June Issue 2008

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 16 years ago

The judges’ issue still looms large on the horizon, blurring all else from the vision of Mr Zardari and Mr Sharif.

But now that the Danish Consulate has been targeted, presumably over the “blasphemous” cartoons issue, leading to the temporary closure of certain foreign consulates, probably the two gentlemen may have to turn their sights on two other burning issues of the day: militancy and the rising poverty levels in the country.

The peace deals inked between the new government and the militants have incurred the displeasure of the US and NATO forces, who see these agreements as running counter to their interests in the region. And given the linkages of US aid (desperately desired by all our governments, past and present) to delivering on certain fronts, the war on terror in Pakistan itself seems unwinnable, so long as the US is part of the equation.

Will the war on poverty meet the same fate, too?

According to official estimates, at least two people — and six, according to unofficial ones— commit suicide daily as a consequence of the grinding poverty.

This government has consistently harped on the theme of providing relief to the poor but all it seems to be doing is dishing out portfolios to keep the Toms, Dicks and Harrys of every party on board the coalition.

In Balochistan, for instance, 44 out of the 62 new MPAs have been made ministers and in Sindh, the size of the cabinet is expected to rise from 34 to 52. Exactly what do most of these appointees do except draw fat salaries, be driven in fancy cars, live in mansions with a retinue of servants and all utility bills paid for? Has anybody bothered to investigate the achievements of these honourable ministers in their tenures?

If one has to tighten one’s belt, why not begin by cutting down on the number of ministers? And the perks, especially unwarranted foreign travel and foreign medical treatment. When the rest of the country gets its angioplasties done in Pakistan, why should we fly out our ministers at state expense?

Incidentally, the Senate chairman was in the news, once again, for his profligacy (What else?). Allegedly, he blew US$2.7 million of the national exchequer on one single Umrah trip and how! He kept the national airliner parked in Jeddah for four days, while he performed the (un)holy act.

Religiosity at state expense, when your economy has gone bust and the vast majority of your countrymen have little or no food on the table! If this is not obscene and criminal, what is?

Budget 2008 is on the anvil. Will it deliver to the poor, or will it add to the perks of the privileged few, keep the agriculturists, who form a major chunk of the assembly, out of the tax net, give the industrialists some more tax breaks and squeeze the salaried class some more?

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