The national stupor - Ardeshir Cowasjee - November 21, 2010

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HOW fares the state of the nation`s health? Well, we know that for at least some 80 per cent of the 180 million it fares woefully, with deprivation stalking the land unabated, with no intent manifested by our range of `dear leaders` to alleviate any of the misery, and with budgeted figures firmly entrenched against any governmental move to shore up the national moribund health scenario.

Of the 20 million flood affectees, we have learnt that some six million remain homeless and are likely to be so for the foreseeable future. The government stupor will not stir itself. Once more it is up to the NGOs and reluctant foreign donors from whom aid trickles rather than pours in to do something. As far as the PPP-Z and its hands-off attitude is concerned it is up to the people to fend for themselves.

As for the brittle layer of the upper crust, that happy band of few, who ignored the fact that over one million ruminants were lost to the floods and that they inhabit a country which observes two meatless days a week, we must hope that they heeded the numerous pre-Eid warnings aired by the media and refrained from eating themselves into a stupor over the prolonged holidays which have seen this bankrupt country shut itself down for five anti-productive days. awam

The `dear leaders`, president and prime minister, we were told piously prayed for their own welfare, and of course for that of the nation, safely ensconced within the secure precincts of the presidential palace, distancing themselves from the dangerous — the mendicants in suicide-belts.

There is one thing that must be said in Asif Zardari`s favour — he takes on no one other than those who displease him within his own privately owned party. He remains (at least to the public eye) calm, cool and collected no matter what is said or written about him and sports his Cheshire Cat grin (that seems to have a life of its own) whether he be in sunny Islamabad, in China, in the land of his protectors and mentors, or wherever.

He also sports an air of confidence, assured that he will last his prescribed term and even beyond, as he knows, as do we, that our controllers in Washington have no alternative. This indeed is a sorry commentary on the nation and its human assets, but it is the bitter truth. The de facto leader of the opposition opposes little.

The Mian of Raiwind is lost to a political future. He meanders along meaninglessly with no obvious aim in sight. Has he realised that he can never be an acceptable alternative to the world at large which nervously remembers his 1997-1999 stint in power and his various moves towards installing himself as a latter-day caliph?

So, that leaves astute Zardari to bask away in the glory of the American sun until a miracle occurs and somewhere along the way there emerges some form of viable alternative leadership. But let us not hold our breath.

Ambassador-in-chief Richard Holbrooke has shot down the hopes of those who have been egging on (in vain) Gen Ashfaq Kayani to make a move and come to the rescue of a beleaguered nation, and has humiliated the US one-time best friend and staunchest ally Pervez Musharraf by scoffing at any possibility of his return to politics. He is right.

For years having maintained that Musharraf was the `best of the worst` I can only hold to that whilst admitting that the `best` was wildly off the mark.

He had three opportunities thrust at him which would have allowed him to turn around the country, do away with its archaic anti-human rights laws and its multiple atavistic `thou shalt nots` and bring it in line with the 21st century concept of a democratic forward-looking nation.

He failed, like all before him — and those that have followed — to stand up to the enemies of progress who so disproportionately sway the scene. Musharraf will be remembered more for what he did not do than for his several stupidities that brought him crashing down.

At least one thing is clear — the Zardari set-up will not be taking us forwards, backwards or even sideways. So we really have no option but to lie back and enjoy it all (as said Confucius).

We are stuck in a morass of corruption and sloth, ineptitude and sub-mediocrity, we are stuck with this government`s mania to make and mint what it can in the time it has, and with its utter contempt for the plight of the poor and the state of the national economy — Hafeez Sheikh or no Hafiz Sheikh, the IMF or no IMF, riches and prosperity do not lie around the corner.

The two matter not a whit as Zardari & Co will brook no hindrance to their `live for today and to hell with the future` policies.

Zardari may be frittering away the future of his son, chairman and heir apparent Bilawal. A friendly e-mailer has mooted that by clinging on for too long his party could be shot out, come the ballot boxes, and then shut out for a fairly long period of time. The nation may actually awaken from its stupor, or a new leadership may miraculously arise.

A safer route for the young princeling would be for this government not to complete its term and carefully manoeuvre some sort of dismissal so that it again emerges as a victim, can don its martyrdom cloak, and garner another round of sympathy votes.

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