Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Stinking System Must Go

Upright Opinion

January 3, 2011

The Stinking System Must Go
By Saeed Qureshi

I was disappointed to watch a leading hawkish GEO television anchor Iftikhar Ahmed ferociously supporting the system of government presently prevailing in Pakistan. This debate was shown on Janaury3, on the “Laikin” program hosted by Sana Butcha a distnguished female TV anchor. The main thrust of his argument was that system must continue no matter how dysfunctional it was. He chided the opponents who have recently walked out of the coalition and questioned their earnestness and sincerity of intentions in doing so.

He also vehemently argued in favor of levying the RGST because the money thus collected would run the machinery of the government. He aggressively dished out the weird logic that spike in petrol and gas prices was justified as the spiraling fuel prices was a global phenomenon. What he should have known is that in such countries the governments unlike Pakistani ruling junta apportion extra income on the welfare of the people. Moreover, most of them are not as alienated from the people as we can see in Pakistan.

Now all these are spurious arguments. A heap of filth cannot be allowed to naueaste the people living around. A tree giving bitter fruit has to be uprooted because it is of no avail to the people. Similarly government functionaries notoriously corrupt and governing the country in a rapacious and ravenous manner and with morbid and unrivaled corruption should not be allowed to remain at the helm.

It is not the system alone that is essntial but a people friendly, accountable and transparent system that is desirable. The incumbent government has a poor record of governance and cannot claim shining laurels and conspicuous accomplishments as to earn the full term in office.

To begin with, it is not complying with the judiciary’s decisions that relate to NRO and steel-mill and many other corruption cases involving ministers. The law and order is most fragile and is utterly crippled to stem the violence and crime that is spreading instead of abating. The perfidious nepotism is being practiced as if it was a divine commandment to dole out contracts and permits and licenses to the near kith and friends and those who can grease the palms of the decision makers in a big way.

During the last three years, in Pakistan the gulf between the haves and have-nots and rich and poor and indigent and wealthy has been unremittingly widening. The rich and affluent classes in the country including the ministers, top bureaucrats, parliamentarians move in well guarded and bullet proof cars. On the other hand a common man selling his odd articles in a flea market or so called Juma Bazaars, on the stalls or carts is gunned down with no follow-up action by police.

The public utilities are in their worst form with patients dying in hospitals because of negligence of the doctors or spurious drugs. People drink filthy water and suffer from the persistent nightmare of power outrages and the so called load shedding. On top of it the poor country has to pay hefty sums for the rental power units.

The Pakistani citizens living in the border areas remain under a perpetual fear of being killed by Drone aerial attacks or by the army of Pakistan. The government is unmoved or diffident to talk to the NATO commanders to stop this draconian manslaughter of the people of Pakistan. Pakistan army is fighting a war on terror and thus far has lost over three thousand troops besides unaccounted number injured or maimed.

The government in power in Pakistan is not only morally bankrupt but so timid, sold out and surpassing in toadyism that it cannot even have the courage to broach such subjects with the oppressors that undermine the national honor and territorial integrity. Then what is the difference between Egypt a crony of the west and that of Pakistan embarked upon a suicidal path at the behest of the foreign charmers and puppeteers?

The people are clamoring for change because their lives have become more miserable and chaotic than what these were in earlier dispensations. A government that jumped into the bandwagon of power through a democratic process, must bent all its energies and make efforts to bring about a visible and spectacular change in the country and relief to its people.

The governance has never been as abysmal and appalling as of now. The rulers were never so apathetic deceptive, hypocritical and insensitive as now. If the agricultural tax was imperative then it should be first applicable to huge landholdings and estates that either belong to the ministers, parliamentarians or the army generals.

The people of Pakistan voted the PPP government into power because firstly it has been unjustifiably forced to remain out of power by the powers that rule through unconstitutional means. Secondly, it has the image and reputation of a revolutionary anti- status-quo party. Thirdly, it is known as the party of the downtrodden and unprivileged sections of the society. This time after the 2008 elections it was a God given chance after several years for this party to prove it credentials as the representative and benefactor of the common people of Pakistan. It miserably failed because of its top notch leaders.

The PPP government has in its fold, hugely discredited and universally known bribery addicted individuals adept in jobbery and enhancing their fortune by misusing their powers. The president of Pakistan is up to neck in the scandals and scams of ill-gotten money and accumulating his wealth by dubious means. The prime minister Gilani a staunch Bhuttoite and with a less tarnished reputation went whole- hog to dole out undue benefits to his near and dear ones including his beloved son who was a partner with some Niazi in a gigantic insurance business. His personal wealth and properties, reportedly, have increased manifold during the last two years.

The commerce minister a priest looking Baptist type person has earned the notoriety for shady deals in commodities and agricultural produce that he was summoned by the prime minister to counsel him to scale down his marauding money making skills. The other ministers are chips of the same bloc and vie each other in self-enrichment by unfair means that portend on gross deriliction of their responsibilities and breach of their oath taken on the constitution to remain honest.

If the no-confidence against the PPP coalition is tabled in the parliament and carries the day, then it would be a change within the precincts of the Constitution of Pakistan. Even if it does not succeed, the government should feel the moral responsibility to call for fresh elections to win a new mandate from the people. Even if the no confidence is defeated the government must feel the heat of it as it would be a lame duck establishment with a hole in its fabric of popularity and popular support. It would remain vulnerable even after by way of no confidence attempt by the dissidents. And who know in the meantime the army steps in, taking the country back to an authoritarian square one.

(The writer is a Dallas-based freelance journalist and a former diplomat writing mostly on International Affairs with specific focus on Pakistan and the United States)
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