October Issue 2014

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 9 years ago

The gentleman who, along with other passengers, had a former interior minister of the PPP and a PML-N legislator bumped off a flight for delaying it by two hours, lost his job with a courier company, but the social media is celebrating and lauding his ‘daring’ act.

And not without reason. For too long now, hapless citizens of this country have been victims of what is referred to as the “VIP culture.” Parliamentarians, ministers, their minions — and their respective families — harbour a false sense of entitlement to certain perks and privileges by virtue of making it to the corridors of power.

The list of ‘goodies’ they demand is endless: Palatial homes, spanking new cars, dozens of security guards and servants, free trips and medical facilities abroad, etcetera, etcetera.

Entire roads are blocked off in neighbourhoods where ministers or certain parliamentarians reside, inconveniencing other residents in the vicinity. What’s more, around 10-20 police mobiles, each with several policemen, stand guard outside their homes And we are not talking just Asif Ali Zardari, whose arrival in Karachi reduces three of the city’s leading hospitals to no-go areas for the public.

His sister runs a close second and his ministers a close third. Little wonder then that the security of a violent city like Karachi is in shambles, and phone-snatchings, dacoities and target killings have become routine. Additionally, one has been a witness to the sight of these VIPS, fleet of mobiles in tow, making a nuisance of themselves on solemn occasions, like funerals, by arriving fashionably late and taking over entire lanes.

Their sense of entitlement extends further. Planeloads of friends have been flown anywhere, from Saudi Arabia for Umra and Hajj to exotic destinations — all-expenses paid trips, at state expense! Allowing friends the use of parliamentary lodges for ‘extracurricular’ activities is one thing, flying them to Istanbul for a night at the casino is quite another.

Then there is the very well known case of the wife of a former prime minister, who flew home on the national carrier  with 50 or so cartons, allegedly from Harrods, without paying a single penny in excess baggage.

And it’s not just wives of prime ministers, who’ve wielded their clout. Recall the bakery employee in Lahore, who was thrashed for refusing to serve the Punjab Chief Minister’s daughter because the shop was closed. More recently, her cousin, the prime minister’s daughter, tried to upgrade her maid, who was travelling economy, to business class, but a bureaucrat travelling in business class objected to it. Interestingly, the bureaucrat, too, had got himself upgraded from economy.

The times they are a-changing, as people are finally beginning to question the use of might as a matter of right by VIPs and their hangers-on. So far, so good. But where does one draw the line, when people take the law into their own hands? The action against Rehman Malik understandably drew criticism from certain quarters, who fear this could pave the way for vigilanté justice and mob rule.

Yes, that is a genuine fear, and needs serious consideration.  But, for now, few people are complaining. Here’s why — “Ministers are boarding their flights on time,” chuckled an airline official.

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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