May 20, 2008

Shame, all around

Filed under: NEW GOVERNMENT AFTER MARCH 24-2008 — civilsocietypakistan @ 10:35 pm
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MAY 20, 2008
By Kamran Shafi
Sadly, a suicide bombing targeted the Punjab Regimental Centre bakery in the PRC market in Mardan, killing upwards of 14 people, most of them soldiers, and leaving many injured seriously, some maimed for life.

How many reams have been written about the complete inappropriateness of the army indulging in the retail business? What in heaven�s name have we made of this army? Rather than making political statements might one ask Ashfaq Kayani to please shake it awake, pull it out of the shops and the bakeries and the tikka joints and the real-estate agencies, and train it to do the job the nation pays it for? And while he is at it, to please initiate the shelving of the grand plans to build a new GHQ in Islamabad, an utter and huge waste of the country�s very meagre resources?

While we are on the subject of the army, may one ask the Punjab government to reclaim Birdwood Barracks in Lahore, which are up for auction by the Military Estates Officer for a reserve price of Rs500m being of no further use to the army, and turn it into a park for the citizens of the congested city of Lahore?

And may one ask the cabinet division to immediately issue a notification to the effect that no ministry can do as it pleases with lands under its present use. That all lands in the use of the various ministries are lands belonging to the GOVERNMENT of the country/of the province concerned, merely lent to the particular ministry for use. When that use is over it is the government that must decide what to do with the land, e.g., sell it for providing clean drinking water to, say, Karachi city.

It is preposterous that such lands are considered the ownership of the service concerned particularly of the all-powerful army. As an aside, when pressure built up on the Commando not to go ahead with the new GHQ, he had the gall to say the army would finance the costs by selling �land of the army� (such as Birdwood Barracks)! He even had the effrontery to say that the army would give 25 per cent of the sale price to the government! I ask you! Is the Pakistan Army a department of the GOP or is the GOP a department of the Pakistan Army?

Let�s go elsewhere and spread the shame about. Shame, too, on those who have been advocating for some time, even before the coalition was formed at the centre, that the PPP make a compact with the PML-Q, or “Qatil” League, as it was named by Asif Zardari after Benazir’s horrific murder � and such other independents and odds and you-know-whats who are amenable to pressure, and cobble together a government in the Punjab to the exclusion of the majority PML-N.

And on those that advocate the forming of a coalition between the PML-Q, the MQM, the ANP and the JUI-F at the centre too, to the exclusion of the PML-N which is the second-largest party in the National Assembly. In both enterprises, the dirty hands of the former Army House, now the President�s Lodge, and of the Mother of All Agencies are more than visible.

Well, much shame on them, and if the People’s Party is even thinking of such an arrangement, on it, too. For, does it not remember how it and its workers felt when its majority in the 2002 Sindh Assembly was stolen by the Commando and his sidekicks and a government of odds and you-know-whats was imposed on the people of Sindh?

Has the People’s Party forgotten so soon the travails visited upon its workers by the criminal enterprise that was rudely cobbled together, and which ruled Sindh for well on five years, ignoring the mandate of the people? Does it so easily forget its own democratic roots just because the Commando and his underwriters want it to travel on the undemocratic course?

Does the People’s Party forget that, again in 2002, when the Commando and his handmaiden, the corrupt and venal state of Pakistan, conspired to steal the slot of leader of the opposition from it and gift it to the then mullah-military alliance, a whole lot of us protested repeatedly, that the dictator and the ISI should stay out of the National Assembly such as it was.

Does it not recall that at the time, it was fully supported by most of us who write on politics in the national press, and that the Commando was criticised for the ill-intentioned dictator that he was, keeping the people he could not abide out, by hook or by crook, and bringing in his buddies in their place?

The PPP should remember its own travails, and always do the right, not the expedient, thing, if it is to survive � and be respected � as the national asset that it is. It must set an example for others to follow, not do things that have been done by autocrats and which have failed those that did them. Witness the 2008 referendum against the Commando and buddies please.

To end I have to say that to explain a matter in the simplest terms is to understand it in a flash. A reader who calls himself simply Ali explains the judicial tamasha (for what else can one call it?) thus:

The dismissal of judges is like a dacoit occupying a house on gunpoint which has no legal or constitutional status. The PPP�s formula of restoring the genuine judges and keeping PCO judges is like the government saying that while it wants to give the house back to the real owner, it doesn’t want to disturb the dacoit and that the real owner should show flexibility and share the house with the dacoit.�

Are you listening Asif Zardari and Farooq Naek?


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