Whose country is this anyways?

Published: June 8, 2010

The Citizens Club, at a cost of Rs 1.245 billion would be modelled on the Islamabad Club.

Over the past few months the case of commercial activities in F-9 or Fatima Jinnah Park in Islamabad has seen the the CDA, the owners of Megazone and the Nazriya Pakistan Council embroiled in a case of illegal possession in the Supreme Court.

One of the projects under review was the construction of the Islamabad Citizens Club by the CDA. Sadly, this was hardly the first instance of encroachment by the land mafia or the state on what is a designated public space.

I find it very hard to get my head around why in a country such as Pakistan, where millions are struggling to put food on the table, the state would allocate tax payers money to develop clubhouses?

Reportedly, the Citizens Club, at a cost of Rs 1.245 billion would be modelled on the Islamabad Club. There would be 48 living suits, the usual mix of swimming pools, squash courts, tennis courts and a cigar room amongst other facilities.

The construction of the new club has been justified as the Islamabad Club has become “over-crowded”. Again, I find it hard to rationalize why the people of Pakistan should have to subsidise the recreational facilities of our elites.  Syed Irfan Raza writes in 2004:

According to the minister, the total area of the club was 11.4 acres which had been given to the club administration on lease by the Capital Development Authority (CDA)….. The total area of the club is now stated to be about 25 acres, and its market value is over Rs4 billion, a source in the CDA said.

With a market value of over Rs4 billion and that too in 2004 I find it shocking that the said property is leased out by the government for a mere Rs1 per acre. I truly hope that someone can correct me on this and point out how the Islamabad Club is operating independently and financed without placing a burden on tax payers, either directly or indirectly.

While the government has withdrawn billions in subsidies, increased electricity and gas prices with impunity, with inflation in double figures, it seems criminal that it cannot at the very least revise the club’s lease to reflect the properties current value. If this is not an example of cross-subsidization of our elites’ plush lifestyle then what is?

In a rather flattering article on Islamabad, Yoginder Sikand writes:

The Islamabad Club, where the organisers of the conference I had come to attend had put me up, seems like a relic from colonial times, only that it was built much after the British departed. It is the favourite haunt of Islamabad-based bureaucrats, army officers and landlords, heavily subsidised for their benefit, as in the case of similarly stuffy elite watering holes in India,

Now, don’t get me wrong. If people after paying their taxes, their utility bills, decides to spend some of their hard earned income on a membership at a club, that is their prerogative. However, when the state and her institutions actively promote and subsidize such activities, one must ask whether our leaders are one of the masses?

This sense of institutionalized elitism seems to resonate with our society. Defence Housing Authority – Islamabad is offering memberships to the newly constructed club, Jacaranda. The membership categories on offer are “Elite Category” and “Royale Category”. A banner on its home page proudly proclaims: “the most elite clubhouse open’s its doors in Islamabad”.  While the introduction states, “A world of opulence awaits you… where picturesque walkways guide you to the breathtaking Jacaranda Family Club.”

As the DHA is a military welfare organization, the military a public good, staffed and managed by retired Army officers, with serving officers members of the governing body – is it not ironic that these repeated pronouncements of opulence, elitism and royalty is coming from a public sector organization which has statutory status under law. Given that in the eyes of the law everyone is equal. Unless the law of the land has been framed to grant privilege to the few?

I may be making a mountain out of a molehill; however it seems somewhat perverted that those who are appointed to lead us and on the tax payer’s payroll are indulging themselves at the expense of those who struggle to find their next meal. Worse still, a culture seems to have developed within all our state institutions, which actively promotes a sense of entitlement. A sense of entitlement which given our current economic state, should be considered a privilege rather than a right.

Syed Nadir El-Edroos teaches Economics and can be contacted at [email protected]

Reader Comments (11)

  • ZE
    Jun 8, 2010 - 7:48PM

    Excellent article.Recommend

  • Sharjeel Jawaid
    Jun 8, 2010 - 8:06PM

    A country for those who ensure that they remain above law!Recommend

  • Jun 8, 2010 - 10:27PM

    Excellent article, indeed! Pakistani ‘elites’ like those from many other developing nations do have a sense of entitlement – and they will continue economic exploitation of the masses until the masses rise up and demand transparency. No one gives up free lunch for nothing. I am glad that you are exposing institutional corruption. We must continue to name and shame …. Recommend

  • Rabia Brown
    Jun 8, 2010 - 11:24PM

    “I find it very hard to get my head around why in a country such as Pakistan, where millions are struggling to put food on the table, the state would allocate tax payers money to develop clubhouses?”

    Mr. Nadir has managed to impress me again :) But I am no longer shocked… Pakistan is increasingly becoming a concrete jungle where the only dreams are fulfilled are those of the rich and well-connected. Such a shame that such a beautiful land is filled with so many corrupt politicians. Someone bring Musharraf back….hahahaha :) At least he did not want to let his country commit suicide when he imposed the curfew.
    At least that man had some good intentions in mind, and let me remind my fellow Pakistanis that it was ONLY under his military “dictatorship” that Pakistan experienced any sort of economic growth…

    But again, this is only one man’s opinion…Recommend

  • Ammar Zafarullah
    Jun 9, 2010 - 3:45AM

    @ Rabia The economic growth under Musharraf was a mere eye-wash, it was not result of his fiscal polices whatver mushroom growth there was was due the heavey influx of Aid money for being a collaition member in the war against terror.

    So if we go by this logic well Pakistan has been more prosperous under these “benevolent dictators”. Inflation was very much in control in the 80′s under Zia’s rule but again we were getting loadz of candies from Uncle Sam!

    Take Ayub Khan for that matter all major development projects and dams were built for we were the bulwarks against communism! but the same generosity is not extended under civilian rule. Economics is not my area of expertise perhaps Nadir can give a better perspective!

    Excellent article Nadir, but islamabad club is not an elitist club, after all look at the tax returns of our baboo’s and MNA’s they are marginalized some are even living below the poverty line! Recommend

  • Bilal
    Jun 9, 2010 - 3:46PM

    This is your country and should keep it protect and safe. All these morons on the name of democracy are looting and plundering us. We need Ge. Musharaff back at the helms of affairs.Recommend

  • Farrukh Siddiqui
    Jun 10, 2010 - 4:32AM

    We don’t need an American puppet like Musharraf back. We need a strong nationalist leader like Lee Kwan Lee or an Ataturk. Recommend

  • Jun 13, 2010 - 10:15PM

    I would like to emphasize again that the mother of all democratic sins, crimes and diseases, especially in countries like Pakistan, is people’s emotional and blind attachment with their party leaderships. Now this is another issue whether any president, chief patron or chairperson of a political or religious party deserves to be placed among true leaders in the real sense of the word.

    There is no wisdom, and has never been, in testing people’s patience and tolerance to the extent of revolt that does not leave the oppressor to regret and repent.

    We tend to evade the mention of bloody revolution offering escaping arguments without giving any solid and applicable solution of the problems. But, in the words of Senator Talha Mahmood as I was watching a ticker on a private television channel a few moments ago, “the country is moving towards bloody revolution”.

    And I repeat my yesterday’s suggestion that Pakistani media should take the initiative of setting up independent think tanks to discuss the ever-worsening situation in Pakistan and find practical resolve to get the country out of this confusing, falling and desperate state of anarchy.

    Is anybody out there listening to the shouting silence of passing moments that are predicting a devastating cyclone of uncontrollable circumstances?

    Sar-e-bazaar naachay ga koi majzoob-e-uryaa’n kub
    Abaao’n, pagRRiyo’n aur wardiyo’n ka raqs kub ho ga?

    TaRRaptay jism ibrat ki numaayesh mei’n sajei’n gay kub
    Darakhto’n aur mundero’n par saro’n ka raqs kub ho ga?Recommend

  • Rabia Brown
    Jun 15, 2010 - 6:43PM

    @Farrukh: I completely agree with you, Pakistan needs a nationalist leader like those wonderful men you mentioned. But look at Iran and what happened with Mossaddeq. If you genuinely believe that the same will not happen to Pakistan, then you have not read or experienced politics enough, my friend ;)
    @Saalik: I also like your point about the mother of all evils being “ppl’s emotional and blind attachment with their party leaderships”

    But this is exactly what the “higher powers” want from the people of Pakistan today. They want us to fight each other so that there’s never any stability in the region and only this way Uncle Sam and his family can continue to sell more of their own candy in this region. If you know what I mean…which I am sure you do.Recommend

  • Angelos
    Aug 22, 2010 - 4:21PM

    excellent article………Recommend

  • Salman Arshad
    Sep 2, 2010 - 3:33AM

    Although I am far from ever being able to get into one of these clubs, I am always happy to see one club for civilians for every 100 or so for the Pure(Pak) Army ones, running on people’s money.

    All those wishing for a Pure Officer to come to authority, please have PITY on the People of Pakistan. I am asking for PITY not because I am undignified, but because this way I have hope the ISI will not abduct me for being so unpatriotic.

    Having corrupt leaders that can at least avert justice and accountability is FAR BETTER than having a Pure Officer that cannot be held accountable by Law for anything !!Recommend

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