May 052008

While the PPP and the PML-N dance this perverted version of political polka on native and sandy shores over the “judges” issue, the glee which is being generated in the camps of the PML-Q and the Presidency has not been seen since the first US aid package was received. Back at the farm, the plebs who came out in droves to vote the last lot out is waiting for some sort of dividend. Far from focusing on the economic mess we find ourselves in, the leadership of both parties is wasting a lot of time on an issue which should have been resolved as per the Murree Declaration. All this bickering publicly does not do wonders for either political party or its leadership.

Perhaps power has a unique way of short-circuiting one’s memory, but both Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari had promised the people of Pakistan that the new government would not repeat the mistakes of the past and would work together to resolve the plethora of problems which have previously been swept under the carpet. Far from engaging in the much anticipated spring cleaning, both of them resemble two sumo wrestlers squaring off in a ring while smiling for the camera before and after the match. Sporting, yes. But efficient use of statesman-like power – absolutely not.

The longer the two sides take to resolve the matter of the judges the more hallow their claims of national reconciliation will sound to other parties and players in the political circus of Pakistan. For the first time in years people have hope and a lot of expectations which seem to wane with each day that the judicial issue remains in limbo. If this coalition is to survive and form the basis of a paradigm shift in Pakistani politics, Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari will need to put their egos aside and get to work – and fast.

Pakistan faces an energy and food crisis like most of the world, and while other countries are looking for innovative ways to solve both, Pakistan is hoping for divine intervention as usual. Selling off profitable national assets like PSO will only deliver short-term budgetary relief but will exacerbate the power crisis in the long-term. Breaking out of the vise of oil marketing companies should be the government’s leading priority. Apparently, any initiative to look at alternative energy sources like wind and solar is attacked as “inefficient” by powerful lobbies bankrolled by oil companies – hence, no serious traction even though it’s the way of the future.

While everyone in Islamabad seems to be busy eating nahari, the rest of the country is facing a serious food crisis. An inefficient supply chain peppered with 18 different stages of middlemen ensures that neither the consumer nor the farmer sees any benefit. Rising fuel prices are juicing up prices like a banker on coke. And if there isn’t serious government intervention very soon, things can possibly turn very ugly for just about everyone. Playing the blame game, while cathartic, is not helpful for anyone, especially us poor sods who are at the receiving end.

Half of our elected representatives are farmers while the other half are involved with businesses of some sort – with this combination surely we should be able to come up with an effective food security program. Farming yields have risen astronomically yet Pakistan is where it was in the 1960s at the time of the Green Revolution. It seems like forty years have passed us by with everyone just sitting on their backsides waiting for divine intervention as usual. With the corporations getting ready to jump into the business of farming, the government will need to regulate the industry to ensure that the small farmers and the consumers don’t get shafted yet again, though I’m not holding my breath.

Both Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif have spent several years in the wilderness and I am sure are grateful to many friends overseas. Nawaz Sharif was the beneficiary of Saudi largesse while Mr Zardari made many new friends in the UAE, the United Kingdom, and North America. I hope that they don’t rush to show their gratitude to their new (and old) friends in the form of the privatisation process as Shaukat Aziz was – not that there’s much good stuff to sell anyway. I would recommend the good old shikar of some endangered houbara bustard, a cracking good Lahori meal or some sajji, and a thank you note as opposed to large tracts of land to build yet another plaza or something which belongs to the Pakistani people to begin with.

The writer is an entrepreneur andbusiness consultant. Email: shakir@
Source: The News, 5/5/2008

 Posted by at 7:31 am

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