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Being a parliamentarian

Opt for the most lucrative career path and no questions will be asked. This is what comes out of the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) recently-published statement of assets

Being a parliamentarian

Ask a child what he wants to become when he grows up, and the answer is probably going to be a doctor or an engineer or a lawyer. Some may want to become professional sportsmen, others, writers. But hands down, the best paying career in Pakistan is politics.

It will give you fame and fortune. Influence and power. And although you may need to spend a little time behind bars, even that will have an upward effect on the overall price of your worth.

If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) recently-published statement of assets and liabilities of parliamentarians and their spouses and dependents.

At the very least, most parliamentarians are millionaires, if not better. And they represent a collection of people whose average yearly income is $1,513, which means an average monthly income of between Rs12,000-13,000 a month. The disparity is disgusting.

While the ECP has ‘published’ this data, it’s not available on their website. The process, I’m told, is that you apply for the data, make a certain payment, and then a hard copy of the publication is provided. This effectively rules out most of the public who would rather have this information made available to them, free of cost.

As always, we are left at the mercy of the mainstream media to inform us of how rich our elected representatives are.

According to news reports, the Prime Minister of Pakistan is a billionaire, with assets worth over Rs1.62 billion. What’s interesting, however, is that the PM’s son, Hussain, sent his father, more than Rs234.5 million from abroad. Why? Nobody knows. But it’s all in the family, as they say.

I’m sorry to break it to you, but you have no chance in the most lucrative career in Pakistan. Instead, become a lawyer or a doctor or an engineer. Slave your life away for a pittance, while those that can, pillage this country for all its worth.

Another interesting revelation is that the good PM, owns birds and pets, worth Rs5 million. Fifty lacs in pets!

The same report details how the chief of the PTI, does not own a car, but has four goats in his ownership, which are worth Rs200,000. What good are these goats, nobody knows, and the ECP does not have the powers necessary to question anything which has been declared by the parliamentarians. This would be the job of institutions such as the FBR, NAB etc. But are these institutions brave enough to investigate on their own?

Jesus’ quote, “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone”, comes to mind. And we all know how impartial these institutions are.

What happens then is that politicians take great mileage of the fact that they have declared all they own. They tout it in rallies, safe in the knowledge that whatever they’ve said is not going to be verified.

Yet, we the public, lap it up like moonshine. “Khan Sahib doesn’t even have a car!” my PTI friends tell me. “Look at your prime minister, with his exotic birds and large cats”. Fair point.

But how does the captain move around? Who owns that bloody helicopter? Who pays for its petrol? And its upkeep? When any party holds massive rallies, who foots the bill?

Gifts. Who doesn’t like the occasional present from a loved one. I sometimes get ties. If they really like me, then maybe a sweater. Politicians and their accountants, have, over decades, figured out ways to fool the public, through remittances and gifts, Pakistanis continue to be taken for a ride.

This data could have been immensely useful if it had been made available to the public for free. Concerned citizens, or those with a lot of free time on their hands, could have taken a magnifying glass and gone through the nitty gritty of the report and come up with questions. Some would take to social media, tagging the politicians in question or their PR departments. (This is increasingly becoming an unlikely avenue for criticism with the recent crackdown on social media). But we could have tried. Or maybe, someone who file a case in the courts. But this is not the case. This bucketful of lies is untouchable.

Politics may well be the best career option for Pakistanis. But the barriers to entry are immense. Here’s what you need to get a foot in the door. Be born into a family with a rich political background. Look at the Bhuttos. The Khars. The Kasuris. Or be feudal landowners with an estate as far as the eyes see. Then force all those that live and die on those lands to vote for you. The last option is that you’re an immensely successful businessman. Money leads to influence, which, with the right ingredients can be converted into votes — after all, each man has his price.

So if you’re a young kid reading this, and none of the above applies to you, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you have no chance in the most lucrative career in Pakistan. Instead, become a lawyer or a doctor or an engineer. Slave your life away for a pittance, while those that can, pillage this country for all its worth.

Aasim Zafar Khan

Aasim Khan
The author is a Lahore based journalist. He may be contacted at [email protected],

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