Jun 022017
Forgotten pensioners

Hopes of pensioners went down the drain when only 10 percent increase in pensions was announced in the budget for the year 2017-18. Retired government employees are senior citizens who deserve some extra perks and privileges. They have contributed a lot to the development and growth of the country and deserve to spend the life after retirement in peace and comfort. But a majority of these people are facing financial difficulties because of their meagre pension. In addition, the government did not increase the medical allowance of pensioners at all. In a nut shell, pensioners have once again been given a rough deal and left to fend for themselves. They cannot afford good medical treatment because of financial constraints. It would have been fair if pensioners were given an increase of 15 percent and at least 50 percent increase in their medical allowance. It is time the government and the concerned authorities made sure that the sufferings of pensioners are alleviated. Zaheer Ahmed Islamabad Click for detailed story

May 282017
Double-edged sword

This refers to the letter, ‘Be prepared’ (May 26) by Nida Anser. The writer has aptly pointed out the possible effects of CPEC on our trade balance. Policymakers argue that once CPEC projects are completed, the returns and earnings from these projects will take care of the trade deficit, and the country will have a surplus trade balance. That may happen in the long-run, but in the short-run we will have to struggle hard. The economic survey presented by the finance minister gives a dismal picture of the country’s trade deficit. The CPEC project is a double-edged weapon. It can be a win-win situation for the country’s economic growth – it can create infrastructure and industrial zones, generate employment and enhance agricultural production – but the benefits will only be reaped if the government keeps everything transparent. It must be emphasised that the project can be a real game changer for the country if policymakers guard the country’s national interest and keep an eye on the returns of all projects under CPEC. The labour force and technical experts of the country must also be duly trained and utilised. If the country fails to take correct steps, it is most likely to end under a huge debt trap and a perennial trade deficit with not only China but with the rest of the world as well. Zaheer Ahmed Islamabad Click for detailed story

May 172017
Waiting for the budget

This refers to the letter, ‘Plight of pensioners’ (May 15) by Ali Asghar Awan. The arguments given by the writer in favour of pensioners are valid. The writer correctly argued that senior citizens and retired employees, after having served the country for a major portion of their life, depend entirely on their pension. These old aged people are frail and not as healthy as they used to be when they were young. Therefore, they need to spend a substantial amount of income on their medical treatment. The meagre medical allowance provided by the government has not been increased for quite some time now. The average pension increase, in any case, is the bare minimum taking into account the galloping inflation and increase in the prices of everyday use and food items. The decreased value of the pension and profit from their savings, if any, is completely washed out by the price spiral. A lot has been written in columns of various newspapers by the affected senior citizens and the retired employees requesting policymakers to be kind and considerate. The budget for the year 2017-18 will be announced next week. Hopefully, the finance minister and the PM will pay attention to these appeals and increase the amount of pension by at least 20 percent. It is also hoped that the government will also increase the amount of medical allowance by a substantial amount to cover the increased prices of medicines and medical tests etc. Zaheer Ahmed Islamabad Click for detailed story

Apr 162017
Tale of intolerance

The gruesome murder of Mashal Khan by fellow students in the name of religion is very sad and frightening. The incident is frightening because it is an extension of an ongoing trend in the country where a vigilant mob accuses a person of blasphemy and then murders him in the name of religion. Mashal’s murder displays the bloodcurdling fact that this trend has swiftly sprawled into a place of learning where minds are supposed to get enlightened and rational. This fact is all the more alarming and frightful. This incident is not new one. Eight people in the Gojra attack (2009), Salman Tasser (2010), and Shahzad and Shama (2014) are among the people who were murdered in the name of religion. All these incidents – including the recent incident of Mashal – have one thing in common: people took the law law in their own hands without waiting for a fair trial. The only difference this time is that it has happened in a place of learning – in an education institution. An even more disappointing and discouraging aspect is that none of our political leaders and government functionaries – except the CM of KP – has publicly condemned this cruel and barbarian act. Imran Khan who is usually criticised by his opponents for being a sympathiser of the Talibans and a political ally of a religious party is the only political leader who has publicly condemned the act. It can only be hoped that the country will get rid [Read More…]

Feb 172017
Real development

While Pakistan has shown some economic growth as evidenced through increases in the GDP and the stock exchange index, there has been no sustained economic development that indicators like health, education and poverty alleviation highlight. The incumbent government is proud of the economic survey reports of Bloomberg and PWC which have given a positive picture of the economic growth in Pakistan and have also predicted that the country will become the 16th biggest economy in the world by the year 2050. However, these forecasts are based on economic growth figures that only take the GDP increase and stock market performance into account and bypass other factors. Our human development index has slipped from 119th to 147th.There are around 85 million people in the country who are living in poverty out of which almost 70 million face food insecurity. The irony is that our policymakers do not realise the contrast between economic growth and sustained economic development. They are investing domestic resources and foreign loans on infrastructures like the Metro Line, the Orange Line and the Motorway without understanding that these must come after basic facilities are available to a large majority of the population. Moreover, a small percentage of the urban population benefits from these expensive projects and that too, at the expense of millions of schoolgoing children and poor patients who get no civic amenities. The present economic growth is in a bubble which is sustained on debt and can quickly evaporate without solid and sustained economic growth. Zaheer [Read More…]

Jan 142017
Gas shortage

Earlier in the year 2016, Pakistan signed a LNG supply agreement with Qatar. The Ministry of Petroleum then claimed that the problem of gas shortage will be solved soon. Almost a year has been passed since the deal, but nothing has changed. In Punjab, winters and gas shortage arrived simultaneously. The people are facing a lot of difficulties in carrying out their daily routine. Cooking daily meals has become a nuisance in households. In the cold weather, gas heaters cannot be turned on owing to gas shortage. Apart from making claims of putting an end to gas shortage, the government promised to deal with the country’s energy crisis as well. One wonders how it will be able to fulfil its promise when it is continuously failing to do something about gas shortage. It is unfortunate that these problems are still deeply rooted in the country. For dealing with gas shortage, a few CNG stations were closed down but that too couldn’t leave any positive impact. Zaheer Ahmed Islamabad Click for detailed story

Jan 032017
Happy residents

It is heartening to note that the PM has finally taken notice of lack of civic services and bad infrastructure in Islamabad. The CDA and the city’s mayor are responsible for providing basic services to residents. In this case, the city’s mayor, Sheikh Ansar Aziz, is also chairman of the CDA. It is hoped that since the responsibility lies on the shoulders of one person, the repair work will start without a delay. The incumbent mayor has ample experience in the field of construction of roads and other infrastructure. Residents welcomed appreciated the PM’s concerns. The city had been in such a bad state that only an order from the PM could have made the people at the helms of affair to take an immediate action. The MCI has been devoting all its attention to provide civic facilities in the areas which are frequently visited by VIPs. This is precisely why neglected sectors like G-7 and G-9 have been specifically mentioned in the PM’s directive. Although residents are happy with the much-needed observations of the PM, it is unfortunate that the condition of E-11 and D-12 sectors were not mentioned. The sectors suffer from the worst traffic situation. Slow pace of construction work on the Margalla road has resulted in gridlock. It is a dire need to speed up the work in the area. The government is also requested to order the CDA to take over the maintenance of the E11 sector which, because of negligence, is being turned into [Read More…]

Dec 262016
Senior citizens

Senior citizens are always given privileges throughout the world, but in Pakistan the law intended to give special concessions and privileges to senior citizens has been pending for quite some time. Individuals above the age of 60 are classified as senior citizens and in all civilised countries, including some of the developing countries, senior citizens are given special concessions and privileges to not only the resident senior citizens, but to visiting senior citizens from other countries as well. They get special rebates in travel, hotels, entertainment and even purchases from major super stores etc. But in our country, old pensioners and senior citizens are not given any rebates ,respect or privileges .Let alone rebates or concessions they are not even given the privilege of a separate queue so they do not have to wait for a long time in banks and other public places. That being said, it is beyond one’s comprehension why ministers and parliamentarians are so indifferent to the plight of ordinary senior citizens and pensioners. The government should follow the example set by other countries regarding senior citizens. Zaheer Ahmed Islamabad Click for detailed story

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