Relatively speaking By Asha’ar Rehman - Tuesday, March 22, 2011

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THERE is some merit in the old rule that disallows spouses and close relatives from working in the same place and in the same organisation. If anything, the rule should be extended to discourage them from taking up the same profession.
This is not in the series of swipes at the Gujrat Chaudhries whose politics at the moment appears to be defined by the corruption case young Moonis Elahi finds himself at the centre of right now. All those who have, time and again, been frustrated by the dynastic nature of political parties in Pakistan should be demanding that the law is strictly adhered to by all practitioners of the art of the possible.
Before we come to Lahore for yet another example of how disregard for the `one-family-member` rule can lead to chaos, it would be good to remember that the rule has the sanction of someone Pakistanis with few exceptions today respect as a martyr.
Here is the plan, a perfect one, even if it is an old one: highlighting the ills bred by the intra-family breeding of politicians — without dismissing the politicians per se for it may be injurious to democracy; without discrimination against any one party and with the approval of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto for it is fashionable for all politicians to live up to her ideals. Here we go then….
Household considerations may have made Ms Bhutto forget the golden principle for a longish period but she did ultimately discover the truth in restricting her husband from taking part in politics. jiyala
In the years immediately preceding her assassination, Mr Asif Zardari was made to stay at a distance from where she practised her politics. Three years and a few months after Mr Zardari took charge of the PPP, it is not uncommon for one to come across a pukka PPP citing BB`s decision to limit Mr Zardari as evidence of her insight and vision.
But then the one-family-member rule doesn`t apply to the self-employed and the self-serving. These two titles are popular when the politicians appear to the people as useless souls who, when they are not pandering to the dictates of the real powers, are dependent on handpicked minions and the bureaucracy to carry out affairs on their behalf.
The people of Punjab were last week worried by the news about the ailment of Mian Nawaz Sharif, their biggest leader in recent times, in extraordinary circumstances when they needed him to be around.
These concerns were, however, compounded when Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had no option but to rush to London to be by his elder brother`s side. There is no doubt that his assistants did an admirable job of whatever small roles the politicians were assigned with regard to the Raymond Davis release in his absence. But given CM Sahib`s habit of personally overseeing everything, a number of other somewhat important matters that needed authoritative handling remained unresolved due to his unavailability in Lahore.
There was a doctors` strike going on in government hospitals in Punjab. A solution or even a mere cooling down of young doctors` tempers simply looked beyond the troubleshooting team that the chief minister had left behind. The doctors, whose previous protests for better job packages were contained with promises by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, looked determined to go the full distance this time.
Consequently, it turned out to be one of the longest-ever actions of its kind in the history of the province. The patients were hurt and as the media waited in anticipation of the first victim of the strike, the patients wanted someone as resourceful as Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif by their side.
There was another group in the province for a change quite vocally contesting their employment status. Not on the basis of their worth and purely in the context of work hierarchy, the Provincial Civil Services or the PCS officers who refused to be treated as paramedics quite often are in comparison to the more privileged doctors. The PCS officers have long been irked by the rulers` preference for the federal DMG — District Management Group — officers.
The sentiment boiled over after the government held a promotion board for the DMG officers, ignoring the right of the PCS officers to have a similar board. In the wake of insistent PCS officers, they were also eventually granted a promotion board of their own but their grievances are actually far too deep-rooted to be addressed by one simple concession.
The PCS officers demand good postings and promotions and feel deprived by the `blue-eyed` DMG boys. They say the `biased` DMG officers control their fate since it is these federally routed appointees who sit at the senior positions responsible for postings and transfers. In recent times, these feelings have grown as out-of-turn postings have become somewhat of a norm with the Punjab government.
The Punjab government`s reaction to the protest calls by the PCS officers has been quite harsh and has become harsher with time. By yesterday, the government had ordered its employees to turn up at the offices at 7am to thwart a strike call by PCS officers. Some 100 protesters were earlier detained for some time and many of the more active protesters transferred to remote areas in an apparent attempt to punish them and to weaken their campaign.
As per routine, the so-called dispute between the DMG and PCS officers is considered by many to be too big an issue to be settled without Mr Shahbaz Sharif`s intervention. This has been consistent with all problems Punjab or Lahore has been faced with from crime and law and order to fighting the encroachers.
Lahore is right now in the middle of a clean-up operation the magnitude of which one more time indicates that the city alone needs a score of people and more with Mr Shahbaz Sharif`s authority to run it with some kind of order. Ultimately, they will have to be found from among the people at large.
The writer is resident editor in Lahore.

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