Monday, October 4, 2010
THE TWO FACES OF PAKISTAN
Citizens of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan are begging for basic amenities. Basic infrastructure is nonexistent in major parts of the country and yet the government is busy developing missiles, writes Anis Jillani.
I have just returned from Islamabad airport after finding out that my flight to Lahore has been cancelled due to ‘technical’ reasons. When I had called from home, the airport enquiry had said that the flight was on-time. The PIA staff at the airport issued me the boarding pass and I ended up telling them about the cancellation after seeing it on the monitor. It was news to them. One guy at the counter asked me why I should expect government corporations like the PIA to be any better than the government itself.
Some may ask whether or not flights get delayed and cancelled in the rest of the world. They do. But not as often. And how is one expected to react when flights, and trains, get delayed more often than they are on-time.
Both my office phones, and my home one, have been out of order for the past one week; the operator tells me that there is little hope of getting them restored as the PTCL employees are on strike. I am lucky to be living in Islamabad but still cannot tolerate load-shedding anymore. A two-hour load-shedding has started and this means that my UPS dies by the end of the first hour (even now I am typing this article in my sauna like office with the help of the UPS.) Mostly, I have no option but to go home where I again face the same problem.
I was in Sukkur and Shikarpur a couple of days ago. The kind of poverty that I saw there was distressing. The floods had simply made it worse. The lucky ones were lodged in schools, but the toilets were stinking; there were pools of stagnant water in the school grounds; the majority of the children had some kind of skin disease; few had access to clean drinking water and people were lying on the floors without electricity with their hands and legs on top of each other in many cases. The floods struck last month. What was the people’s government doing for these people during the past two-and-a-half years?
In the midst of all this misery and bad governance, the PPP candidate for the National Assembly won with a 25,000 votes margin in Bahawalpur. The people must be happy with the government and their rulers to be voting so overwhelmingly for the same parties and the same faces over and over again.
I do not know if they are happy or not but they surely have increasingly started taking law into their hands. The papers today have reported about a train engine driver being beaten up because the train was delayed.
It is common practice in Karachi to beat up criminals till they die, and everybody applauded when they heard of the Sialkot crowd hanging the two ‘dacoit’ brothers upside down.
Lawyers in Lahore locked up the district and sessions judge’s courtroom because he did not hire the persons recommended by the president of the Bar. It is now no longer news that a judge is beaten up by lawyers.
This is the fate of the protectors of the rule of law in this country. Policemen were beaten up by the crowd in Lahore after the latest bomb blasts as if they were responsible for the suicide bombing.
A client in Hyderabad fails to register an FIR against a guy who came to the office with armed personnel and beat up his employees.
A 14-year-old domestic servant was first beaten up in Islamabad and thrown from the roof to make it look like suicide when she became unconscious. She is now paralysed waist down. The employers are now offering her a few lakhs of rupees to settle the case. The authorities are, however, just silent spectators.
This is the state of affairs in our Islamic Republic and gets the impression that we are not far behind anyone else in this world. Today’s papers have reported that we have developed a missile that can go up to 4,000 kilometres. What are we going to do with it when we cannot even fix our telephones and power supply?
People lack food and drinking water and we are developing missiles. The rulers are on their knees begging the international community for aid but building a monument in honour of Benazir Bhutto costing about one billion rupees.
We now have democracy and the rulers are the duly elected representatives of the people. The rulers have made ‘innumerable’ sacrifices to achieve this kind of democracy by living in their palaces in the Gulf and in London.
I would ask them to only do one thing and nothing else: go to meet the people next time anywhere in Pakistan without police protection — and if this is asking for too much, reduce their distance from the people — and they would realise just how popular they are when they are showered with worn-out chappals and shoes. It is worth a try!
By: Anees Jillani
(The writer is a prominent Pakistan Supreme Court lawyer.)