Pakistani Ruling classes plunder public money
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Dr Babar Awan has disclosed that three political families and some retired army officers got millions of rupees bank loans waived from 30 banks across the country between 1985 and 2003. Without giving details, he said the National Bank of Pakistan had been the main sufferer. A report on this corruption by influential people has been tabled in the National Assembly. Separately, the NA's Public Accounts Committee also sought details of the writing-off of 1,000 Industrial Development Bank of Pakistan loans amounting to Rs 14 billion. Federal minister Syed Naveed Qamar also divulged in the NA the other day that a total of about Rs 60 billion of bank loans have been written off during 1999-2007. Most written off loans were obtained by cement, textile and sugar industries. The Punjab Bank waived Rs 608.74 million and the National Bank of Pakistan Rs 6109 million. The First Women Bank wrote off Rs 12.3 million, SME Bank Rs 1.239 billion, the IDBP Rs 10.763 billion and the Bank of Khyber Rs 1.124 billion. A total of Rs 127.485 billion of loans have been written off between 1999 and 2007 alone. If calculated banks have been writing off loans worth trillions of rupees between 1985 and 2007 and political people, army institutions and industries in addition to influential individuals have been the beneficiaries. This is not all because as, upon the directions, the State Bank has been submitting to superior courts lists of the people obtaining huge loans from almost all Pakistani banks and then getting them written off. What is even more deplorable is that all such scams have gone unnoticed and no corrupt people have ever been proceeded against under any law of the land. No government has ever seemed pushed about this colossal bank robbery particularly since 1985. This is because all political parties, military establishment, business barons and industrial tycoons belong to one ruling class that have virtually developed mafias that are sucking the blood of the common people already subject to severe economic miseries. Banks around the world work for the betterment of society and the welfare of the people but in Pakistan they serve only the already rich and influential. Stopping this corrupt practice is almost impossible at least for the political administration because top bosses are hand in glove with bank loan mafias. In fact, all those belonging to the ruling class are working like mafias. As such, the people cannot expect justice from any government. The only way left may be a judicial commission to probe into this alarmingly high corruption. As a last hope the Chief Justice of Pakistan should appoint a commission to inquire into the issue in depth at least since 1958, fix responsibilities, get the plundered public money back and inflict exemplary punishment on those who have and continue to harm the national and public financial interests. We may request the apex court of the country to also slap disqualification on corrupt political people from pursuing their political ambitions because no corrupt deserves a place in a legislature and government.

The Afghanistan Speech

New York Times

Americans have reason to be pessimistic, if not despairing, about the war in Afghanistan. After eight years of fighting, more than 800 American lives lost and more than 200 billion taxpayer dollars spent, the Afghan government is barely legitimate and barely hanging on in the face of an increasingly powerful Taliban insurgency.

In his speech Tuesday night, President Obama showed considerable political courage by addressing that pessimism and despair head-on. He explained why the United States cannot walk away from the war and outlined an ambitious and high-risk strategy for driving back the Taliban and bolstering the Afghan government so American troops can eventually go home.

For far too long — mostly, but not only, under President George W. Bush — Afghanistan policy has had little direction and no accountability. Mr. Obama started to address those problems at West Point, although the country needs to hear more about how he intends to pay for the war and how he will decide when Afghanistan will be able to stand on its own.

The president’s prolonged and leak-ridden policy review had fanned doubts here and abroad about Mr. Obama’s commitment. He showed no reluctance on Tuesday night. He said he decided to send more troops because he is “convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” which he called “the epicenter of the violent extremism practiced by Al Qaeda.”

“This is no idle danger,” Mr. Obama said, “no hypothetical threat.” He warned that new attacks were being plotted in the region, and raised the terrifying prospect of an unchecked Al Qaeda taking over a nuclear-armed Pakistan.

Mr. Obama’s decision to send an additional 30,000 troops — and ask NATO allies for several thousand more — is unlikely to end the political debate. Republicans are certain to point out that it is still short of the 40,000 requested by the top field commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and object to the president’s pledge of a quick drawdown. Many Democrats and the president’s own vice president had opposed any escalation.

At this late date, we don’t know if even 100,000 American troops plus 40,000 from NATO will be enough to turn the war around. But we are sure that continuing President Bush’s strategy of fighting on the cheap (in January 2008, the start of Mr. Bush’s last year in office and more than six years after the war began, there were only 27,000 American troops in Afghanistan) is a guarantee of defeat.

Mr. Obama said he planned to move those 30,0000 troops in quickly — within six months — to break the Taliban’s momentum, secure key population centers, speed up training of Afghan security forces and then hand over control to Afghan authorities. He said he expected to be able to start drawing down American forces in July 2011. But he made no promise about when all American combat troops would be gone, saying only that the decision would be based on conditions on the ground.

Over all, we found the president’s military arguments persuasive.

The Afghan people have no love for the Taliban’s medieval ideas and brutality, but the Karzai government’s failure to provide basic services or security has led many to conclude that they have no choice but to submit. Driving the Taliban back swiftly and decisively from key cities and regions should help change that calculation. Coupled with an offer of negotiations, it may also peel away less committed fighters.

There is no point in doing that unless there is a minimally credible Afghan government to “hold” those areas. There is no chance of that unless Mr. Karzai ends the corruption and appoints competent officials. One of Mr. Obama’s biggest challenges is figuring out how to goad him into doing that, without further damaging the Afghan leader’s legitimacy, or driving him even deeper into his circle of unsavory cronies and warlords.

In his speech Mr. Obama sought to put Mr. Karzai on notice, but more gently than we would have. “The days of providing a blank check are over,” he said, vowing that his government “will be clear about what we expect from those who receive our assistance.”

We hope that the president and his aides — who failed to stop Mr. Karzai from trying to steal his re-election — are a lot more specific and a lot more forceful with the Afghan leader in private.

Mr. Obama faced a similar balancing act with Pakistan. He forcefully argued that Pakistan’s survival also depends on defeating Al Qaeda and the Taliban but gave the Pakistani government more credit than we would have for seeing that.

Pakistani officials insist they understand the threat but question Washington’s staying power. Mr. Obama said the United States will support Pakistan’s “security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent.” But it will take a lot more cajoling and pressure to finally persuade Islamabad to stop hedging its bets and fully take on the extremists.

For years President Bush sought to disguise the true cost of the Afghan and Iraq wars. So it was a relief to hear the president put a credible price tag on his escalation — he said it is likely to cost an additional $30 billion next year — and promise to work with Congress to pay for it. He and Congress need to address that issue quickly and credibly.

We are eager to see American troops come home. We don’t know whether Mr. Obama will be able to meet his July 2011 deadline to start drawing down forces.

For that to happen, there will have to be a lot more success at training Afghan forces and improving the government’s effectiveness.

Still, setting a deadline — so long as it is not set in stone — is a sound idea. Mr. Karzai and his aides need to know that America’s commitment is not open-ended. Mr. Obama’s generals and diplomats also need to know that their work will be closely monitored and reviewed.

Otherwise, Mr. Obama will be hard pressed to keep his promise that this war, already the longest in American history, will not go on forever.