Honestly what can you say about this country that does not border on the macabre? I mean look at the spate of events unfolding at the speed of light as we are rocked, buffeted and thrown about by forces over which we have absolutely no control. Pakistan’s woes, largely self-inflicted by one lot of hardened criminals passing off as the country’s saviours are then repeated word for word and deed for deed by their successors. Everyone in power wastes no time at all to announce in ringing tones their mission in life, i.e., to lay down their lives for the greater glory of this country and the uplift of its huge swathes of deprived and disconsolate people, but after the gases have evaporated and the looters have fled happily into the sunset, a huge mess is uncovered piece by grimy piece. It baffles the mind of those who still have some gray matter left, what is it in our genes that makes us this way? There are no answers but the speculations are unending.
While we limp after just about every country of the world for alms except perhaps Chad and have no longer a head to hold up and look any of our creditors in the eye, we are nevertheless living it up in old Islamabad and wherever else in the country where officialdom rules with great pomp and even greater show. The bullet-proof limos hiss about as before, the junkets abroad and here carry on as before – news has it that the PM took time out in Dubai to be at the Shahrukh show that went on till 7am. He was as is usual accompanied by a huge entourage of friends, well-wishers and a gaggle of usual suspects who make it a point never to miss out on the goodies.
If things weren’t bad enough, there has been this heartbreaking earthquake that’s hit poor impoverished Balochistan, a land whose troubles seem to be boundless. While the devastation of 2005 in the north still reverberates at a fairly high notch on the Richter Scale, its victims are far from settled and stories continue to flow that make you want to weep at how we treat our country folk, the ordinary people who want nothing more than two square meals a day and a roof over their heads. How can God possibly bless this nation which treats its majority in such callous ways? The victims of Margalla Towers who died are gone but the rogues who built this sand castle remain at large and a long and bitter battle continues to wage without much hope for those who lost everything. Yet we have in the same city managed to build 7th Avenue from CDA funds which run into staggering amounts. We also have found time to build this classic retreat on the hill where you watch the lights of Islamabad – those zones which are not experiencing load shedding and have a costly dinner while music plays in the air.
Among the many gifts that the former president granted this country is that utterly useless, devoid of any aesthetics or purpose, folly on the hill – that monument celebrating the joyous union of the four provinces. That a sum of Rs70-80 million was squandered on this monstrosity which has no value whatsoever is already part of our history replete with gross misuse of public funds. When the president inaugurated this modern-day wonder, he was lustily cheered by the cockroaches of Islamabad who applauded and beamed till their hands and their jaws ached. Today it sits there like a giant toad. In a few years it will fall into neglect and be consigned to the dustbin of follies in which area this country finds few competitors.
While we can all fret about this, there is news from the ‘City of Lights’ Karachi which of course has no lights at all, just perpetual darkness, that the city’s pride and joy, the Rs320 million 500-feet tall Port water Jet Fountain built by a shameless KPT out of public funds, has been stolen – all of it. Halleluiah. Dubbed as the highest fountain in Asia, it reportedly never hit more than 100 feet on its good days. It cost a staggering Rs130,000 a day to run this monster, located at Oyster Rocks, Clifton and only accessible by boat, provided naval and dock security goons let you that far. No photography was involved because – yes you guessed it, of security reasons. Originally estimated to cost Rs224 million, a ‘visionary’ brain child (some brain) of now gone, Vice Admiral Ahmad Hayat, chief then of KPT, it was bulldozed through, approvals and funds obtained in double quick time. Foreign consultants arrived and this shame of Karachi went skywards. Announced by no less a person than the president – his idea of solving Karachi’s long festering problems it was inaugurated amidst great fanfare by the gent himself on January 15, 2006. Much better had he inaugurated it on April Fool’s Day. The cockroaches and other vermin turned up dutifully and lustily cheered another great achievement.
And now the pisser, as some called it, has vaporized. Its missing components run into 22 and more items. No one is saying what happened. How can a place where no one can get to without being dragged off by the scruff of the neck and accessible only by boat, be hacked into by a bunch of thieves who dismantle it all and cart away the goodies? Bond? The KPT, not the most luminous example of fine values, immediately covered up the embarrassment. The usual lies, denials, red herrings were thrown in. Now an FIR is registered. Maybe the pisser has been bumped off in a ‘puls muqabla?’ Some murmur that no one really wants this horror to exist. It’s too costly, it’s pointless and it’s ugly. Some say, having made the blunder, the KPT will hang on to the pisser and apparently foreign pisser-fixers are arriving to restore it to a hissing life again. Where is the truth is anybody’s guess. It’s a crying shame and a sad testimony to the calibre of the people who think nothing of stealing public funds for such demented schemes. But who can ever stop them?
Personally I hope the pisser has run off and vowed never to return. I wouldn’t cry my eyes out looking at Oyster Rocks and finding it empty. I think those who have removed it, stolen it, kidnapped it – whatever, are talented people. Perhaps the KPT can hire them and ask them to steal the Minar-e-Pakistan, the various rockets, tanks, submarines and such like that pop up like sores every where, the folly on the hill and various other ‘uglies’ built by large scale plunder of money that never belonged to the contractors. And by the way, the PCB coffers are rattling like a tin can with a couple of pennies in it.
The writer is a Lahore-based columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The News, Sunday, November 02, 2008