VIEW: Good job CM! —Naeem Tahir - Saturday, April 09, 2011

Let the people in power understand clearly that creativity and aesthetics are sacred qualities and there should be no embarrassment for anyone in supporting these 

Credit must be given where it is due. Criticism and appreciation, if given honestly, only contribute towards betterment. Chotay Mian (CM) is known for having managed Punjab well during his first stint. His present tenure has been offering a shocking contrast. His visits to hospitals, his walking on flooded roads, his singing Habib Jalib, all appeared to be gimmicks. If he did any good, it got torn down by his smug law minister. Mr Sanaullah pulled down all opponents’ commercial plazas, and saved his own! He joined rallies held by the extremists and could not care less for the bewildered masses.

Now the good Chotay Mian has shown a glimpse of his potential as a concerned administrator. One would really like to see him live up to his earlier reputation. He has now shown genuine concern about a matter of convenience for the public. It is his solutions for traffic problems that have been known as his strong points. Recently, he has achieved two things. He has built a much needed parking lot in Liberty Market area. Once the public gets over the initial rejectionist mindset, it will find the parking plaza a useful facility. It is convenient and sensible to park the cars and avoid congestion. But even more important is his solution for the Kalma Chowk disaster. The roundabout was more a place to ‘choke’ than a chowk! Drivers would recite the kalma (prayer) for survival and the opportunity to cross it. Kalma Chowk is a major culprit in creating pollution and congestion in the centre of the city. At this point, a 30-minute wait, with all the engines of all the vehicles sputtering out carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, is a usual occurrence several times a day. Often one hears ambulances crying out for help because the crossing at Kalma Chowk is bang in the centre of the roads leading to at least six different hospitals. What happens to the unfortunate patients is not known. Even the CM must have a hard time reaching his ancestral home in Model Town sometimes. But this should not take due credit away from him.

The CM has also dissociated himself from the Raymond Davis deal. His disappearance at a critical time raised many eyebrows, including mine. But let us believe him, because he is a honourable man (so was Brutus though). If the CM’s credibility is not challenged, then the onus of responsibility will again fall on Law Minister Sanaullah. It is possible that the law minister plays a useful role for the good CM and does what the CM would prefer not to do personally. It could be an example of what the famous Oliver North of the Iran-Contra case stated in court. When ‘Olie’ admitted to all the wrongdoings and owned up to his fault, despite the fact that he was carrying out gun running on the orders of the White House, the court asked why he admitted what he was not really guilty of. Oliver North replied, “I did so because it is my duty to provide ‘deniability’ to my president when he needs it.” Is Sanaullah doing the dirty work to provide deniability to the boss? Or is he taking advantage of his personal clout and of the CM’s incompetence?

As a person in charge of the largest province in the country, the CM would be well advised to act honestly in the interest of the public. Maybe now when he does not share responsibility with the PPP, nor does he have the constraints of a coalition, he can take some clear and bold decisions. It is high time he did. He needs to pay attention to the economic situation in Punjab. He needs to set his priorities for the next two years before he goes for fresh elections. Improvement is needed in the education system, schools and the curriculum in government schools, healthcare facilities, roads, the availability of clean water, research in crop development and so on. There are millions of things that need to be done if our CM wants to leave a benchmark of service to the people. Some of the perpetually ignored subjects are culture, arts and literature. Hardly any CM has shown the confidence to include these in his list of priorities accept for the late Hanif Ramey. Mostly, our CMs have a fear of the rightists’ backlash. Let the people in power understand clearly that creativity and aesthetics are sacred qualities and there should be no embarrassment for anyone in supporting these. Give generous financial support to arts organisations like the Alhamra, Majlis Taraqqi-e-Adab, Punjabi Board, Iqbal Academy and others. These organisations can build character, sophistication and love for the country and its values. They are no less important than ‘roti, kapra, makaan’. If one is the need for physical survival, the other is needed for dignity. The CM must understand the importance of the tangible as well as intangible. It takes a person of higher understanding and vision to support the intangible, an ordinary person may miss it.

So Mian Sahib, this is your opportunity to do something and not remain ‘ordinary’. I do not care if projects were planned by your predecessor. Even your predecessor should be happy if a good project is completed. This is how nations are built — not by rejecting the past but continuing the best from the previous. Politically, do not just be happy by being the CM for five years and enjoying the tehka (show of power), but take pride in those achievements in the national and public interest that you can proudly own before the next elections. Remember, in the final analysis, you will be answerable, not your brother. Develop the tangible as well as the intangible in all fields so you are remembered in kind words, unless you just do not care and are ready to be dumped!

The writer is a culture and media management specialist, a researcher, author, director and actor

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