“Small nations have always struggled against more powerful ones for their freedom. The whole history of mankind is a struggle of the oppressed against exploitation and domination. The contemporary history of Pakistan is nothing but an example of such a struggle. The struggle before Independence was against an alien racial domination; today it is for preserving independence. The wheel of change has come full circle, bringing us face to face with the same ancient menace. We are no more a subject people; we have the attributes of an independent nation and the will to remain free; though peace is our ideal, the defence of our rights continues to be the supreme objective of the people of Pakistan”—Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in The Myth of Independence
Today the nation is celebrating 76th Independence Day with the hope that the general elections will be held strictly according to the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan [“the Constitution”] and the newly-elected government will going to bring the much-needed reforms in all spheres of governance and fix chronic maladies so that Pakistan can be transformed into an egalitarian state.
It is an undeniable fact that after 76 years of independence, our ruling elites—militro-judicial-civil complex, businessmen-turned politicians and absentee landowners—have pushed the country into great turmoil. Despite becoming a nuclear state, we are ensnared in a deadly debt trap where majority of the population lacks even basic amenities of life. Wealth and power is concentrated in a few hands and overwhelming burden of taxes, shifted on the less-privileged. The elitist economy favours the rich and mighty—with every passing day the rich-poor divide is widening. This paradox depicts what Zulfikar Ali Bhutto highlighted in his masterpiece, Myth of Independence.
Our oppressive economic system protects and promotes interests of the exploitative classes in utter violation of Article 3 of the Constitution. Since its inception, Pakistan nurtured an exploitative system, which has been gaining strength with each passing day and presently, all forms of exploitation and repression are so deeply rooted that they are even taking away the guaranteed “right to life” from the poor, what to talk of fulfilling the promise mentioned in Article 3 of the Constitution which says: “The State shall ensure the elimination of all forms of exploitation and the gradual fulfilment of the fundamental principle, from each according to his ability, to each according to his work.” It was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who for the first time, thought of including in the Constitution, what he called Islamic socialism this principle.
In fact, he borrowed it from socialism. It was considered the lower stage of communism with Marx’s contention, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. Karl Marx had specific conditions in mind for such a creed to work in a society where artificial intelligence (AI). technology and social organisation would substantially eliminate the need for physical labour as we are witnessing under the third industrial revolution in the production of goods and services, where “labour becomes not only a means of life but life’s prime want“.
Marx explained that in such a society, each person would be motivated to work for the good of society, despite the absence of a social mechanism compelling them to work, because work would become a pleasurable and creative activity. Marx intended the initial part of his slogan, “from each according to his ability” to suggest not merely that each person should work as hard as he/she can, but that each person should best develop his/her particular talents.
After reading Article 3 of the Constitution, many students ask: “Can constitutional command of gradual elimination of all forms of exploitation be enforced through the Supreme Court using Article 184(3) of the Constitution“? They ask why the Supreme Court, taking wholesale “so motu” actions, does not go for enforcement of fundamental rights like free and compulsory education under Article 25A and fulfilment of the principle laid down in Article 3 of the Constitution?
Unfortunately as a nation we have collectively failed to abide by the supreme law of the land. Theoretically, all admit that the Constitution is supreme and each organ of the state has to perform its duties and functions in accordance with the constitutional scheme, but practically unelected institutions dictate their commands. Resultantly, we all are disillusioned as even after 76 years of existence, the political will to implement Article 3 and other fundamental rights guaranteed in Chapter 1 of the Constitution is totally non-existent.
The prevalent system protects the interests of the privileged classes and the judiciary is no exception. The laws that our judiciary interprets and protects with zeal, in fact, ensure “sanctity of private property” and “exploitation of the have-nots”. The judiciary is not a revolutionary organ—it is a product of the existing socio-economic system. It is naive to expect from judiciary any avant-garde. For getting socio-economic justice, the people will have to wage relentless struggle and exert moral pressure on elected representatives.
Imran Khan, convicted and yet another ousted Prime Minister of Pakistan who is barred to take part in politics for five years by the Election Commission of Pakistan, in victory speech of July 26, 2018, vowed to make Pakistan a welfare state. He did not mention implementation of Article 3 of the Constitution as a starting point or abolition of the existing tax system, which is highly unjust and oppressive. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, from 2013-18 and from 2018 to 2022, his party showed no will to tax the privileged classes, especially the rich absentee land owners.
The oppressive tax system blatantly violates Article 3 of the Constitution as the vast majority pays exorbitant indirect taxes even on essential commodities of everyday use while the mighty sections of society—the big absentee landowners, industrialists, judges, generals and bureaucrats—are amassing wealth and enjoying unprecedented tax exemptions. The rich absentee landowners are either avoiding or paying negligible agricultural income tax—only 0.06% of GDP. Income inequalities are widening—resources are being transferred from the poor to the rich through manipulative taxes and inflation that is taxation without legislation. The exploitative classes, even mafias, fund politicians. The anti-people alliance of the greedy businessmen, tax officials and politicians deprive the state of revenue worth billions. The mighty sections of society are engaged in tax evasion and money laundering.
The government of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) won the 2018 election on anti-corruption campaign but during it rule of three years and eight months did not bother to dismantle the anti-people, elitist structures and provide equitable distribution of wealth/resources as envisaged in Article 3 of the Constitution. The new government of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) during its reign (April 10, 2022 to August 8, 2023) also showed no inclination whatsoever to implement Article 3 of the Constitution.
The burgeoning fiscal deficit, ever-increasing and unsustainable debt servicing coupled with monstrous debt burden are not isolated phenomena. These are results of failure in undertaking fundamental structural reforms, enforcing fiscal discipline, cracking down on parallel economy, increasing tax collection, abolishing perks and benefits of the ruling elites, eliminating wasteful expenses, dismantling rent-seeking structures, ensuring rule of law, and stopping reckless borrowing and ruthless spending.
Resource mobilisation should have been the top priority of the alliance government of PDM and coalition government of PTI by improving infrastructure, social services, growth of small and medium sized firms in the industrial sector and efficient/productive farming for an employment intensive and equitable economic growth process. They did none of these. The PDM government before its dissolution passed numerous laws but none aimed to end economic apartheid, large corporations with equity stakes for the poor through public-private partnerships. Had this was done, it could have set the stage for a structural change that could help achieve economic growth for the people and by the people which is presently confined to the elites only.
The most disturbing and painful reality of Pakistan is unabated/shameless indulgence of ruling elites in wasteful expenditures. Look at their lifestyle when the majority of population is undernourished and suffering extreme hardships due to wrong policies of successive governments. For becoming an economically self-reliant nation, the rulers will have to take the first step by starting to live at a modest level. True independence requires self-reliance for which fundamental reforms are inevitable. There is no dearth of ideas and good people for such reforms. We only lack political will to abolish elitist structures that are the main impediments for ensuring equal opportunities for all citizens and extending to common people benefits of public spending and economic growth.
Dr. Ikramul Haq, Advocate Supreme Court, specialises in constitutional, corporate, media, ML/CFT related laws, IT, intellectual property, arbitration and international tax laws. He was full-time journalist from 1979 to 1984 with Viewpoint and Dawn. He served Civil Services of Pakistan from 1984 to 1996. He established Huzaima & Ikram in 1996 and is presently its chief partner as well as partner in Huzaima Ikram & Ijaz. He studied journalism, English literature and law. He is Chief Editor of Taxation. He is country editor and correspondent of International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation (IBFD) and member of International Fiscal Association (IFA). He is Visiting Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and member Advisory Board and Visiting Senior Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE).
He has coauthored with Huzaima Bukhari many books that include Tax Reforms in Pakistan: Historic & Critical Review, Towards Flat, Low-rate, Broad and Predictable Taxes (revised & Expanded Edition, Pakistan: Enigma of Taxation, Towards Flat, Low-rate, Broad and Predictable Taxes (revised/enlarged edition of December 2020), Law & Practice of Income Tax, Law , Practice of Sales Tax, Law and Practice of Corporate Law, Law & Practice of Federal Excise, Law & Practice of Sales Tax on Services, Federal Tax Laws of Pakistan, Provincial Tax Laws, Practical Handbook of Income Tax, Tax Laws of Pakistan, Principles of Income Tax with Glossary and Master Tax Guide, Income Tax Digest 1886-2011 (with judicial analysis).
He is author of Commentary on Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreements signed by Pakistan, Pakistan: From Hash to Heroin, its sequel Pakistan: Drug-trap to Debt-trap and Practical Handbook of Income Tax.
He regularly writes columns/article/papers for many Pakistani newspapers and international journals and has contributed over 2500 articles on a variety of issues of public interest, printed in various journals, magazines and newspapers at home and abroad.
Abdul Rauf Shakoori, Advocate High Court, is a subject-matter expert on AML-CFT, Compliance, Cyber Crime and Risk Management. He has been providing AML-CFT advisory and training services to financial institutions (banks, DNFBPs, Investment companies, Money Service Businesses, insurance companies and securities), government institutions including law enforcement agencies located in North America (USA & CANADA), Middle East and Pakistan. His areas of expertise include legal, strategic planning, cross border transactions including but not limited to joint ventures (JVs), mergers & acquisitions (M&A), takeovers, privatizations, overseas expansions, USA Patriot Act, Banking Secrecy Act, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
Over his career he has demonstrated excellent leadership, communication, analytical, and problem-solving skills and have also developed and delivered training courses in the areas of AML/CFT, Compliance, Fraud & Financial Crime Risk Management, Bank Secrecy, Cyber Crimes & Internet Threats against Banks, E–Channels Fraud Prevention, Security and Investigation of Financial Crimes. The courses have been delivered as practical workshops with case study driven scenarios and exams to insure knowledge transfer.
His notable publications are: Rauf’s Compilation of Corporate Laws of Pakistan, Rauf’s Company Law and Practice of Pakistan and Rauf’s Research on Labour Laws and Income Tax and others.
His articles include: Revenue collection: Contemporary targets vs. orthodox approach, It is time to say goodbye to our past, US double standards, Was Due Process Flouted While Convicting Nawaz Sharif?, FATF and unjustly grey listed Pakistan, Corruption is no excuse for Incompetence, Next step for Pakistan, Pakistan’s compliance with FATF mandates, a work in progress, Pakistan’s strategy to address FATF Mandates was Inadequate, Pakistan’s Evolving FATF Compliance, Transparency Curtails Corruption, Pakistan’s Long Road towards FATF Compliance, Pakistan’s Archaic Approach to Addressing FATF Mandates, FATF: Challenges for June deadline, Pakistan: Combating the illicit flow of money, Regulating Crypto: An uphill task for Pakistan. Pakistan’s economy – Chicanery of numbers. Pakistan: Reclaiming its space on FATF whitelist. Sacred Games: Kulbhushan Jadhav Case. National FATF secretariat and Financial Monitoring Unit. The FATF challenge. Pakistan: Crucial FATF hearing. Pakistan: Dissecting FATF Failure, Environmental crimes: An emerging challenge, Countering corrupt practices .
Twitter: Adbul Rauf Shakoori