Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What Change?

A few days ago, I wrote something about our present political situation and a few friends wanted me to do more rather than just a cosmetic change of our tainted political scene. Yes we need to do more rather than merely changing the faces in the current set up. Everyone is talking of change, a Pandora box opened God knows for what reasons by the MQM chief peacefully nested in his British abode.

Whatever the reasons and motives behind the proposed change, which is grossly vague and ambiguous, no one is really ready to say what should be that change. I suggested some steps, but those were just a bailout from the present situation as changing faces would mean another set of politicians laced with the same myopic agenda, suitable to their party leaders and not the ordinary people of Pakistan.

The question thus arises what does an ordinary Pakistani wants. Does he want Party A or B or C? No he is not concerned with any brand name. What he is concerned is peace, economic stability, justice, good governance and employment. He wants to get rid of the bribe-rich Patwar system, where even to get a simple fard (official certificate of land ownership), he has to grease the palms of the corrupt patwari. He wants the Sui gas connection given to him without bribing the clerks in the so called friend one window operation consumers’ centre. Go out in the far flung areas of Pakistan and you find the people living in the same deplorable conditions as they did in any branded party’s time. Yes if you find someone with a better house or living, he would be the one having his son or brother or some relation working abroad.

At the same time, as has been revealed in a recent survey, the wealth of the politicians has multiplied by an unknown factor of x. How come only politicians are getting richer, while the ordinary people of their vote bank are still starving and suffering? Is politics a business that anyone entering into it has his assets multiplying? Aren’t these people under the same law an ordinary citizen is?

As per a TV programme today, the government has imposed additional taxes on income, urban property and also the revised GST, which is likely to fetch the government something around Rs. 80 billions to cope up with the added requirements of the devastations left by the recent floods. Good intentions, indeed. But at the same times, there is news that in the past two years the sitting government has also written off loans worth Rs. 50 billions just like that. What a generous thing to do. On one end it is taxing the already over taxed, and on the other hand it is writing off loans of the influentials and rich. No wonder how the assets of the politicians have been multiplied since the last elections. And as if that is not all. The TV report also reported that many a high ups, including the PM, the Minister of State for Finance and many others pay income tax just a few thousands of rupees each year. I know many government employees of grade 20 pay something like Rs. 5000-7000 per month. Then how come those who are above even grade 22 pay less?

The political acumen of the present politicians is so abysmal that everyone is talking of change, but when asked what should be the change, one gets vague and ambiguous replies. I don’t find anyone capable of giving a prudent analysis of the present political situation and then giving out options to rid the country of the mess we are in since 1947, and the same rhetoric of army’s interventions and robbing the democracy any chances of flourishing. I don’t know what is that maturity that is wanted? Do we all need to attend class one at the age of fifty to learn the ABC thing once again or have we wasted all these years learning nothing from the follies committed by others.

Unfortunately, except Jinnah, Ayub Khan (may be to the dismay of many), Bhutto and Benazir we haven’t had a visionary to rule this country. Most of our politicians are politicians because their fathers were politicians. No one has actually been groomed to become one. If today a debate is to be conducted to discuss the national strategy, the economic strategy, the defence strategy, we would find most of our politicos looking sheepishly around for better answers. I remember one TV interview in this context when the anchor asked the guest politicians as to how his party would alleviate sufferings of the poor. The honourable politicians replied that by increasing the salaries. The anchor inquired that that would increase the inflation. To which came the answer, “Uss ka bhi kuch kar lain gay (we will do something about that too.” When the anchor still persisted, the politician replied that he didn’t have readymade answers to every question. This is what happens when one is not groomed to lead the country.

Let us stop blaming what has been done to us so far by either Mr. A or General B, as the blame game cannot provide a solution to the mess we are in. Let there be someone with a vision. And here I am not talking of the dynastic vision of some frequently referred to families, or people who absconded from the country and thriving on party funds, and even those who haven’t participated in elections but still call for system change without being part of the parliament. I am talking of vision of Jinnah, who elected to take Re. 1 as his salary and not like the present lot, who despite being filthy rich, still cry for more allowances, perks, privileges while not pay a paisa as income tax. A man who despite being very sick, made his British and Indian counterparts succumb to his stand of a separate homeland for the Muslims. We need to read and listen to countless speeches of Jinnah and deduce his concept of a free Pakistan. Read when he admonished his ADC for getting a closed railway crossing opened for the governor general car (he travelled with one car and one police motorcycle in front and no more) in contrast with the hours long traffic shut downs for the entourage of the (many Vs)VIPs, whose motorcade comprises of dozens of bullet proof cars. We need to read Iqbal’s poetry to find answers (I am sure a majority of our politicians would have never read it at all). His poetry contained a vision that a future independent Pakistan should have. But we lost everything within first ten years of independence when every year we saw a new PM and a new government.

We have lost too much time clinging to the system of democracy that we have with duplicity of offices and larger cabinets to please every hawk in the party to cling to the power. We need to start afresh – without any blame game of the past actors. We have to find a new path for ourselves, which more efficient, quick in decision making, more responsive and less heavy on the fragile economy of the country. We need to find people from among us who have knowledge of how states are to be run and governed rather than holding fake degrees and still insisting that politics is far above education and that one doesn’t need degrees to run a country. Since they are mostly illiterate (and even if they hold degrees, they remain ignorant of the world around them), they can’t see beyond their horizon to see that only those politicians are remembered even after they are no more, who had a vision which they polished in great educational institutions of the world.

If we do that, maybe we find a solution to our problems one day.

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