performance during the previous government. And as the Pakistani electorate usually supports those who are on the receiving end and done wrong to, they might have, instead, gained from the sympathy wave.      

The other parties, who the TTP didn’t dislike and target, relished freedom to organise rallies and conduct elections campaign the way they wanted. They felt happy for the leverage they got vis-à-vis their counterparts and hoped to capitalise on it. But as it became certain their freedom might not benefit them as they wished, some parties and leaders started talking in strange terms.

 For example, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, the JUI-F chief, warned that non-state actors would decide the destiny of Pakistan if moderate politics of JUI-F were blocked. He said the JUI-F was the hope of nation and country but conspiracies were being hatched to keep the JUI-F out of the democratic politics. “If our path is blocked, the people would lose faith in parliamentary politics and hence democracy and country will lose enormously,” he added.

A worker of another religious party recently told me his party chief said if his party path was blocked, they would reconsider their strategy for bringing change in the country. He quoted the leader as saying that opinions differ on the point as to whether change can be brought through elections or other means. “Some argue otherwise. But I fear if the path of our party was blocked, they would gain majority and I would be hard-pressed to conform,” he said.

What this practically means? Isn’t it a bare warning to the people: Elect us or you would be strengthening those who are against democracy? Can a democratic leader talk this way?

Despite several drawbacks associated with Pakistani. brand of democracy –rigging, horse-trading, role of money in elections, dynasties and feudalism, absence of economic liberty for the poor majority, weak legal framework to impose election laws etc – democracy is arguably the best ever system of election, governance and accountability contrived so far.  It affords the people an opportunity on regular intervals to punish those in power if they fail to deliver. It is for the safety, welfare and empowerment of the masses and thus cannot be discredited for the looting and plunders of ‘democratic leaders’.

The future is now in your hands. Give confidence and hope to the nation that has seen little to cherish in the past. Help build a democratic, moderate and tolerant Pakistan by being a role-model for the nation.