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Archive for August, 2004

Who Dares Hope?

Pakistanis generally tend to give an impression about a pessimistic outlook towards life; in fact we are incurable optimists. We are quick to see light at the end of the tunnel whenever there is change in the reaches of power, a welter of hope springing eternal we seldom plan for the worst. More than anywhere else in the world, the Norman Cousins quote applies to Pakistan, “hope is independent of the apparatus of logic!”. This is probably just as well, one can at least live on a diet of hope, better than being more dead than alive in a permanent state of depression. Shaukat Aziz is officially now a directly elected member of Parliament, the constituency he has to satisfy is not the Parliament but the senior military hierarchy presided over by the man whose single vote (or veto) counts for more than all the thousands and thousands he collected in Attock or Tharparkar. One must be fair in stating that if the business community could have voted for Shaukat Aziz in any one constituency, he would have won by a landslide.

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Justifying The Means

Commenting about the democratic process in Pakistan in 1970, BBC Host David Frost made the famous remark, “they are going to hold general elections in Pakistan, they are going to elect all the generals!” After what happened to us in 1970 after the General Elections, it may not have been a bad idea to have done just that, elect all the generals! This could be laughed off as a funny suggestion if a school of thought within the Army did not seriously believe that. The tragedy is that having conducted the most free elections in Pakistan’s history, 1971’s generals could not bring themselves to hand over power to those not in line with their thinking. They convinced themselves (and many across the broad spectrum of the body politic willingly became like-minded) that “military action” was good for the sovereignty and integrity of Pakistan, and thereby lost half the country. Today’s uniformed lot have generally been far more sophisticated than their predecessors, Gen Pervez Musharraf’s “Martial Law” was well camouflaged, “Chief Martial Law Administrator” (CMLA) being called “Chief Executive”. However sophistication goes by the board when power begins to feed on itself and becomes self-perpetuating, it begins to affect one’s better judgment.

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Emerging Gameplan?

With careful research of the material churned out by those in the media on the government payroll officially or unofficially, one can always put together a crude draft of the possible future game plan of any ruling regime. When services of some NGLs (non-government lobbyists) are also requisitioned to dole out self-serving “platitudes” about the necessity for a “change of system”, the bottom line is that the military regime has had enough of the political structure they themselves put in place in 2002. A Sufi saying goes, “one must read between the lines, it tires the eyes less”. Some fundamental and radical changes in the manner the country is being run are on the anvil for implementation in the next few months. Lobbyists are akin to “Greeks bearing gifts”, paid by their clients in lump sum or a retainer basis, their “advice” is based on motivated interest to obtain benefit for their clients (and for themselves), not flinching from putting their clients (and friends) lives at risk, after all “nothing risked nothing gained”. Lobbyists must be registered as in the US and other countries so that the naïve and the gullible (and everyone else) would know their “heartfelt” advice is not made in the “greater national interest” but in pursuance of lining their pockets.

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Don’t Freeze Out Bangladesh

Approaching Dhaka from the air, one is struck by the expanse of water around the capital city. Dispersed habitations dot the flooded delta, the roads in-between are non-existent, the low-lying areas around the city awash with the rampant floods immersing as much as 60% of Bangladesh. With food crops in the fields almost all gone, upto 30 million people, about one-fifth of the entire population, have been displaced from their homes. There are signs of the floods abating somewhat, disease more than hunger and starvation may take over, the government says they have 9 million tons of food grains in stock. The government is coping as best it can, appeals for help have already been made internationally, a lot is needed and very soon. Bangladeshis are a resilient people, faced with death and destruction by recurring natural and man-made disasters, it is amazing to see how the population adjusts to the ground realities, life goes on for its teeming population. Dhaka city has not stopped to bustle, the traffic jams only increasing in size and duration. Pakistan needs to make an immediate symbolic gesture for flood relief, it will go a long way if a couple of choppers alongwith relief goods are sent post-haste.

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