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Wheat Scam, SBP’s Faux Pas and Lawyers’ Clash Reflect Mismanagement in Pakistan

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Mazhar Rasheed

Pakistan is currently facing significant challenges despite the general elections that were supposed to bring political stability and economic growth. Instead, the country is dealing with a major wheat scam that has caused protests by farmers in Punjab, an admission by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) that there were mistakes in the Urdu text on currency notes, and a conflict between lawyers and police in Lahore.

The wheat scam has been linked to the decision made by the caretaker finance minister, with the support of the caretaker prime minister who held the portfolio of National Food Security and Research, to allow the private sector to import wheat when the projected target for the coming season was enough to meet the country’s consumption needs. This decision has prevented the Punjab government from procuring wheat and forced farmers to sell at prices below their costs. The caretaker finance minister has reportedly refused to appear before the inquiry committee, while the caretaker prime minister has defended his government’s decision by insisting that he operated on information available at the time.

The SBP’s admission of errors in the Urdu text on currency notes is another significant issue that has caused embarrassment. Despite the usual practice of resignations when mistakes occur, it is rare in Pakistan as passing the buck is common. Therefore, the SBP needs to ensure that its review mechanism functions better in the future.

The conflict between lawyers and police in Lahore has raised questions about the role of the Punjab Chief Minister, who stated that she had not directed the police to arrest lawyers. However, it is unclear whether the Chief Minister discussed the matter with the provincial law minister or bothered to find out who summoned the police and who gave the orders to use batons and tear gas on the lawyers.

These three instances reflect mismanagement and incompetence at the highest levels. With the country facing other significant challenges such as rising electricity rates and traders failing to register to widen the tax net, the outlook is bleak. It is essential that the government takes prompt and appropriate measures to address these issues and restore confidence in the country’s economic management.

Therefore, the government must make heads roll when dealing with scams, and those who refuse to appear before an inquiry committee must face serious consequences. The caretaker mechanism must also be abandoned, and the government must ensure that decisions are made based on the best available information to prevent such issues from arising in the future.

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