The Hajis from our tax money

Isn’t it enough that you perform Hajj at the expense of us tax payers or do you have to take our belongings too?

Syed Ahmed Mahmud November 09, 2012
Dear readers, I would like to share my experience with all of you about my journey back from Jeddah, after performing Hajj, which transpired on our very own national carrier; Pakistan International Airline (PIA).

Contrary to our journey there, the way back from the holy land was a bit different. It was different because due to some reason -better known to our tour operator - we were bumped up to the so called VIP flight carrying our royalty (parliamentarians and bureaucrats).

The flight got delayed, like any other flight on PIA, but to my utmost relief and disbelief, the seat next to mine was vacant. Maybe this was common on VIP flights, I thought to myself. What I knew was irregular, however, was the announcement made by the entire staff including the flight captain profusely apologising for the delay in take off! Now, this was a new trait for the high and mighty PIA pilots.

Upon our arrival, we were proudly told that this was the first flight carrying Hajji’s to have reached Islamabad. An ex-minister, who disembarked the plane with us, onto the airport shuttle, seemed surprised that the shuttle carrying him had to stop and drop the ‘regular people’ in the regular arrival lounge before taking him to directly to the Rawal lounge - all equality went out of the window the minute we left Makkah, I guess. I suppose he expected to have been dropped off first and inconvenience the rest of the people on the shuttle; it is, unfortunately, very hard for our 'royalty’ to accept that other people also exist around them.

At the gate we were greeted with cameras, politicians and garlands for the ‘dear hajjis’. After that brief episode and the disappearance of all the VIPs onboard, we stood in line for immigration. The PM’s cooks, however, also deemed it beneath them to stand in line with us and instead were rushed through the lines by officials; nothing like a good reminder to know you're back in your dear homeland!

This, however, was not just the icing on the cake.

Moving towards the baggage retrieval belt, we stood aghast at the sight that beheld us. This time around, there were no suspiciously polite PIA staff members or airport staff members present to help us, and why would they be there since all the important people had left? The luggage conveyor belt was old and weary, and by the time we caught a glimpse of the luggage it carried, our luggage, all we saw was clothes, squashed dates and broken bottles of zamzam sprawled all over it.

At this point, I wondered where all the cameras and officials were now when the reality of the dismal situation in Pakistan had been revealed.

Glad to have gotten my luggage, in whatever form that it was, and moving to a side I came across a sight that was odd, even for me, despite having lived here for 33 years. People, donned in uniforms, stood across from us, with no discomfort at all, pulling  bottles of zamzam and boxes of dates off the belt. Not only were they stocking up their trolleys, they had the gall to inform inquiring staff members that it was for their so and so DCO or DIG saab's consumption!

Bottles tagged with prints of my name were being carried away by people I had never seen. These people stole my possessions from right under my nose and there was nothing I could do about it, because that's just how our country works. Good for them, I guess. I was lucky enough to have received a complimentary bottle of zamzam from the PIA staff members and was happy just to have been carrying that with me. It still appalled me that people who had just performed the holy ritual of hajj saw no harm and nothing wrong in piling up their own stock with commodities that didn’t belong to them.

I would like to request our royalty to indulge in some self reflection.

I would ask, isn’t it enough that you have been given the privilege to perform Hajj at the expense of us tax payers, or do you find the need to take our belongings as per your own liking absolutely necessary too?

It is only now that I understand the disgust with which our expats describe their visit to Pakistan; they are not wrong in spitting out their distaste at our attitude of grovelling at the feet of anyone in uniform. We deserve it.

Lastly, to our VIPs, I would say, may Allah (SWT) accept all your prayers, teach you the meaning of performing Hajj, and may you and your subordinates enjoy the water and dates that we unknowingly bought for you.
Syed Ahmed Mahmud Trained as a surgeon, Ahmed has worked at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital, Lahore. He enjoys writing and reading.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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