According to world-renowned intellectual Noam Chomsky, who I had the honour of interviewing, the biggest problem of the Anthropocene epoch is environmental pollution; particularly in South Asia. Recently, Imran Khan announced an initiative to plant ten billion trees. The government is taking a step in the right direction with its tree planting initiative. But, it is only a bandage covering up a much deeper wound. Without regulation, nothing will stop these trees from being chopped down in the future. Just as with many other policies, the new government needs to look at the root causes of our problems instead of simply trying to correct the effects. If you go to any city, large or small, their respective building authorities have devised a map which shows where commercial buildings and residential colonies can be built and which areas will remain residential. However, this form of planning has sadly been limited to urban areas only. Due to the lack of legislation and the subsequent lack of planning, rural areas and semi-rural areas are rapidly becoming part of urban areas and are seeing their lush green fields and gardens transformed into colonies. The latest example of this can be seen in a huge residential scheme in Multan, where Multan’s mango trees are being ruthlessly destroyed. If you visit this area late at night, you will see lines of trucks loaded with mango trees that have been chopped down. The Multani mango, which is world famous for its taste, provides Pakistan a substantial amount of foreign exchange annually. Multan is already facing hot weather which will only get hotter if this forest destruction continues. An increase in environmental pollution, as well as smoglevels, can be expected as well. If the present government wants to strengthen the local bodies, then they should transfer financial, political, and administrative power to the municipal representatives It is imperative for the government to immediately stop the construction of colonies in these lush green areas, especially those with mango trees. The government should identify specific areas where colonies can and cannot be built. There are, without a doubt, many areas without gardens or where the land is not suitable for agriculture. Residential colonies should be constructed in those areas. But, the reality is that in Pakistan today, some special real estate developers are more powerful than the state and will pose a formidable challenge for the mighty Khan. This paradox in government policy between publicising the tree planting campaign while condoning mass deforestation must be addressed. During his first address to the nation, Mr Khan talked about conflicts of interest saying that when a person joins the government they should not do business. This is certainly quite appropriate with a huge amount of logic behind it. But, Mr. Khan needs to look at another conflict of interest that exists, namely when government organisations are involved in private sector business. When this happens, government employees, who are paid using taxes collected from private businesses, compete with those same businesses. This is like biting the hand that feeds you. No private business can compete with the government. This practice creates resentment between governmental departments and civilians. This is the reason why a number of businesses have been ruined while the governmental organisations have been flourishing by leaps and bounds. Government institutions are increasingly jumping into new private sector businesses and the list is ever-growing. For example, the police department, following in the footsteps of defence forces; have opened petrol pumps. This type of governmental monopoly creates an unfair economic situation which causes losses to Pakistan’s economy. For this reason, small and medium tradesmen are divesting and moving abroad. The new government has also declared that stolen money that has been transmitted to foreign countries will be brought back. Of course, they should try to bring back the stolen money. But, what measures have been taken to stop the thousands of people who are going to Canada, the United Kingdom, and other countries with their wealth and broken hearts? As long as Mr. Khan does not eradicate these misguided practices, it is useless to talk about conflicts of interest. Along similar lines, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government is using the slogan of strengthening local government. But, what is wrong with the existing system? Are members of the local bodies not elected? If the present government wants to strengthen the local bodies, then they should transfer financial, political, and administrative power to the municipal representatives in accordance with Article 240A of the Constitution of Pakistan. The problem is that a majority of elected representatives in local bodies at present are associated with previous governing parties. This is probably the reason why the present government is trying to reset the municipal system. Is this not political revenge and political victimisation? Is the whole process not a waste of time and money? A similar contradiction can be seen in the present government’s foreign policy. For a long time, Pakistan’s government has held the position that the war they are fighting against terrorism is Pakistan’s own and not the war of any foreign power. Our current Foreign Ministry now says that the Coalition Support Fund we receive is for the sacrifice and service that Pakistan has provided during the War on Terror and that it is Pakistan’s right. In this case, if the War on Terror is our own war, is it not an open contradiction to demand money from the US for this? After all, how can a country demand war expenses from another country for their own war? The government needs to come forward with a more logical narrative based on truth. The Pakistani nation has the right to know the reality of the situation. The contradictions present in these governmental policies need to be fixed for any real progress to be made. Otherwise, the government’s manifestos and plans will turn out to be just another meaningless example of political rhetoric and fads. The writer hosts a current affairs talk show on PTV News. Follow him on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/syedzishanhyder Published in Daily Times, September 24th 2018.