Monday, October 5, 2009

Rubbing Salt to the Wounds

Rubbing Salt to the Wounds
By Saeed Qureshi
While Pakistan’s disadvantaged populace is wasting away their precious lives in wrestling for a sack of Atta or a bag of sugar in the blessing-drenched month of fasting, the leaders are freelancing with their “add insult to injury” kind of statements. The illustrious president of Pakistan, Asif Zardari says that it was not his job to deal with such ordinary problems as Atta, sugar and other essential commodities. He is busy in snuffing out the Taliban and other pedigree of humans that have played havoc with the human civilization in the name of religion: a brand of religion that is more of distortions that being pristine.
The ministers of Prime Minister Gilani are outbidding each other in issuing outlandish and outrageous volleys of statements that can, at best, be described as vicarious and sadistic. No saner individual with an iota of sympathy with the teeming impoverished could have the audacity to offer the ill-conceived suggestion that the people should stop using sugar and Atta if they wanted the spiraling prices to come down or to ensure their easy availability. This is Qamar Zaman Kaira, the Information Minister of Pakistan, who has arrogated to himself the exclusive privilege of denying, debating and debunking anything that was in the public interest.
I wish he was one of those belabored citizens who stand up in disorderly lines for a bag of Atta thrown on them like crumbs to pets or the relief food to the famine stricken or marooned communities. These stone-hearted power wielders do not seem to possess a faint feeling of the growing famine specter in Pakistan: a land that used to be the grain granary in the undivided India. The Prime Minister is wont to categorize things in doable and undoable. He is silent on high prices and availability of sugar and Atta which means that these are undoable for his government.
Another mesmeric veteran leader Mian Manzoor Watoo, a scion of Punjab was so ludicrously bold as to decree that the hoarders booked for keeping the stocks away from the market, would be released and protected. It clearly connotes that these thugs and “economic enemy combatants” would have a free hand to hoard and charge any price of their choice. The cartels have their accomplices in both the cabinets and bureaucracy that support and abet these public tormentors to be at liberty for fleecing the people and get away with hefty profits.
Is there someone other than God to contain this unbridled loot and shameless indifference of the VIP classes to the peoples’ woes, who confess by thumping their thick chests, “yes it is happening and we are not going to stop it?” The despicable alliance between the ministers, bureaucrats, and the cut-throat mercantile classes has made the already miserable lives of a hapless nation more traumatic and unlivable? Have the hearts of these leaders and bureaucrats become barren and devoid of even an ounce of the milk of human kindness?
The people are unsafe, afflicted and dying of mal-nutrition, pervasive diseases, adulterated food and polluted water. The whole nation is at the mercy of high-way robbers, the daredevil thieves and brazen gun totting ruffians barging into the private houses and decamping with hard earned and precious belongings of the inmates. The police is as corrupt and mismanaged as it is toothless and ineffectual. The crime mafia is more overpowering and lethal than the ill-equipped, ill-dressed, ill-fed, ill-trained and inadequate police force. They too join the crime gangs or patronize them for a share in the booty.
The Roman civilization at its fag end and during its declining period could offer a parallel to the anarchic situation prevailing in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, where muslim are numerous but Islam is scant. In the sacred month of Ramadan, the Muslims resort to every dirty trick to fleece the harried shoppers as if they were treading the satanic path who according to the tradition is chained and quarantined for the whole month. So his mischievous and insidious role is taken upon by the Muslim faithful who at the same time fast and sermonize about the virtues of Islam as a great religion for all times and generations. Their conduct is an antithesis of what they preach.
Can you picture the life in Pakistan sharply divided into haves and have nots? There is no middle class and if it there any, it is minuscule. One can see the aristocracy and plutocracy with unbridled lust for more power, privileges and wealth. At the other end of the spectrum one may find the helpless, emasculated, poverty and hunger stricken expanse of humans who call themselves Pakistanis. Patriotism is alive in the downtrodden and lower classes who bear the brunt of all miseries heaped on them by the upper and licentious classes. Members of elitist and privileged segments physically sojourn in Pakistan buy have their minds, hearts and wealth abroad.
They switch over to Pakistan under the garb of saving Pakistan, but in fact to rule, enjoy, lord over the people, amass more wealth and run away for a leisurely stay abroad once again. The political parties outflank each other by fooling the people and for alternating the stints in power in the name of glorious future, defense, saving religion or the bogey of nationalism, which they themselves consider as venom. Today it is Muslim League, next time it would be the Peoples’ Party and so on.
There is no end to this fishy stereo of musical chairs’ game. The only difference with the new political edifice is that its present dwellers do not pretend to suffer from qualms of conscience while doing or saying things that are out-rightly nauseating. They treat the odious collusion of manufacturers and bulk suppliers as normal. Yet they gloat over peoples’ ordeals with stubborn refusal to come to their rescue. Don’t they watch women’s paradari (veil or covering their body) being ransomed for a few kilos of staple food without which they and their children would starve to death. Why the government has withheld action against the sugar sellers or Atta hoarders or has backtracked on finding an amicable solution of a horrendous chaos? Why is it totally unmindful of the urgency of instituting an enquiry into such devastating shortfalls of consumer necessities?
If Taliban are being vanquished which is a good thing, but in equal measure the peaceful, law abiding yet poor denizens of Pakistan are dying, decaying, mentally retarding and committing suicide as the final recourse. It’s akin to a Roman coliseum where beasts tore humans apart so that the people forget their sufferings, even momentarily. But then finally the savage Roman emperor Nero fled, was chased, caught by the violent crowd and killed in a secluded sanctuary. It’s a lesson for all those rulers who take Pakistan as Rome and themselves as Neros of today.

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