From Todar Mal To New Finance Minister!

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During the reign of Emperor Jalaluddin Akbar, India was among the wealthiest countries in the world. The system of governance during the reign of his father, Nasiruddin Humayun, was in disarray.

Akbar implemented numerous reforms during his time, one of which was appointing Raja Todar Mal as the finance minister. This Khatri from Lahore, Punjab, was unparalleled in his knowledge. It is said that Raja Todar Mal was the first to establish land revenue settlements, documentation, which increased India’s revenue manifold, earning it the epithet of the “Golden Sparrow.”

According to the accounts of Ibrahim Arale, who held authority over Mughal history, Jahangir’s wealth was 16 times more than that of the King of Britain.

Now, the Mughal era has passed, and so has the era of kings, but the economic situation mirrors that of Emperor Humayun’s time. Humayun believed in the science of astronomy and made decisions according to the movement of stars, to the extent that he tragically fell to his death from the staircase of his observatory.

It was said that today the stars are moving ominously, little did he know that this movement foretold his demise. Nonetheless, the decision to revive the economy was made during Akbar’s time, and it was Raja Todar Mal, who, like the fortifier of Rohitash, emerged victorious in the lottery and then changed the economic destiny of India.

We have been searching for our own Todar Mal for 76 years; sometimes we bring Todar Mal from America, and sometimes we appoint him as the Finance Minister of Pakistan, but no effort succeeds. It is said that at the inception of Pakistan, Ghulam Mohammad cast a spell whereby the Pakistani rupee became overvalued and the Indian rupee undervalued.

Prime Minister Nehru was threatened to devalue the Indian rupee, or else India would attack. This is a forgotten tale, how much of it is true and how much is false? Nobody knows. But the reality is that from the inception of Pakistan until now, we have been running our economy on loans and aid; we have not been able to stand on our own feet yet.

The present government has brought in a new Finance Minister, bringing in experienced  banker, but new political face Mohammad Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb is also a son of Punjab like Todar Mal. Todar Mal was a Khatri, and Aurangzeb belongs to the esteemed family of “Arain” which hails from Toba Tej Singh. Supreme Court’s retired judge Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday is his uncle and father-in-law. It is expected that he understand ground realities and formulate policies accordingly.

Personally, I have very little knowledge about financial matters, but as a common man, I believe that the job of a Finance Minister is to increase revenue and reduce expenditures. Unfortunately, this is not happening.

Similarly, revenues should decrease and expenditures should increase, but we have not been able to devise policies in 76 years that would tilt this balance in our favor. The storm of inflation is not abating, and there seems to be no possibility of it subsiding anytime soon. Businesses are coming to a standstill.

Everyone has deposited money in banks at a 22% interest rate and is living on interest. Banks are becoming rich, and investment is drying up. Previously, people used to take businesses on lease, but this facility has almost disappeared due to the 22% interest rate. The salaried class pays taxes, and there is no regular method for its relief.

The youth in Pakistan are proportionally more than in any other country in the world. There should be a special program for them. The growing population is becoming a ticking time bomb, but the government is not willing to listen to this voice. With such a population, you cannot achieve progress even with a 12% growth rate. These are some major issues that need immediate attention. If these are addressed, we will move in the right direction.

The financial sector in the first eleven years of Pakistan’s history was under the control of British-trained civil bureaucracy. Chaudhry Mohammad Ali and Ghulam Mohammad always looked towards America from the outset; the entire government hoped to receive aid and loans from there. Governor-General Ghulam Mohammad’s tenure brought the era of American aid, he was given the title of “Iron Man,” and the traders of Karachi were so delighted that they bestowed upon him the title of “Guardian of the Nation.”

In these eleven years, many governments came and went, and in every order for dismissal, it appeared that due to the food and economic crises, it was being removed. When Ayub Khan’s martial law came, the era of World Bank experts began, Mohammad Shoaib became the Finance Minister, he was purely in favor of a capitalist system, young Bhutto in the cabinet was strongly opposed to the capitalist system, and both had intense debates.

Bhutto talked about the poor, and Mohammad Shoaib presented evidence in favor of the affluent environment of capitalists. When General Yahya Khan came, he made M.M. Ahmad of the World Bank Pakistan’s Vice President. During Zia-ul-Haq’s tenure, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Sartaj Aziz, and Dr. Mahbub ul Haq managed the treasury affairs. Dr. Mahbub ul Haq had raised the slogan of combining the wealth of 22 families; he had tried to strengthen the middle class. Before the creation of Pakistan, landlords and jagirdars were the richest; in 70 years, landlords became poor, traders and industrialists have outpaced them, and agriculture has fallen far behind.

Traders are equivalent to not being taxed, the entire burden is on industrialists and the salaried class. In such a situation, how can the country run? The problem is that the vote bank of the PML-N is traders. If it imposes taxes on traders, its popularity will further decline. The real test of the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister is also this, that they make the country prosperous like Todar Mal, but do not be as arrogant and reckless as Todar Mal, so that they have to face unpopularity and then they cannot complete their financial reforms.

Note: This is the translation of his Urdu column published in Jang

 

Suhail Warraich
Suhail Warraich
The writer is a senior journalist and columnist, who also hosts his famous TV show Aik Din Geo Kay Sath.

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