May 032008

Mir Jamilur Rahman

It is fun and educative to have politicians around. Without them the world would be a drab place. The mind of a politician does not work like that of an ordinary human being. A politician’s mind is endowed with the extraordinary ability of drawing more than one inference from his own statements or commitments. He can refute his own statement, which he had made on television, without blinking an eye. Take the judges’ issue. The whole nation feels bewildered why it is taking so long to undo a wrong. The issue boils down to the basics: which came first, the chicken or the egg? Likewise, what should come first, reinstatement of the judges or an independent judiciary? If the judiciary had been independent on Nov 3, President Musharraf would not have dared to sack 60 judges. No judiciary, no National Assembly, and no bureaucracy, independent or enslaved, has the strength or desire to challenge the COAS commanding half-a-million soldiers. The lawyers indeed have shown the civil society that a COAS-president can be defied.

Politicians who now occupy the government had made promises which they knew could never be fulfilled. They promised that, if elected, they would bring the prices down by half. Load shedding would become history. Now they are in the driving seat, but the prices of food and other items continue to rise. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar is spending more time and energy in unearthing the misdeeds of the last government than devising methods to ease the burden of the common man. Instead of announcing relief measures, he has come out with the bad news that the prices of petrol and diesel would be raised further.

There is no punishment for making false promises. It is no sin to keep people happy with beautiful promises. This is not confined to Pakistan. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev remarked that politicians “promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.”

Prime Minister Gilani has come out with a promise beyond belief. He told the National Assembly on April 18 that retired government employees will be given one million housing units. He said that construction of these houses would be undertaken very soon. The readers may find this promise very sketchy, but ambiguity is an important part of making promises which are not destined to fulfilment.

Let us begin from the beginning. One, would the retired employee get the house free or would he be required to make payment? Two, what would be the size of the houses? Government employees include the lowly naib qasid and the exalted secretary; so would the government make houses for every category of the employees or would this scheme only be open to lower-grade employees? Three, retirees prefer going back to their villages, towns or cities; naturally, the houses cannot be built at a place of their choice because that would not be viable. Would the government give cash compensation to those who could not get a government house? Four, would the retiree be free to sell, mortgage or rent out the house? Five, does the prime minister have a timeframe in mind when the first 10,000 houses would become available for distribution?

People are gullible. They believe what the politicians say. According to General de Gaulle, a politician never believes what he says, but he is always astonished when others do. Nevertheless, building a million houses is totally implausible. Yes, it would sound plausible if the prime minister says that the government would build a million houses in the current millennium and gift them to retired government employees.

Prime Minister Gilani has announced a scheme to conserve energy. He said that the government would subsidise the price of 10 million energy savers. Later, this was amended to say that the energy savers would be given free. An energy saver is an expensive bulb, costing about Rs150. However, the problem is how the energy savers would reach those who cannot afford it? The government would need a very elaborate department to implement this scheme. The scheme may not see the light of day but people feel happy at the prospect of receiving a free energy saver.

Dr Rehman Malik, the prime minister’s adviser for interior, has emerged as the busiest person in the new government. He spends half his waking hours in the aeroplanes and the other half in dialoguing with the fuming politicians to cool them down. Since becoming advisor over a month ago he has taken “serious notice” of every act of sabotage. In addition, he has so far ordered nearly a dozen inquiries into law-and-order incidents. However, no inquiry has been made public yet. Nor it is known what happens when he takes “serious notice” of an incident.

The writer is a freelance columnist. Email:
Source: The News, 3/5/2008

 Posted by at 8:36 pm

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