Budgeting for Ramazan

Budgeting for Ramazan


Everyone thinks we had the budget because Finance Minister Ishaq Dar wanted to get his fingers on the proceeds of the new taxation measures, but actually it was because of Ramazan. There was a remote possibility that Ramazan could have started on Saturday, so the Budget was presented on Friday. And thus Dar was saved from the grievous sin of lying during Ramazan.

Even if he told the truth during his Budget Speech, thus becoming the first ever Finance Minister worldwide to have done so, he avoided presenting a Budget involving interest during Ramazan. I don’t know how much difference was made to what is a very grievous sin by avoiding it during Ramazan, but avoid it he did. He presented a Budget involving Rs 1.363 trillion in interest payments.

One of the crucial things about the Budget is that it is the last full Budget before the next general election (in the sense that the coming financial year, 2017-2018, must contain the next general election, and only if the Assembly goes to full term, will the election occur in end-September/beginning-October). If that is kept in mind, there has been no distribution of largesse to the population at large. In that sense, it can’t really be called an election budget.

It coincided with the inauguration of the Naval Air Station at Turbat. So now the Navy will provide visitors to Gwadar (all Chinese, I suppose) surveillance security. Another important development, though not directly linked to the budget, was the inauguration the day before the Budget of the first phase, of 660 MW, of the Sahiwal Coal Power Plant. That was a Chinese-built project.

I wonder what impression the Chinese got of Sahiwal? It is a place of poetry after all, as it gave birth not just to Munir Niazi, but also Majeed Amjad. But then, I’m not sure that is the sort of poetry that the Chinese are interested in. They’re probably more into the sort of stuff produced by Obasi Shaw, who submitted his 10-track album of rap to Harvard University instead of a thesis. And got away with it. Apart from the fact that he should have been called Snoop Shaw or O Diddy, or something else gangsta, maybe this is the Bob Dylan effect. I mean, if he can get the Nobel Prize for Literature (and if the Supreme Court can quote Mario Puzo), why can’t a rap album count as a research thesis?

A different subject perhaps, but still demanding research, is why a PIA plane bound for London was found to have 50 kg of heroin on board. PM’s daughter Maryam Nawaz travelled on the plane, it’s true, and why the PIA has not demanded even an itsy-bitsy enquiry, I can’t guess, but it was made incredibly stupid by the fact that there was still an investigation ongoing into the heroin caught in London recently. PIA flights and heroin seem to go together, for a flight to Jeddah early last month was found to have 15 kg aboard. Looks like somebody is in a hurry to make deliveries. Of course, it’s perfectly untrue that the airlines’ new slogan is, “Great People To Get High With.” PIA is a national airline, so maybe it should be promoting a product Pakistan is as famous for as Colombia is for cocaine. One hopes it does not choose to promote another cause for Pakistani fame. Militancy. Planes are expensive after all, and we can’t afford to have them blown up.

Well, militants weren’t using PIA planes, but they were active at one of its destinations, Manchester, where one of them blew himself up in the Arena at an Ariana Grande concert, killing 22 and injuring 50. It was a British citizen of Libyan origin. I realise he didn’t like kiddie pop, but surely there were less extreme methods of music criticism available to him.

Militants couldn’t be behind the death of Roger Moore. It was cancer, and he was 89, but militants might have liked taking out the second man to play James Bond, which he did in seven films between 1972 and 1985. His predecessor, Sean Connery, is still alive, but is younger at 83, doing seven films between 1962 and 1973. Nor behind that of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party MNA Abdur Rahim Mandokhail, who might have been neither shaken nor stirred, but was a man of goodwill and good sense.

He didn’t live to see this Ramazan begin, which it did tamely, what with Ruet-iHilal chief Mufti Muneeb sighting the moon, even though even if they hadn’t seen it Ramazan would have still had to start on Sunday. Or was there supposed to be a Shabaan 31?