VIEW: Lost and not found —Andleeb Abbas - Sunday, February 13, 2011

Source :\02\13\story_13-2-2011_pg3_3

The World Bank report on poverty in Pakistan has not been allowed to be published. The report highlighted the decrease in poverty from 39 percent to 22.5 percent from the year 2006 to 2008 while in 2008 to 2010 it has spiralled once again

Having run out of material overwhich to lie, brag and deceive, the government is facing idea bankruptcy. Excuses, allegations and accusations need a complete makeover. The latest fad of trimming down the government by dissolving the cabinet is being met with smirks all around as most people know that the same old faces are going to crop up with more power to destruct. With a government so lost in securing its position, so unsure of its own actions, so dithering of its stand on the blasphemy laws and Raymond Davis’s prosecution, they really have lost all sense and direction of right or wrong, unjust or just, fair and foul, and thus it is but natural that the countdown for change is gathering force.

A frenzied rush of trying to hush up the unpleasant and highlight the non-existent has made a pathetic picture of the descent into desperation. The best example of this confusion is the agenda battle going on between the PPP and the PML-N. While the PML-N has given a 10-point agenda to the government, the PPP has presented a 19-point agenda to the Punjab chief minister. The points war is a futile attempt by two parties who know each other well enough to realise that this is just a countervailing series of taking the limelight off their own failings.

The dissolving of the cabinet is being heralded as a victory of the PML-N in trying to bring the government in line with the 18th Amendment. The prime minister, in his speech, congratulated the cabinet for a fantastic performance and said that they had been highly successful. This is a contradiction to the move itself. If they were such super performers, why is the whole country clamouring for their removal and why is the prime minister doing so? Such is the state of denial in the high offices of parliament.

The Raymond Davis case has been typically mishandled by the government. Raymond’s killing of two young men was initially condemned vehemently by both parties with full promise of justice to be provided in court. Very soon, due to American pressure, the government stance became defensive with Raymond Davis’ credentials flitting between being a diplomat and a CIA man acting in self-defence to a man with a license to kill. As the US turns on the pressure on the government to hand Raymond over, the government looks extremely vulnerable and seems to be under attack by the US or the public in either case. With no stance on anything, the president has called for a roundtable conference to further add din to the noise.

On the economic front, the fact that inflation has been relentless and has actually made living a very expensive business is common knowledge. Yet the government feels that hiding these facts will save them from the wrath of the public. The World Bank report on poverty in Pakistan has not been allowed to be published. The report highlighted the decrease in poverty from 39 percent to 22.5 percent from the year 2006 to 2008 while in 2008 to 2010 it has spiralled once again. The finance ministry and planning commission have gone to great pains to suppress the report with the typical response of the statistics not being correctly tabulated. It is surprising that the heads of these two ministries, who are people with experience and have worked in donor agencies, would try to stop a report being revealed. The funny thing is that you do not need the World Bank to tell you that poverty has exceeded all precedents. With suicides based on the inability to handle responsibilities being a common occurrence, nobody needs a statistical analysis to prove that the lower middle class has fallen deeper into the abyss of poverty.

If all this political chaos were not enough, the government announced that corruption in state organisations will be curbed and they will be converted into efficient and effective institutions. However, one organisation trying to become so, the KESC, was forced to reinstate its redundant staff without bothering to realise that it would become an example for so many other overmanned organisations. PIA, which is burdened with losses and debt, has followed this cue and hordes of its superfluous workers have made a ridiculous scene out of PIA selling off a few routes to Turkish Airlines. They have caused infinite damage to the airline in terms of delays and cancellations and the government again in its putty style will give in to these absurd demands of the people who have nothing better to do than harass thousands trying to reach their destinations undisturbed. Even if they are able to assuage PIA miscreants, staff from the Pakistan Railways or WAPDA, etc, will be tying their bootlaces to jump onto this blackmail carnival.

On a different yet similar note, the ICC announced the verdict of the three Pakistani cricketers with bans ranging from five to ten years. The PCB has played a typically government style see-saw stand on dealing with this issue. From being aghast and reactive and going into all sorts of denials, they have conceded almost sheepishly to the fact that they are at a loss to either commiserate or celebrate this event. This is a huge shadow over not only cricket in Pakistan but also the country’s already shattered credibility. The president of the country who is also the patron-in-chief of cricket has not even uttered a single statement about this event. The fact that the cricketers have admitted to this crime is reason enough for the president to hold them responsible for bringing the name of the country to such disgrace. Salman Butt, who led the shameful conduct, should be taken to task and penalised for this grave breach of national and personal integrity. An example of this sort will send a message to the world that we are people with self-respect. However, the media, the PCB and the players themselves are debating whether the punishment can be reduced or not. This is understandable in a country where deception, corruption and integrity deviations are the order of the day from top to bottom.

As the government becomes more apologetic to the US, to the opposition, to institutions and to the public, it is asking for its own fall from power. Remember, the strength of an individual or institution does not come from its position but from the depth and soundness of its character. With nothing to fall for but a designation and nothing to stand for but your own position, the most minor of crises can shatter the hollow shell of your constitution — a lesson most morally bankrupt leaders will never have the courage to learn.

The writer is a consultant and can be reached at

No comments:

Post a Comment