Dubai chalo- By Shakir Husain

The final straw came when The Hindu, a prominent newspaper in India, wrote a story last week about the bizarre practice in Pakistan of planeloads of politicians heading to Dubai every time there’s a crisis in the country, and the PPP and PML-N choosing to meet in either Dubai or London to try and resolve their differences over the judges. The writer asked how the Indian people would respond if Sonia Gandhi called Congress leaders to Rome to discuss political issues rather than meeting them in Delhi as she does. Dozens of articles have been written in the last few weeks questioning Mr Zardari’s strange travel itinerary, which has included Turkey and Greece, and how he needs to be in Pakistan since he is calling the shots or is supposed to be calling the shots. To be fair it’s not only Mr Zardari who seems to be wandering around like a headless chicken, the PML-N leadership seems equally disorganized and confused. Not to mention the military which seems to be taking one step forward and another two backwards. The bureaucracy which hasn’t been efficient or bright for a few decades now also doesn’t seem to know who’s in charge and what they should be doing other than buying expensive four wheel drives on a regular basis.

Volumes have been written about what’s wrong with Pakistan for decades but I think that the problem lies with the air and water supply of Islamabad. It seems to breed ineptitude, incompetence, and a general disconnect from the real Pakistan; and perfectly bright people who have done well otherwise seem to go into a complete tailspin. We’ve seen how over the past five years Islamabad has started to resemble the rest of Pakistan with strikes, bombings, loadshedding (depending who you live next to or don’t), shrinking public spaces, qabza groups, and a decline in law and order. But still it isn’t quite as gritty and real as the rest of Pakistan. Since we’ve tried just about everything else, it might be time to actually think about moving the capital from Islamabad and moving it lock, stock, and barrel to say – Dubai? There isn’t a politician or bureaucrat worth his/her salt who doesn’t own property in the Gulf State so there would be absolutely no housing problems. The Gulf state known for its prowess at building cities can immediately start a Pakistan City project to house the parliament and other offices. The diplomats who are unlucky enough to be posted in Islamabad would be most pleased as they’d be reunited with their families since for the last couple of years Islamabad has been declared a non-family posting for most foreign missions. Let’s also think about all the money the Pakistani tax payer would save with not having to foot the bill for the constant stream of flights heading to Dubai.

I’m sure there are plenty of detractors out there who’ll want to shoot down my cunning plan on the basis of jingoistic national pride and all that good stuff. But seriously let’s be practical and pragmatic for once in our 60 years of existence. Setting up capital in Dubai has a lot of advantages. Our leaders will be closer to the royal families of the UAE who we regularly go with a begging bowl to. We’ll also be closer to Riyadh which is the other epicenter of charity for the Pakistani state. Imagine the savings to the Pakistani tax payer when the free umra junkets only have to go from Dubai to Riyadh and not from Islamabad/Lahore/Karachi to the Holy Kingdom? Foreign aid agencies which have ineffectually been in Pakistan since inception and form the backbone of funding also wouldn’t mind moving to Dubai from Islamabad given its location, and most importantly freedom and lack of cultural baggage when it comes to women. I’m projecting massive savings to the national exchequer if Plan “Shift Capital to Dubai” is put into motion.

There are some problems with my plan though and the biggest one being the inability for our politicians or bureaucrats to get “VIP” treatment in Dubai. Sure they’ll drive nice cars on our money just as they do now, but there’s no question of the outrider and armed gunmen following. And there’ll be none of the black tinted windows either because in Dubai they’re only for the locals. There’s also quite an adherence to the law unless you belong to the royal family. So the twelve year old son of a minister won’t be able to the take the land cruiser out for a spin with an armed escort. Neither will begum sahiba be able to go shopping with twenty armed guards clearing traffic and finding parking spots for her to comfortably. I smell a deal-breaker because as we know you really aren’t anyone in Pakistan if you don’t have a few escort cars and an outrider – none of which are paid for by yourself. I appeal to the powers that be that it is time to give Islamabad up and shift capitals because I am convinced that your brains will work better and you might just be able to do something for this country and its millions of poor citizens.

The writer is an entrepreneur and business consultant Email: shakir.

Source: The News, 14/7/2008

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