In an actual democracy it may not have come to corruption, rigging or incompetence. A government may well be sent packing for sheer misuse of public funds. During question hour in the National Assembly last week, Federal Information minister told the house that his government had spent more than 500 million rupees on advertisements in the Electronic Media since June 2013.
This is not a new practice. The PPP government did it, PMLQ did it before them and PPP and PMLn took turns at it in the 1990s.
Why does a government need to advertise? It is not like they are in the selling business and need to introduce and market a product. If it is an awareness campaign against polio, dengue or terrorism then it is ok. It is fine when the ads are aimed at discouraging social vices. But a meager amount, if that, is spent on such justifiable causes.
Around thirty to a hundred million – based on different speculations – have been spent on ‘paid content’ aired on TV channels aimed at discrediting PTI, Imran Khan in particular. Similar amounts have been spent on ads praising leaders of the ruling party. I should be ok with it because that is what political parties do. They advertise their leaders and discredit opponents. But a political party ought to use only its own party funds for promoting it’s agenda.
When the government spends, from state revenue – money that is ours – on furthering the agenda of a particular political party, it is immoral, unethical, unjust and corrupt.
PTI advertises too, so do PMLQ, MQM, PPP and other political parties. It is acceptable as long as those ads are paid for from party funds generated by donations and contributions from the party’s supporters. Because that is what the contributors are contributing for; strengthening the party and furthering its agenda. But a state’s revenues are collected by the government from the people for the betterment of the state, not one particular party. I do not want a single penny – from the taxes that I pay – to be spent on discrediting Imran or the Sharifs for that matter, nor do I want it to be spent on singing praises for any tom, dick and harry. I want my money to be spent on Pakistan.
It is the government’s responsibility and duty to ensure optimum utility of state resources. 500 million could have been used in providing relief to flood victims or the people of Thar. It could have been used to provide better facilities at government hospitals and schools. A government hospital in Sargodha has seen more than 16 infants die within a couple of weeks. As per my information, less than five million spent on medical facilities could have averted this tragedy.
It is not your money, it is our money and you are entrusted with spending it on us. By making Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif look like heroes and saints or painting Imran a demon, you are not spending it on us. You are instead taunting us by burning our money away in front of our eyes.