August 1, 2019 |

Pakistan’s current narrative – both by top civilian and military leadership – rests on anti-corruption, good governance and structural reforms; the overall objective, one would assume, is the abolition of hefty privileges that previous rulers wrote for themselves into the statute books.

n multiple occasions, both Prime Minister Imran Khan and the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Qamar Javed Bajwa made no secret of their dislike for the “Architecture of Privileges” available to all the ruling elites that they believe has profusely bled the country to the detriment of real economic development. Salvation, they think, lies in abolishing the elitist model of governance.

This model rests on a massive architecture of privileges for the civil-military top – the President, Prime Minister, Chief Ministers, senior judges and Generals.

PM Khan spares no opportunity to underline his contempt for elitist privileges. So does the army chief; in his address to the participants at the National Defence University (NDU), General Bajwa called out every Pakistani to contribute to the reforms.

We are going through a difficult economic situation due to fiscal mismanagement. We need to fulfil our responsibilities; difficult times no individual alone can succeed unless the nation comes together unitedly. ‘It’s time to be a nation’, the COAS concluded.

Will they walk their lofty talk?

PM Khan has already cut on a number of prime ministerial privileges and relieved dozens of PM House support staff inter alia. He has made it clear to friends that he will not take with him anything official once he goes.

Both the PM and the Army Chief sound like radical reformists, if not revolutionaries.

Will the army chief follow the same route?

Would Bajwa like to go down in the country’s history as the first army chief who forewent plots and state lands?

Former Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif set a good precedent by donating his two DHA plots to the families of martyrs of Pakistan Army, the Shuhadaa Fund (Martyrs Fund). But he did accept some 90 acres of prime land in the Bedian Road area, Lahore.

Judges of the senior judiciary are not exceptions either.

Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry raised monthly emoluments of senior judges to more than a million (PKR) on average. They enjoy pensions of almost similar amounts, including official cars and support staff.

Are these privileges in sync with the rest of the country, where over millions live below the poverty line, and the majority does not even get the minimum monthly wage of PKR 17,000?

Why should officials – whether a former PM, CM, federal or provincial chief executive, minister, bureaucrat, a general or a senior judge – lookout for handouts by the state after living a privileged and well-monetised life?

Any post-privilege favour is akin to depriving the teeming helpless and hapless millions of their due share in the economy.

Both Khan and Bajwa have a historic opportunity at hand. They can generate massive public traction for their anti-status quo narrative by taking on the obscene architecture of privileges raised on state resources – plots, sate land, vehicles, and official residences.

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