Apr 232008

By Mohammad Malick

It was as if someone had thrown a cat amongst the pigeons. One MQM parliamentarian after another sprang up from his seat, shouting and gesticulating angrily at an ‘irritatingly’ calm Federal Housing Minister, Rehmatullah Kakar. The cause: the minister had openly charged his MQM predecessor Minister Safwanullah of orchestrating an over a trillion rupee theft of state-owned property.

But apparently what really ticked off the MQM lot was Kakar’s comment of this entire scam being “aik minister kee karastani hai” (it’s the doing of just one minister). The pointed term obviously drove the point home.

The story about the scam and its ultimate unearthing in an internal enquiry over two years later had been broken by Ansar Abbassi of The News a few days back but it really resona-

ted today in the National Assembly.

You have to give the devil the credit. It was a simple but novel method to dole away state land worth multiple of billions of rupees to handpicked favourites. To borrow the phrase used for the twin tower al-Qaeda attack; it was a high concept and low cost operation.

The MQM minister, in his infinite wisdom, had very conveniently given away owner-eligibility certificates to over three thousand occupants of government real estate, ostensibly to register their claim on future permanent allocations. And what do you know; people treated these as ownership deeds and simply sold the properties. Surprise, surprise! Where small residential quarters could be seen in prime Karachi real estate locations, today stand multi-storied plazas, illegally sold, unlawfully built. And all because one minister thought he was the master of the fief called Pakistan State and deliberately violated all rules and regulations.

The House referred the matter to a House Committee and hopefully it will not get buried under the weight of political compromises and conveniences. In a heartening move though, it was told by our cafeteria source, the matter has also been marked for discussion in the cabinet.

It was a day of referring everything to standing committees which is a positive development but hopefully these forums shall not be turned into altars of settling personal and business vendettas, as appeared the case of the award of the Railway Golf Club contract for establishment of a top notch club somewhere in 2001.

It was strange to know that the mover of the resolution did not even know that the contract had been given in 2001 and not in 2004 as claimed by him. Then, he did not even know whether he wanted a House committee to look into the matter or some other one.

It was plainly obvious that he had been parroting someone else’s desire. In a country where quality entertainment facilities are as rare as an honest bureaucrat, big public-private partnerships must be encouraged and business houses should be enticed into spending serious money in such ventures.

Needless investigations rarely do anything more than merely scare away future entrepreneurs. This trend must be discouraged but as for now, its committee facing time for the owners of the Royal Palm facility.

Happy tee-off dear entrepreneurs. But it wasn’t a sitting without its ridiculous intrusions. At one point when the House was embroiled in the very important and charged debate on this amazing land scam, suddenly Sheikh Aftab from Attock stood up on a point of order (some unkind friends also refer him to as a Hitler look alike because of his hairstyle and moustache). One would have thought that the former deputy whip of Nawaz Sharif government era would know that point of order is allowed only to point out any procedural violations and therefore something like that must have happened.

But no sir, the gentleman had stood up in the middle of a meaningful debate (again a rarity) for you know what, to actually ask the deputy speaker to offer fateha for the father of a parliamentary colleague. And that isn’t all. The deputy speaker dropped everything right then and there and the House offered Fateha.

Indeed, as Muslims it is incumbent upon us to offer Fateha but there is always a time and occasion. This Fateha could have been offered a few minutes later also upon the conclusion of the debate.

The House must be run in accordance with rules and procedures and must appear more serious than a collection of kindergarten children who whimsically move from one game to another.

For his part, Sheikh Aftab sat gloating as if he had just achieved a political milestone. But then maybe, Sheikh Aftab is only good enough for orchestrating Fatehas and collective duas. May he enjoy his new found purpose in life. Ameen.

PS: The cafeteria and the galleries were abuzz with virtually a million assessments of the

status of the judicial talks between Asif Zardari and Mian Nawaz Sharif.

There were myriad analyses of the body language of the two leaders at the joint press conference held a few hours earlier, which were reminiscent of the famous Gene Hackman movie ‘The runaway jury’. The overwhelming consensus being that the duo had failed to overcome their differences with the blame largely being put on Zardari for “backing away from earlier pledges to the contrary.”

But this is where guess-timation ends and reality needs to be brought forward. I have it on good authority ٌ you can say it almost from the proverbial horse’s mouth ٌ that Zardari remains committed to the ‘ultimate restoration’ of the apex judiciary but not without first securing certain key agreements pertaining to overall judicial reforms.

Like PML-N knows that PPP cannot walk away from the table, PPP also knows that this is the only time where PML-N will also agree to other reform package ingredients as a quid pro quo. Neither of the two wants to be blamed for allowing any judicial stalemate.

As succinctly put in a telephonic conversation by someone who really matters and can make all the difference, “It’s time to do the right thing for the system and it may not be the most popular course of action at this point in time but we need to do the right thing first and not necessarily the popular one.

We have had enough of policies and packages made for individuals alone.”

According to someone who should know the inside thinking of Bilawal House, “Zardari will not block the return of any Supreme Court judge in the ultimate restoration process but that process will also start another process of permanently strengthening the institution, and not just one individual or two.

Don’t we all wish the same? Let’s hope that the gentleman is not wrong.

Let’s hope justice wins, and not just Mr Justices.
Courtesy: The News, 23/4/2008

 Posted by at 7:11 am

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