Let’s not be cynics - Hussain H Zaidi - Monday, January 31, 2011

Source : www.thenews.com.pk

Faced with public criticism, the prime minister has referred to parliament the matter of building new lodges in the capital for the parliamentarians. The project, which will cost the public exchequer a pretty penny to the tune of Rs3 billion, comprehends construction of scores of luxury family suits and hundreds of servant quarters, as well as gymnasiums, departmental stores and lounges – a sort of parliamentarians’ city. Let’s hope and pray our parliament sees reason and the project doesn’t turn out to be a dead duck.

Of all the people, parliamentarians deserve to have new and luxurious abodes for them, in keeping with the high and exalted place that they occupy in society and in acknowledgement of the glorious and meritorious services that they are rendering for the nation.

On top of that, the parliamentarians’ city will be all grist to the mill for the country. To begin with, it will make for stronger democracy. We know both houses of parliament meet regularly for several days on end and the members have to come from all over the country to attend the sessions. If the lawmakers are not provided with suitable lodging arrangements and access to auxiliary services, it will be difficult for them to apply their mind to public problems. In consequence, they may under-perform and not prove equal to the gigantic tasks they are entrusted with. If, God forbid, the parliamentarians fail, the public faith in the democratic process will be shattered and the prospects for democracy will remain fragile.

In the second place, as the lodges will be built for the lawmakers independent of their party affiliations, the completion of the parliamentarians’ city will shore up support for the government’s policy of reconciliation. In all fairness, the criticism of the project would have been justified if the lodges to be built were meant only for the ruling party members. But this is not the case, and no political party of note will be able to point a finger at the parliamentarians’ city on the ground that its members have been left out. Needless to mention, our survival and salvation consists in following the policy of reconciliation, in agreeing to let bygones be bygones and in casting off from our collective psyche the tales of massive loot and plunder by the high and mighty, lest the democratic process may be derailed.

Contrary to the widespread view, the building of parliamentarians’ lodges will inflate rather than deflate the economy. In the course of the completion of the project, thousands of workers will be hired and a large quantity of raw materials, finished goods and equipment purchased. This will generate employment opportunities and demand in construction-related industries, which in turn will drive up the level of investment in times of economic slump. Here is an excellent solution to the macroeconomic problems of the country.

But if the project is of such enormous advantage in terms political as well as economic, why is it giving rise to so much criticism? The reason is to be found in our deteriorating national psyche. By and by, we have degenerated into cynics and take a dim view of good works and ideas, on this point or that. We have also become highly thankless and conveniently fail to acknowledge, let alone repay, the debt that we owe our benefactors, especially when it comes to the political leadership. These remarkable people work day in, day out for our betterment, and we have the temerity to oppose construction of scores of lodges for them, which will ultimately be to our own benefit. We, the incorrigible lot!

We are also wont to making wrong comparisons. A case in point is the argument that in a country where a large section of the population is homeless and shelterless, building luxurious apartments for a handful of the elite is like rubbing salt into the wound of the ordinary people. Is there a single provision in any law of the land which prohibits building lodges for the parliamentarians for the reason that millions of people who they represent are homeless? Besides, the comparison between the commoners and the elite, the poor and the wealthy will take us nowhere.

In the society we live, everyday a large number of people starve; should the parliamentarians also remain hungry? The poor folk are forced to sell their children to barely survive, should the rich politicians also do the same? A vast majority of people lack access to health, education and safe drinking water, should our law makers also stop sending their scions to high-ranking schools and colleges and start drinking impure water? In a word, the fact that poverty and misery are endemic in the country constitutes no reason that the affluent and fortunate few shouldn’t enjoy themselves.

No, it doesn’t make sense to compare the commoners with the elite.

The writer is a freelance contributor based in Islamabad. Email: hussainhzaidi@gmail. com

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