June issue 2006

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 18 years ago

Has the biggest advocate of good, clean governance finally come to terms with the shenanigans of the brood he presides over? Has he abandoned his reformist mission?

Appears so. Or why else would his office scuttle the NAB enquiry against the 20 sugar mill owners who were accused of precipitating the sugar crisis that sent sugar prices hurtling. Among the defaulters named in the Public Accounts Committee report were several sitting ministers, the Chaudharys of Gujarat and the commerce minister’s family. An enquiry that had been initiated at the Prime Minister’s request was dropped at the President’s behest. So are the two gentlemen working at cross purposes?

“Cover-up” seems to be the name of the game. Take the case of the Steel Mills privatisation, for instance. Questions are being raised about the price at which it was sold — 21.6 billion rupees — when its total assets are valued at 150 billion rupees and the land alone is stated to be worth 90 billion rupees. Following loud protests from several quarters, the Supreme Court took suo moto notice and stayed the privatisation order.

A vibrant assembly would have taken the errant ministers to task in the first instance, and the Privatisation Commission in the second. But not this one; it’s apathetic at best and callous at worst. The only time the speaker registers a full house is when the perks and privileges of the legislators come up for discussion. For the rest, these public representatives either briefly show their faces or absent themselves. At least three of them have not attended a single session of the National Assembly for the past one year. Reasons: one married a feudal lord and disappeared into his chardivari; another female parliamentarian has been living in the US for two years now; and the third, a male, refuses to attend till he is appointed minister as promised.

Not that the provincial assemblies are alive and kicking up a storm. The Sindh Assembly, for one, is stymied by dissension between its two coalition partners, who are fighting for control of Sindh. It’s all about which party gets to dole out the jobs and the plots to its respective loyalists.

And while Sindh’s legislators fight it out, the people of Karachi stew in the heat, as the recently privatised KESC fails to come to grips with the power shortage. KESC blames WAPDA (among other things) for the shortage and WAPDA blames KESC — and Karachi’s 15 million residents are kept in the dark.

And that, in a sense, sums up the fate of the people of this country. Or does it?

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