Much belated chest-beating - Kamran Shafi - January 25, 2011

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I AM astonished at the hand-wringing going on at present with various commentators whingeing and wailing at the pass that our poor country is at.

Rather late in the day, what, to now beat their breasts and moan when it was quite clear years ago that we were travelling at the speed of light to the dark and stifling place we find ourselves in today.

Did it have to take the brutal murder of the governor of the most powerful province of the country in, of all places, the capital of the Land of the Pure by, of all people, one of his own guards?

Did none of them realise that the unholy nexus between the Deep State and the hard-line religious extremists (aka `assets`) would one day lead to just such a situation? In which no one had any control over anything at all, in most cases deliberately. In which the writ of the `assets` would far outweigh even the imperatives of the state itself. And in which an atmosphere of extreme fear would be engendered so that the manipulators who live in the shadows would be free to go on with their machinations unfettered.

Why is everyone so surprised that we are where we are today? That even those of us brought up in Muslim homes as Muslims should now be made to feel that we were not Muslims in the real sense; that the faith we were taught as children to be a kind, merciful and forgiving one was actually nothing of the kind? Why the surprise when the writing has been on every wall in this blessed country ever since the days of Zia?

The most frightening aspect of this whole matter is that there is no realisation even now among those that consider these dark forces their `assets` that an unruly and self-righteous horde can hardly be an asset at all. That this horde can only morph into a force that will sweep all before it, as has happened in Swat already. That this Frankenstein`s monster will increasingly turn on its creator, as has happened already in the several brutal attacks on our army installations and vehicles, even on mosques, God help us.

But enough of whining. The point really is that you and I have no control over what the Deep State does or does not do. We can just roll with the punches and try and fight back as best we can and live by the values we were brought up with. Oh, and yes, give friends you have not met or spoken to in a while a call. And go and see them and talk about the old days, recalling events of fond memory.

Reminisce pleasurably about what this country was before it was set upon by the ideological thekedars and moulded and twisted to suit the ethos of our various Bonapartes. And do it before it is too late, a realisation brought to the fore by the recent demise of a dear and affectionate senior friend and relative, and one of the very best civil servants I have known, Javid Akram. RIP, adda .

What, pray, is this about building an addition to that extremely ugly scar on Islamabad`s already mostly ugly architectural landscape, the parliamentary lodges? Why add to the city`s hideousness? And at such enormous cost? Just as the government had the good sense to shelve plans for building a monument to the much-lamented Benazir Bhutto, so should it have the good sense to abandon this wasteful project before another paisa is spent on it.

Many MNA and senators` hostels, I am told, are inhabited by relatives, constituents, secretaries and servants, with the parliamentarians concerned living in their own homes in Islamabad. This should be encouraged by giving them a housing allowance which will prove cheaper in the long run considering the enormous administrative costs that accrue in looking after the hostels. The hostels thus freed can be allotted to the `needy`.

I have had occasion to visit the hostels, mercifully only twice in the last 10 years, and have found them filthy beyond belief: roofs leaking; public areas smelling like sewers; bathrooms broken and dysfunctional. There was an MNA on television the other day describing the present cafeteria as filled with water after the recent rains which weren`t quite a deluge. No sirs, no. Please stop this complete waste of scant resources.

Well, God be praised, there I go too, lighting upon the `bloody civilians`! Whilst I had known for some time now that a fleet of top-of-the-line BMW 7-series motor cars had been imported during the closing days of the Commando`s rule for senior army officers, I actually saw a motorcade of the corps commander during a recent visit to Karachi in which the car carrying the officer was a BMW 7-series.

As an aside, a bad choice for our roads, for it had to slow down to a crawl to go over the bumps in the broken road. In these days of rampant terrorism this is a huge security hazard if you ask me.

So could one ask the army too to cut down on wasteful expenditures, only one of which is these fancy cars. The expenses on the building of military messes and VVIP guest houses, and those expended on their running are also in the public domain just as the expenses related to elected people are. If for nothing else, at least so that we the people could compare and see just who is the bigger spender.

In the end, might one ask whatever happened to the army`s inquiry into the loss of Rs2.5bn of the NLC`s money on the stock exchange? And to the alleged firing squad inquiry, both ordered by the COAS himself months ago?

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