THE AMERICAN NOTEBOOK
By Asif Jamal
Far and few are the evidences found in the sheer history of Pakistan when any projects were ever actually executed to benefit the nation, however in a span of about 65 years, innumerable projects were created, funds were allocated, officers were assigned but somehow everything got dissolved somewhere in the territory and no one ever bothered to figure out about the outcome of sudden dissolution of those so-called unaccountable developmental projects.
There are only handful tangible projects that took off and successfully completed so far, among those from the recent past are heavily criticized Yellow Cab Scheme, Motorway Projects, adding Laptop Scheme, Ujala Projects, Metro Bus Service are some that people can count on the finger tips without giving much stress on the memory. At least there are two things common in them i.e, all of these were completed successfully and these were the projects ever created for the masses and beneficiaries are the public directly â€“ without any discrimination of cast, creed, color, belief or affiliation etc.
Nonetheless, there was much hue and cry about insurmountable corruption in each of the project but even if there was any truth in the echo, still, the projects brought fruitful results and till-to-date the nation is benefiting out it.
Like any developmental projects, the above cited were also triggered for corruption but soon they were fizzled out since they all were real, tangible and actually executed for masses. Interestingly, the originator of, at least, the above referenced projects was PML-N, initiated through the Punjab government. Well, someone at least put a little thought for the fellow countrymen! Since these deeds were sort of big deals so PML-N took a stride and started claiming that the Transparency International Pakistan (TIP) has declared the laptop scheme as `completely transparent`. The statement issued by the Punjab government quoted the agency as saying in a letter to the higher education secretary that procurement process of 100,000 laptops by the Punjab government was in accordance with the set rules and regulations, while all laptops had been purchased transparently.
Subsequently, the statement further claims that Transparency International Pakistan has said that the Metro Bus Project was executed in a transparent manner as well. The TIP later also confirmed that the Lahore Development Authority had followed the Punjab Procurement Rules 2009 in all contracts. In addition, the TIP has also cleared the Ujala Solar Lamp project as in accordance with the laid down rules and regulations and free from any corruption in the procurement process of 200,000 solar panels.
However, TIP doesnâ€™t seem to be issuing any confirmation of the above claim if in fact, TIP issued any notification to this effect rather, whistle blowers in Pakistan ascertains if this is only an election stunt from the N League and these were highlighted at this point in time only because general elections are due anytime soon. Even, if the completion of those projects, were to win the votes, but first they actually won the hearts of the masses. So strategy is working fine on both perspectives, people and projects originators i.e, PML-N.
Apart from any arguments, it is pertinent to mention here that seldom it happens when someone approaches the bureau to request the scrutiny but in this case, the Punjab government has made available relevant documents of procurement of laptops, metro bus project and Ujala Program to the National Accountability Bureau and not only this, in fact, they themselves knocked at the doors of TIP with a request to review, which means, they were confident of purification of the aforementioned projects that ultimately drew TIP attention that led to the unverified claim from them that TIP has declared all three projects, free of any corruptions rather followed all regulations as stipulated in the Punjab Government Procurement Rules 2009.
Even if TIP clearance is over exaggerated by the Punjab government, at least this has quashed the critics to a certain degree who were pointing fingers on them. At one point, Shahbaz Sharif has once said that he would be accountable to people if corruption of even a single penny was proved in any projects of Punjab government under him.
It is interesting to note that while referencing the provincial governments in Pakistan, itâ€™s officially noted by TIP that, among all, Punjab, who was happened to be the most corrupt in the 2008 survey, miraculously, now, it has transpired as the least corrupt province of today.
As always, I have brought in two exceptional individuals to present their point-of-view on the subject, letâ€™s see what they have to speak:
Arif Afzal Usmani, a journalist by profession based in NJ, while commenting on the subject says: â€œNawaz Sharif comes from a very wealthy family. He had many opportunities to serve the country nonetheless, his government has seen many ups and down as well but being a very well-off industrialist himself, his role should have been somebody doing nothing but servicing the country and his fellow countrymen, but he didnâ€™t do enough. No doubt, if so, he is the only one and his is the only party that has done projects substantially beneficial for the public. Projects like Metro Bus, Ujala & Laptop were no double remain by far exemplary but motorway and yellow cab schemes brought huge controversy to his government. Motorway project started from Islamabad and ended at Model Town instead it should have been stretched to across country. So his approach was very provincial centric. On the other hand, if you talk about yellow cab, well I would say that the cabs were distributed to only 10 to 20 percent to the deserving general public, the rest were given to those for a give-away price who later repainted and then used the cars for themselves.â€
Parvaz Iqbal, an analyst from NY, elaborates on the subject: â€œNo doubt on the surface they look good projects and for the public, but think about it, they used public money for public and Pakistan cannot be changed with one or two projects, it requires a lot more than that. Their thinking restricts to Punjab only. PML-N came to power twice, why nothing happened in other provinces? We need sincerity from the leaders beyond being provincial.â€ â€œPML-N should promote democracy in the party as well; their party structure reflects their mentality. There should be delegation of power in the party system too. To see real change in Pakistan, it requires changing the system at every level,â€ he concluded.
The pool of mess is colossal, at this point, what matters the most is the approach to deliver and a resolution to build Pakistan. No matter who comes to power but the leadership should be focused. So far, every government had issues, one way or the other but the art is how to handle and manage the issues and put all resources to benefit the nation. The prevailing dilemma in the country is no matter what, the power will remain either with PPP or PMLN they are the only players in Pakistan unless otherwise, a third party comes under some sort of arrangements, be it forming a coalition or through other means until then, the nation on the whole needs more education than metro bus or laptop or something.
â€“ To participate in this column or for comments and suggestions, you may reach the scribe via email at firstname.lastname@example.org & follow him on Twitter @AsifJamalNY