Imran shows the way | Daily News

Imran shows the way

Cricketing icon turned politician and Pakistan's new Prime Minister Imran Khan, no doubt, will be a big hit with his countrymen though not necessarily with Sri Lankan politicians. The charismatic Imran who won the poll on an anti-corruption plank has lost no time in rolling back some of the extravagant features that marked the tenure of his predecessors in office. At the very first Cabinet meeting of his coalition government a ban was imposed on first class air travel for the President, Chief Justice, Senate Chairman and the National Assembly Speaker. The Prime Minister would use the official aircraft only for domestic tours and not for foreign visits. Imran has also decided not to occupy the official residence of Pakistan’s Prime Minister

His party, the Pakistan Tehreek-Insaf (PTI), also abolished discretionary funds of the Prime Minister, federal ministers and members of the National Assembly, according to the Dawn. The same newspaper reported that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had spent 51 billion rupees Pakistani government funds only in one year by exercising his “discretionary powers.” Shariff is today languishing in jail for corruption. Similarly it was reported that the Pakstani President too had distributed public money to the tune of Pakistani Rupees 90 million on his own discretion. Here too we had Mahinda Rajapaksa using his “discretionary powers” to release Rs. 650 million of public funds to purchase and distribute sil redi, as an election bribe. Discretionary powers were also used to release Rs 80 million for the construction of a memorial for the departed parents of the Rajapaksas. Hence, Imran Khan has rightly assessed the true worth of these “discretionary powers” of the Presidents and the Prime Ministers of his country.

Of course, one has to wait and see, if, indeed, these sweeping changes will be a reality or this is just another case of the new broom. But there is no doubt that Imran Khan means business, going by his single issue election campaign to weed out corruption from his country's body politic. Pakistan’s voters overwhelmingly endorsed his crusade and from all appearances Khan is living up to his chief election pledge.

As mentioned, Khan will not exactly endear himself to the politicians of this country, particular for cutting down on the privileges of his MPs which here is being taken for granted. Free use of air travel by our politicians has now become the norm. Venues that could easily be accessed by road are reached by chopper by egocentric politicians. Not only that, the scandalous use of the national carrier by the Rajapaksas is well known to the public at large and need no elaboration. The ongoing hearings of the Special Presidential Commission relating to the affairs of Sri Lankan only goes to confirm to what extent the national carrier was abused by the relatives and cronies of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Not only that, air-force helicopters were placed at the disposal of the Rajapaksa progeny for joy rides accompanied by girlfriends, with massive bills running into several millions of rupees yet unsettled.

There was also the instance where the national carrier was flown to a western country, sans passengers, merely to collect a pet mongrel that had caught the fancy of a powerful Rajapaksa sibling, details of which were reported extensively in the now defunct Sunday Leader.

Also, government vehicles were freely dispensed with for use by Buddhist clergy supportive of the Rajapaksas. As much as six luxury vehicles were placed at the disposal of the monks of the Ravana Balaya who are today at the forefront of bringing the Rajapaksas back to power. No doubt, these monks too would frown on the moves made by Imran Khan who has already got cracking on wasteful extravagances indulged in by ruling party politicians and their cronies at the expense of the tax payer. It would been interesting to know the reaction of Imran Khan to a move by the Western Province Chief Minister to purchase revolving seats, each costing Rs. 650,000, to park the posteriors of 104 members of that Provincial Council. No doubt, he would have thrown up his hands in horror. As also with the alleged move to increase the allowances of Sri Lanka's parliamentarians by Rs.200,000. Imran will also not win a popularity contest among the members of the Colombo Municipal Council whose allowances were increased over 100 fold.

Imran's attempt at austerity no doubt is influenced by the pathetic plight of the majority of his countrymen who are wallowing in poverty. Nearly half the Pakistani population is without electricity and illiteracy is at an all time high. The economy is in the doldrums, with the country saddled with a massive foreign debt. Sri Lanka is not as badly off although some of the problems common to Pakistan are bedeviling this country as well.

Hence the need for the authorities to take a leaf out of Imran's book and curb waste and extravagant spending. Like Imran, our top leaders should show the way in this regard. Government politicians in other countries, hit by economic collapse, are known to take pay cuts and lead austere lives. We too should strive to emulate such practices. 

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