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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Transparency with Public Money

Scrutiny and Transparency in dealing with public money should be high on the list of this incoming Legislature. If I were a betting person, I would not bet on it.

The US is governed by ten or twelve Secretaries (ministers). In the Shoukat Aziz government there were no less than 47 Ministers at one time.

Today's column by Khalid Hasan is a timely reminder of what happens when things go wrong.

POSTCARD USA: Pakistan’s Flying Dutchmen — Khalid Hasan

Zia-ul Haq showed the world to thousands of the country’s religious zealots in the eleven years that he ruled Pakistan, disproving the old adage that travel broadens the mind. His favourite fundos remained as immune to enlightenment as they always had been

Shaukat Aziz is now resting his feet in London, having set an all-time travel record that no future prime minister of Pakistan can hope to beat. He was out once a month, often to countries which had little to do with or for Pakistan. There really is very little need for our leaders to travel abroad unless it is business so urgent that it cannot be taken care of otherwise.

The president remained a distinct second to his hand-picked (or was it Paul Wolfowitz?) prime minister, travelling to country after country. How he missed Australia remains unexplained. Perhaps all will be revealed when he writes his second memoir that might be called Not in the Line of Fire or Hire. In the first couple of years of his rule, the president would travel by commercial flight. His party would include no more than a few members of his personal staff and a handful of officials.

He also initiated the commendable, though short-lived, practice of having media organisations pay for such of their representatives as they wished to travel with the president. I remember talking about it to his then — and now — press secretary Rashid Qureshi in New York and complimenting him on finally having discontinued a practice that was unfair to the taxpayer. Alas, no good thing lasts long, as no good deed goes unpunished, and it was no different this time around either.


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