Thursday, December 20, 2007

Should we mourn Shaukat Aziz?

It has become fashionable to discredit the Ex-PM Shaukat Aziz and his policies. Towards the end of his tenure he was accused of being the central player in all the scandals that hit the Federal and Provincial governments. These accusations included, inter alia:

(1) the privatisation of the steel mill;
(2) the stock market crashes;
(3) the flour prices;
(4) the judicial crisis;
(5) the sugar scandal;
(6) the cement prices rise; and
(7) the backing of the highly profitable banking cartels.

Now those who understand economics know that all the above economic issues are linked with world economy, rise in energy cost, the fast pace of development, the increase in money supply and the principle of the demand and supply. And, for those who understand politics, it is clear that the Shaukat Aziz was made a scapegoat in the judicial crises. He did not benefit an iota from the judicial crises.

It seems there was a character assassination campaign against him. Perhaps it was his own party leaders which wanted him to be discredited and thus replacing him with one of their kin.

Thus, no one, is speaking of his merits. The recovery of economy and the increase in the pace of development, the emergence of a strong banking sector, independence of regulatory authorities, the rise in the investment in stocks and the real sector, low interest rates (in the early part of his tenure as finance minister), the privatisation of poor performing government owned industrial and service sector units and the rest are not mentioned to the credit of our banker-Prime Minister. And if any credit is due, it is either taken by the President Musharraf or the consequences of the 9/11.

At the time of his swearing in as the Prime Minister, I welcomed it and termed it as a best thing that could have happened to Pakistan in the given circumstances. Shaukat Aziz was educated, civilised, rational, without any misplaced ego clothed as political agenda, without any notion of vendetta, without any taste for the politics of thana and kutchery, without a flair for demagogy, credible, honest, upright, and above all competent.

He presided over Pakistan's best economic period. He presided over the most politically stable period in recent history. He took the insults and the blames, where they were not due. He kept his cool amidst all the crises and conspiracies. He gave the people the economic power. With the improvements in banking and availability of the credit to all the ex-PM brought about a small revolution for the would be entrepreneurs. His legacy is credibility, a robust economy and rationality in politics.

Given the current contenders for the slot of Prime Minister, I mourn for the departure of Shaukat Aziz. With him goes rationality, civilised manners, enlightened economic management, out of the window.

The PML(Q) has a made a colossal mistake in giving short shrift to the their previous Prime Minister. If anyone was believable amongst them, it was Shaukat Aziz. He was someone that could be trusted by the voters. It was his right to lead the PML(Q) in the 2008 elections on the basis of his management and performance.

All the good done in the last eight years was represented by the person of Shaukat Aziz. His departure and absence from the political scene should be mourned by all of us. He was without doubt the most successful Prime Minister of Pakistan.

It is unfortunate that the ruthless politics and his gentlemanly behaviour have taken its toll and I am sure the Pakistanis will suffer by his absence.

I have one message for Shaukat Aziz: do not leave the field of politics, there is a place for civility, rationality, integrity, honesty and above all credibility!

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