Hit and run
Monday, July 05, 2010
We live in strange times in a strange country. Don’t get me wrong, I love Pakistan and have chosen to live here, pay my taxes here and raise my children here. But as a student of political science and history, and an interested observer, I have seen fewer countries more bizarre than us.
Approximately 30,000 Pakistanis, civilian and military, have lost their lives to terrorism in the last decade; yet most Pakistanis cannot agree on who killed them. Are you kidding me? Far more have lost their lives over the past six decades to the incompetence, greed and corruption of the ruling elite of this country. Don’t buy it? Consider this.
Thousands die every year because of spurious medicines which are sold right under the nose of the state. Pollution caused by non-compliant industries cause thousands to fall sick and/or die every year.
Shaukat “Golden Sheets” Aziz had promised clean drinking water to all Pakistanis when his term was done. He’s sipping Perrier and grinning like a Cheshire Cat while millions of Pakistanis die of water-borne diseases. Yet, 180 million of us go about our days having completely forgotten who the hell Shaukat Aziz is.
The late Saneeya Hussain coined the term Absurdistan during her days at the now defunct Star. A year after she died in 2005, Gary Shteyngart wrote a fantastic novel called Absurdistan which I highly recommend because it’ll remind you of home.
I agree with Saneeya’s classification of Pakistan as absurd because even simple problems are left to snowball into big problems. And big problems – well, they just get bigger.
To bastardise Winston Churchill’s quote, “Never was so little owed by so many to so few” epitomises the state of affairs in the motherland. The incompetence is staggering and coupled with a complete breakdown of any sort of moral values, we have been in a state of decline for a while. Individuals and/or groups of excellence are keeping things afloat but at the state level we need to reboot.
The electricity (or lack of it) problem is a great example. For a decade the Planning Commission didn’t recommend that a single megawatt of power be added to the grid. What did these chimps think would happen? Or did anyone even think of the implications of it? The current government and its energy czar promised two years ago an end to all forms of loadshedding, and we all know where they got to with that one.
While the entire world embraces alternative energy, the state of Pakistan has been twiddling its thumbs and commissioning consultants to write report upon report so they can ‘study’ them. Nothing a simple Google search couldn’t accomplish.
The lack of vision is truly staggering. Recently a cousin installed solar panels at his house in Lahore and was shocked to see that GST applied to the solar array. No incentives of any kind for a consumer to go this route. Smart grids where consumers can actually sell electricity back into the grid from their solar panels are light years away.
Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and his cohorts are only interested in rental plants which use furnace oil. Its not difficult to figure out why. All at the cost of industries closing and moving, and Pakistani exports becoming more uncompetitive than ever. Does anyone even bother to work the numbers out? It doesn’t require a genius to figure out what needs to be done for the country but then again which one of these goons cares.
Pakistan has a population of 180 million and growing faster than anyone can say contraception. Is anyone figuring out how we’re going to provide jobs for this massive number of young people? I don’t think so. The HEC has seen its budgets slashed because of higher defence expenditures so there goes higher education. Look at any developing country and you can see the emphasis on information technology and transforming the economy into a knowledge-based one. Usually a technocrat with dynamism and a solid background is put into this slot. Luckily for us our leaders like the fact we are an agrarian economy and see no need for any of the optical niceties.
Pakistan is lucky to have a lawyer by the name of Sardar Latif Khosa heading up this pivotal ministry. The only criteria for him heading the Ministry of Technology is because he can use his mobile phone to call the prime minister, and being the blue-eyed “boy” of the PM is good enough.
The impact this lawyer-turned “techie” has had on the ministry is a big fat nothing. The only exception being that he is trying to destroy model institutions like the USF (Universal Service Fund) by placing his acolytes on its board and booting professional stakeholders out. Other than that his performance scorecard gives him a big fat zero.
And so it goes on. Sometimes the scale of the stupidity is mind-numbing and I just want to cry out “Why”. I’ve always maintained that all you have to do is follow the money. Every time there’s an immensely ridiculous decision ask yourself who would directly benefit from this and you’ll find the answers. Take the PIA CEO who was asked by the Senate Committee about 1100 trolleys which were stolen, to which the response was, “Sir only 800 were stolen”. Only 800? How do 800 trolleys just disappear? I mean some milk from the pantry is one thing, but 800 trolleys? Absurd as it is, Pakistan is an exciting country to live in – never a dull moment for sure.
The writer lives is Karachi.
Email: shakir. firstname.lastname@example.org