January Issue 2006

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 18 years ago

It should’ve been a time of new beginnings, of fresh perspectives and creative vision. But alas! January 2006 has a ring of deja vu to it. The battles of 2005 have spilled over into the new year.

The simmering tension that characterised Balochistan in 2005 resonates in 2006. The war between the Baloch nationalists and the centre refuses to die, with both sides unwilling to yield an inch.

Ditto, the Kalabagh Dam issue. It has been resurrected with renewed enthusiasm, yet again by the General, and the battle lines are drawn — Punjab vs the rest. Not a very healthy omen for the unity of the federation!

And even as the country is beset with problems of a grave nature, some of those in the driving seat continue to indulge in flights of fantasy — obviously at state expense. The Sindh cabinet has approved the purchase of a 750-million-rupee executive jet aircraft for use by the province’s governor and chief minister. If only that amount were spent on beefing up the security of Sindh, more specifically Karachi, the province’s economic lifeline, citizens would sleep easy, and the foreign investment that Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz talks of incessantly would filter in. But the provinces take their cue from the centre. And the centre is known for its expensive tastes.

If you thought the October 8 earthquake would have had a sobering influence on our leaders, think again. The country’s top guns still continue to hanker after VVIP planes, AWACS and bullet- proof limos. And federal ministers feel no shame in flying to exotic destinations at state expense, staying in seven-star hotels, shopping at stores like Neiman Marcus and then passing the hat around the world for donations to the President’s Earthquake Relief Fund.

This dispensation has been tall on promises and short on delivery. The dominant theme of 2005 was “enlightened moderation,” but 2006 dawned with the Hudood Ordinances, the Blasphemy Laws and sectarianism still intact.

Last year’s other recurring refrain was the economy! Despite the prez and PM’s talk of a booming economy, over 30 per cent of the country’s population still continues to live life on the fringes. And yet, if you were to pick one saving grace of 2005, it would have to be the people of Pakistan. From the poorest of the poor, to the richest of the rich, they all came together to confront the gravest ever challenge that this country has faced: the earthquake that left thousands dead, destitute and deformed.

Yes, if there was a beacon that lit the darkness that characterised 2005, it was the people of Pakistan. It is they who made 2005 memorable — and they who give us hope for a better tomorrow.

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.

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