September 7, 2010

A Crying Shame

At least someone's got their priorities right. Angelina Jolie
visiting flood stricken families. (Photo:
And so it seems, it’s all crumbling up. The economic affairs of the state are out there for all to see. According to the Finance Minister himself, if the current spate of ostentatious spending is not curtailed, within a few months, the state will be unable to pay salaries and wages to its employees. Of course this admonishment has fallen on deaf ears because no concrete steps have emerged to trim the government’s fat, or widen the tax net.

But let’s leave that aside. What does it all mean for you and me and the common man? Just today for instance, the Sasti Roti scheme was curtailed and the price of a 20kg pack of flour shot up by an unbelievable Rs. 175. You can imagine what it spells out for the poor who were already finding it difficult to haggle together two square meals a day. They have been left out in the open to wring dry.

Nor does it spell good news for other, a bit more well-to-do people. The constant borrowing from the State Bank of Pakistan means that the government has effectively turbocharged the inflation to ungodly levels. In the last two weeks, food inflation alone has shot up by more than 7 times. Consider also, that the government is under serious pressure to increase the electricity tariff by more than 26% on the diktat of the IMF. Obviously no thought has gone into defining the outcome of this horrendous decision. As always, the stooges in charge will scamper when times get even tougher, and the nation will silently bear the brunt of the misgivings of its government once more.

The Public Sector Development Program lies in tatters. But it is unrealistic to expect the government to give a rat’s ass about the good of the people. Even right now, the assemblies have torpedoed the bills introduced which called for taxing the farmers of this country. What we tend to forget in our emotional diatribe is that the majority of farmland in Pakistan is under the direct control of billionaire landlords which range from Zardari to the Sharifs, to scamps such as Rehman Malik. How then does the nation expect the assemblies to cough up the moral courage to literally tax itself?

The statements being churned out of Altaf Hussain’s London residence get ever more vociferous. I don’t know what his calling is, but his demands of ousting the feudal and cleansing the system of corrupt landlords has its merits. However, I still wholeheartedly and vehemently disagree with his disposition that the army ought to meddle in something that is clearly beyond its call of professional duty. The army is comprised of soldiers, and as soldiers they are duty bound to follow the state; not go up in arms against it. Instigating the army will do no one any good (perhaps Altaf Hussain thinks different) and will only return Pakistan to the brink of total and utter chaos.

Of late, I’ve seen numerous people calling for a change in our collective mindset. But in view of the above mentioned prevailing crises, it is imprudent to expect the people to roil out a revolt. Revolts occur when the whole nation feels the brunt, and feels the pain. When the mouth feeders (elite class) have got the majority by the scruff of their necks, and keep feeding them enough to keep them at bay, it is futile to expect a revolution to occur.

The aid flows have dried up considerably. The majority of aid givers have had to deal with a bit of belt tightening because of the prevailing economic situation. So the question is, where will more aid come from if not from us? We may have stepped up to give in rations for a month to the hapless flood stricken people but they are going to need many more months’ worth of supplies to stay alive. Already new problems are breaking the surface in the form of measles, cholera, malaria, diarrhea, and gastroenteritis outbreaks. It is estimated that almost 3.5 million kids are prone to such diseases. And it’s been what, only a month since the waters receded from the banks of the Indus?

These are tough times for us; all of us. It is time we showed ourselves, and the world what Pakistanis are and what Pakistaniyat means to us. Let us all come together to overcome the challenges that keep coming in our way. Someday, we will overcome them. All of them.