October Issue 2005

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 15 years ago

Funny things were happening in the run-up to the elections of district nazims on October 6. In the remote Dir region, where tribal diktat does not allow women to vote, two women were elected as councillors, several years after their deaths.

In Faisalabad, nominees of the ruling as well as the opposition parties were offering bribes to elected councillors to vote them in as nazims. The going rate was between 20,000 to 50,000 rupees. Besides hard cash, costly items like gold chains, wrist watches and mobile phones were on offer and those who bit the bait were then packed off to cooler climes, away from the rival party’s eye, so that they could not be bought twice over.

There were cracks within the king’s party too: a general’s matric certificate was declared null and void at the behest of the Chaudhrys, who were opposed to his candidature and were backing another candidate for nazim.

When was the last time, we had a free and fair election? Each time it’s poll time, charges and counter-charges of rigging and horse-trading start flying around. The mad scramble to get a foot in the door, by hook or by crook, is bewildering. And it’s not out of any burning desire to serve the people. Someone needs to do a survey of how often councillors visit their constituencies, how much they spend on it out of their funds, and how much they pocket?

Everyone’s interested in power, but not the people. We have the example of the present National Assembly before us, where no legislation can take place due to lack of quorum. So what are our legislators and senators doing, other than drawing hefty salaries, riding brand new bullet-proof Mercedes and accompanying the prez or the PM on their many jaunts abroad.

Talking of jaunts, the last one to the Big Apple will remain etched in public memory. But this time it wasn’t the number of free-loaders, but the General himself who came under fire. The visit was a public relations disaster, as the normally media-savvy Musharraf came down with a bad case of foot-and-mouth disease. All the US press was talking about was Musharraf’s remarks on his country’s rape victims to the Washington Post.

The nation is asking for a public apology from the President . Unfortunately, the word “sorry” doesn’t figure in the General’s dictionary.

At least, not yet.

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