Pakistan: Strengthening the rich, devastating the poor

During the question hour in the National assembly, in a written reply to a question submitted by MNA Lal Chand, the finance minister Ishaq Dar told the house that “from July 2013 to February 2014 the government waived Rs. 320.8 billion to the business class in tax exemptions.” This was actioned in a country whose major social indicators – tax as percentage of GDP, education spending as a percentage of GDP and healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP – are the lowest in the world.

If these tax gifts were not enough, Sharif and his cronies are enriching their class in every which way possible, whether it’s through loot and plunder  in the form of privatisation or rewarding loyalty  or meeting the whims and demands of imperialist international donors. In reply to another question by an opposition parliamentarian, the Finance minister said, “The government had no plans to increase the salary of the government employees in the next budget.”

All this does is unmask the real character of this capitalist regime that has come out unashamedly and blatantly to strengthen the rich and the mighty in an economy that faces record deficits and is in an eternal financial crunch. All doubts have been cast aside as the burdens of the system and its crisis are squarely resting on the shoulders of the deprived and disenfranchised masses. This is in reality an open declaration of a class war as the crumbling capitalism in Pakistan has made the ruling class more insecure. They have shed all pretence, hypocrisy, deception and have revealed their true colours with naked economic repression of the already impoverished masses. It is ordinary people on the street who are paying for the plunder of this cruel and callous Sharif government and their crony capitalism.  The rich are being exempted from taxation and the capitalists   given unprecedented incentives to raise their already huge profits whilst the poor are being subjected to more and more indirect taxation. The combination of these two policies have wrecked havoc   in the form of astronomical levels price increase and inflation and diminishing purchasing abilities. People are being forced into absolute poverty, hunger, starvation and this not only in Thar and Cholistan.

A retired federal secretary was recently compelled to (although anonymously) come out and say to a newspaper reporter that “considering current weak state of national economy, the government should review its policy of special concessions to benefit business interests of the few powerful. Its not only the PML (N), every government has generously thrown favours to the business class of their liking.” This is not a Marxist analyst but an elite retired bureaucrat confessing very vividly that every regime that comes to power favours the ruling class faction that supports and finances its politicians and those capitalist and landlords that are themselves politicos in all the mainstream parties.

At the behest of the imperialist financial institutions, policies of privatisation, deregulation, liberalisation and restructuring are being fast-tracked. The policy of privatisation means more job losses, increase in prices and huge profits for the mafia capitalists that rule this tragic land. Liberalisation in reality means a total free hand to the elite to move capital and the imperialist corporations to plunder and transfer the wealth generated by the labour of the proletariat of this country. Restructuring means that   permanent employment and associated meagre benefits will be systematically demolished. Contract labour and a daily wages system will be the order of the day along with massive cuts in wages, terms and conditions, health and safety in order to enhance corporate profits. Let us not forget the factory fires in Karachi, Lahore and other industrial cities due to total disregard for health and safety in the private sector. Those who talk about ‘rules and regulations’ live in a fools paradise and the capitalists with the state and the regimes on their side hardly even bother to abide by these so called legislations.

More than 90 percent of the government revenues are generated from indirect taxation that targets the poor. But those who talk about tax reforms and taxing the rich to overcome the deficits are merely deceiving themselves and others. The bourgeois of this country, as with most other post colonial sates, has proved that, with its historical belatedness and financial and technological dependency on imperialism, it can only survive as a ruling class on the basis of plundering the state, evading taxes and writing off bad loans. The only character of this class in this rotten system is of the comprador or the mafia capitalism variety.

The post second world war capitalist boom which lasted for almost 25 years did develop societies in the advanced capitalist economies and it also had a spin off effect in the so called third world. Pakistan’s economy also benefitted resulting in greater industrialisation. However, the wealth ended up being accumulated by a select few families and conglomerates, it failed to develop infrastructure and paradoxically exacerbated the social contradictions. The mass explosions of 1968-69 in Pakistan were due to the exacerbation of these contradictions. With the down turn in the capitalist world from the early 1970’s, the ruling classes rapidly abandoned any pretentions of social reforms and embarked upon the policies of trickle down or neoliberal economics.

Every regime in Pakistan since the imposition of marshal law by the vicious dictator Zia ul Haq has been carrying out these policies in one form or the other. Both so called democratic regimes, especially the PML ones in the 1990s, and during the current period have proved to be bulwarks of the dictatorship of financial oligarchy. Instead of substantial social reforms, workers’ hard won rights and reforms have been brutally chiselled away. Even those reforms failed to alleviate poverty and were defeated by the inflation and the incapacity of capitalism to sustain such reforms. The later PPP regimes made a mockery of those reforms with its Public Private Partnership. Sharifs have come, all guns blazing in a crusade against the workers, not as a beacon of hope but as an expression of the despair of the populace.

In Pakistan’s 1973 constitution a phrase is enshrined, “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his works.” This resembles a quote from the writings of Karl Marx and is beyond comprehension of today’s parliamentarians. These parliamentarians sitting in that house in Islamabad rejoiced at Ishaq Dar’s statement, as they are the ones who are beneficiaries of this tax exemption. They don’t represent the masses. They were there to represent their vested interests in the name of democracy. The working classes will have to go beyond this system of deceit and exploitation to emancipate society.

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